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Decades Later, Two South Florida Heroes Receive The Honor They Deserve

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For more than four decades, Mitch Libman has been fighting to get his friend Private Lenny Kravitz recognized for the hero he was on the battlefield in Korea.

“He saved the lives of three platoons, everybody was ordered to retreat,” said Libman.  “He stayed with the machine gun, they all got away, he got killed.”

Private Kravitz, uncle to singer Lenny Kravitz, was awarded the “Distinguished Service Cross” not the Medal of Honor.

When Libman began researching, he found Kravitz and others who did not get the highest award had something in common.

“I couldn’t believe that people who were fighting for the country, just because they were Jewish or they were black or whatever were not getting the medal that they deserved,” said Libman.

Libman and later his wife Marilyn began a campaign to right old wrongs – and make sure American heroes got the recognition they deserved.  Then he got the call he had been waiting for for 50 years.

“Mitch picked up the phone,” Marilyn said. “It was President Obama.”

The president confirmed Private Kravitz would finally get the medal he had earned.

Joe Rodriguez got a call from the president too.  His uncle, Private Miguel Vera will also be awarded the Medal of Honor.  He was killed in Korea in 1952 while trying to protect those around him.

“It was mayhem up there.  It was hand-to-hand, it was bayonet fighting,” explained Rodriguez.  “My uncle elected to stay back and cover for them,” he continued.  “When they found him, he was dead. He gave up his life to save his guys.”

Rodriguez has been working for years, trying to get his uncle’s body moved to Arlington National Cemetery, so he too can be honored with other American heroes.

“I’m going to make sure that everybody knows, number one, that he’s from Puerto Rico, number 2 that he was a loving person and he loved the United States.”

President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 people on Tuesday, most of them posthumously, at a ceremony at the White House.

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