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Release
Immediate Release

Defense Department Announces Service Cross Reviews For African American and Native American War Veterans

Aug. 6, 2021

On August 2, 2021, the Secretary of Defense directed the Secretaries of the Military Departments to review Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, and Air Force Cross Medals previously awarded to African American and Native American Veterans for valorous actions performed during select conflicts to determine if such Veterans’ actions warrant award of the Medal of Honor.  The reviews directed are as follows:

  • African American Veterans:  Review Service Crosses awarded to such Veterans for valorous actions performed during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. (Note: The Departments of the Army and Navy already performed reviews for said World War II Veterans.)
  • Native American Veterans:  Review Service Crosses awarded to such Veterans for valorous actions performed during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The Secretary of Defense directed the review to ensure African American and Native American Service Cross recipients are afforded the same opportunities to have their valorous actions reviewed for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor as previously afforded to their Asian American, Native American Pacific Islander, Jewish American, and Hispanic American counterparts.

The Service Crosses awarded to Asian American, Native American Pacific Islander, Jewish American, and Hispanic American war veterans for valorous actions during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were reviewed for potential upgrade to the Medal of Honor pursuant to Public Laws 104-106, 107-107, and 114-328.  There was no requirement to show the Veteran was discriminated against to be included in the review.  Instead, the laws merely required that the Veteran belong to the specified class or group.

The Secretary of Defense-directed Service Cross Reviews ensure equitable treatment of African American and Native American Service Cross recipients from a standpoint of having their valorous actions reviewed for potential upgrade to the Medal of Honor.  

There is no requirement to show that the qualifying Veteran was subject to discrimination in order to be included in the review, just as there was no such requirement for the previous Asian American, Native American Pacific Islander, Jewish American, and Hispanic American Service Cross reviews.   

The reviews will be separately led by the Military Department Secretaries, and the results of the reviews are due to the Secretary of Defense by August 2, 2026.  For more information please visit: https://media.defense.gov/2021/Aug/06/2002824544/-1/-1/0/SD-MEMO-SERVICE-CROSS-REVIEWS-FOR-AFRICAN-AMERICAN-AND-NATIVE-AMERICAN-WAR-VETERANS.PDF.