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A military aide holds up the Medal of Honor as the citation is read before US President Barack Obama awarded US Marine Corps SGT Dakota Meyer in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2011.
President Obama on Tuesday will honor 24 Army veterans with Medals of Honor for their efforts in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, a move that follows an order by Congress to review previously overlooked service members of Hispanic and Jewish descent.
Six of those veterans hailed from Southern California — including Staff Sgt. Salvador Lara of Riverside.
Lara died during World War II. His family will receive his Medal of Honor Tuesday on his behalf.
Lara's niece Vivian Hernandez, who was in Washington for the ceremonies, spoke with Take Two about the honor.
What do you know about your uncle?
"My dad is the youngest sibling and only sibling surviving, and the things he told me about his brother were he was a very easygoing, honorable, faithful person.
"Because his mom passed away when my dad was fairly young, he played a role in helping my dad grow a little and then he was drafted to World War II and he never came back."
On her uncle’s war service:
"He was drafted in 1943 and sustained a severe leg wound but kept on trying to help some of his soldiers. He ended up neutralizing some of the enemy so his soldiers could be saved. He was wounded in 1944 and died in 1945 of a non-combat situation."
He and others originally received the Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second highest honor. But the White House decided to upgrade this honor after a review showing that Hispanic and Jewish service men may have been previously overlooked, correct?
"From what I understand he was nominated for the Medal of Honor but he was overlooked at the time and from what I understand wrongly and the Army is stepping up to make things right."
When did you learn about this medal?
"Probably last year before summer my dad received a call from the President inviting him to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor on behalf of his brother. My dad is hard of hearing so I didn’t think he heard right. He ended up getting me in contact with one of the President’s assistants and we spoke several times and I felt it was legitimate. So that’s where the ball started rolling that it’s really going to happen."
What would you say to your uncle if he were alive today?
"How proud we are of his service to his country and to thank him for taking care of my father (choking up)."
An earlier version of this story misspelled Vivian Hernandez's name. KPCC regrets the error.