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Bill includes Medal for late Sisseton-Wahpeton veteran

One of the most decorated Native veterans is closer to receiving the Medal of Honor thanks to a legislative committee on Monday.

The late Woodrow Wilson Keeble, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe who died in 1982 at the age of 65, fought in World War II and in the Korean War. He received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross award for his service.

But his actions in the Korean conflict warrant the Medal of Honor, the highest military award, his family and supporters in Congress say. He was recommended twice, but never received, the medal for actions that saved fellow soldiers.

"Woodrow Wilson Keeble displayed uncommon valor in battle, and our nation owes him a debt of gratitude for his service," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota).

Along with lawmakers from North Dakota and South Dakota, the two states where the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate is based, Dorgan has been pushing for the medal. After several years of work, former Army Secretary Francis Harvey last summer finally recommended that Keeble receive the honor.

But the Pentagon said it couldn't issue the award without Congressional action because the time limit already passed. So the lawmakers introduced a bill last month to clarify that President Bush has the authority to present the medal to Keeble's family.

The measure is closer to passage due its inclusion in the emergency appropriations bill approved by a House-Senate conference committee yesterday. It would let the Defense Department act on the Army's recommendation.

"Getting this provision signed into law would be hurdle cleared in the worthy fight for Woodrow Keeble, who valiantly fought for this nation. It is my hope that once this time limit is waived, that the Department of Defense and eventually the President will give Keeble the consideration he is due," said Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota).

The only hurdle that remains is the White House. Bush has said he will veto the appropriations because it includes timetables on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, imposes certain funding limits on the military and contains other projects not related to the war.

"They know I'm going to veto a bill containing these provisions, and they know that my veto will be sustained," Bush said today of the Democratic leadership that authored the measure.

If the appropriations bill fails, the stand-alone legislation for Keeble could still make it through Congress. "Master Sergeant Keeble's legacy is a great source of pride for his family, his fellow Dakota Sioux and all Americans," said Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), one of the co-sponsors, said last month.

Appropriations Bill:
H.R.1591 | Summary | Detailed Summary | Press Release

Medal of Honor Bill:

Relevant Links:
National Native American Veterans Association -
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