Rare Tribute of Lying in Honor at Capitol Bestowed to Korean War Hero Col. Ralph Puckett

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. presents the Medal of Honor to former U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. presents the Medal of Honor to former U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021. (XaViera Masline/U.S. Army)

Retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett, who was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War before his death earlier this month, will lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol, congressional leaders announced this week.

Puckett, who was an Army Ranger, will receive the rare tribute of lying under the Capitol rotunda on April 29, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement Tuesday.

"The extraordinary valor of Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. represents the best of the 1.7 million Americans who left home to fight for freedom in the Korean War," Johnson and Schumer said. "He demonstrated tireless sacrifice for our country and his fellow Rangers and is an exceptional model for service members and civilians alike."

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President Joe Biden awarded Puckett the Medal of Honor in 2021 for his heroism in the Korean War.

Beginning on Nov. 25, 1950, Puckett, at the time a young lieutenant, led a company of 51 Army Rangers in an hours-long battle against Chinese forces, in the process repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire in order to draw the fire away from his men.

Unable to move after suffering multiple serious wounds and with the company about to be overrun, Puckett ordered his men to leave him behind and retreat to a safer area. Despite the order, his fellow Rangers fought their way to him and evacuated him to safety.

Puckett initially received a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. But it would be more than 70 years before the award was upgraded to a Medal of Honor, an honor that Biden said at the 2021 ceremony was "long overdue."

Puckett's 22 years in the Army also included service in Vietnam, for which he also received the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars.

He died April 8 at his home in Columbus, Ga., at age 97.

While U.S. officials routinely lie in state in the Capitol after their deaths, lying in honor at the Capitol is a rare tribute for private citizens. Just six Americans have been granted that honor, according to the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency in charge of maintaining the Capitol.

Most recently, Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, who was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, lay in honor in 2022. The tribute has also been given to several Capitol police officers who died in the line of duty, influential evangelical preacher Billy Graham and civil-rights icon Rosa Parks.

Related: Army Ranger Legend and Last Living Korean War Medal of Honor Recipient Ralph Puckett Dies at 97

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