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The remains of Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr., the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, were honored with a reception in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Puckett Jr., who passed away at the age of 97, was described by Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as representing the best of the 1.7 million Americans who fought for freedom in the Korean War. The lawmakers highlighted his extraordinary valor, tireless sacrifice, and exceptional leadership as a model for both servicemembers and civilians. Congress decided to allow his remains to lie in honor in the Rotunda to recognize his heroism and service, as well as the contributions of all Korean War veterans.

Lawmakers and members of Puckett’s family gathered in the Rotunda to pay their respects to the fallen hero. Puckett Jr., a native of Tifton, Georgia, had a distinguished military career after graduating from West Point and being commissioned as an Infantry Officer in 1949. President Biden commended him for his leadership, courage, and service during a White House Ceremony in 2021, where he was presented with the Medal of Honor. Puckett Jr. served as a U.S. Army Ranger in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, earning numerous awards and decorations throughout his 22 years of service.

Government officials and military officers are typically laid in state in the U.S. Capitol, while citizens are laid in honor. The decision to allow an individual to lie in state is controlled by concurrent action of the House and Senate, with approval granted if the person has rendered distinguished service to the nation and the family agrees. The rules do not specify who may lie in state, but rather leave it up to the discretion of Congress. In the case of Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr., his remarkable contributions to the nation and the legacy he left behind as a Medal of Honor recipient warranted the special honor of lying in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

Puckett Jr.’s legacy as a fearless leader and brave soldier was celebrated by those who knew him and those who recognized his contributions to the nation. His leadership qualities, selflessness, and dedication to serving his country were evident in his actions on the battlefield and in his distinguished military career. President Biden praised him as a true Ranger, leading by example and with heart. The numerous awards and decorations he received throughout his service were a testament to his courage and valor in the face of danger.

The decision to honor Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. with a reception in the U.S. Capitol was a fitting tribute to his exemplary service and sacrifices for the nation. As the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew him and those who have heard his story. His unwavering commitment to duty, his bravery in the face of adversity, and his leadership in the midst of chaos will inspire future generations of servicemembers and civilians alike. The reception in the Rotunda served as a reminder of the sacrifices made by individuals like Puckett Jr. in defense of freedom and democracy.

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