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Native veteran due for Medal of Honor for heroic actions

A bill to award the Medal of Honor to one of the most decorated Native veterans was signed into law on Friday.

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 he never received the military's highest honor for his heroic actions in Korea. That changes with the bill President Bush signed on Friday to authorize the Department of Defense to issue the award to Keeble's family.

"I have been working on this project for five years now, but this soldier, his family and friends have waited fifty years," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota).

Along with the senators from North Dakota and South Dakota, the two states where the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate is based, Dorgan sponsored legislation to recognize Keeble's service Congressional action was needed because the time limit already passed to issue the Medal of Honor.

The standalone bill got a boost when it was included in an emergency appropriations measure. But disagreements between Democrats and the White House about funding for the war in Iraq led to a presidential veto earlier this month.

After the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act was stripped of timetables for the war, it quickly gained Bush's signature. The action came on Memorial Day weekend, as the nation honored its veterans.

"We remember all of America's troops for their bravery and sacrifice on this Memorial Day, and it is very fitting that we are also reminded of the heroic service of Sgt. Woodrow Keeble," said Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota).

The bill cites Keeble's actions on October 20, 1951, during the Korean War. On that day, an already-wounded Keeble single-handedly took out took out four machine gun bunkers, killing nine enemy soldiers.

Although he was hit several times, he continued to defend his fellow soldiers, who were trapped by enemy fire. He took out two trenches of enemy troops, killing seven more riflemen and forcing the enemy to retreat.

For his efforts, Keeble was twice recommended for the Medal of Honor. But due to bureaucratic mix-ups, he instead received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest commendation.

Appropriations Act:
H.R.2206 | Summary | Detailed Summary | President's Statement on Congressional Passage of the War Supplemental

Relevant Links:
National Native American Veterans Association -