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When Peter Fiumefreddo attended the American Legion convention last year in Annapolis, he met a fellow veteran that he knew he had to invite to Westchester after learning of his story. The veteran, Melvin Morris, was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014 by President Barack Obama, nearly 45 years after serving heroically in Vietnam. On Sunday, Morris will serve as grand marshal for Mount Pleasant’s second annual Medal of Honor parade. It is scheduled to step off at noon at the Hawthorne firehouse on Elwood Avenue and Home Street and proceed onto Route 141 before heading onto Broadway to Broadway Field.
For Fiumefreddo, the parade chairman who has led American Legion Post 112 in Hawthorne, said Morris, now 80 years old, is so impressive not only because of his heroic feats in combat but also because he has remained an extremely humble man.
“We felt that that situation where he was overlooked, I want to have him here in Westchester County,” Fiumefreddo explained. “He deserves it even though he waited 44 years.”
On Sept. 17, 1969, Morris, a Green Beret and a staff sergeant, commanded a five-man Special Forces team that supported South Vietnamese troops near Chi Lang, according to a recount of the events from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
North Vietnamese troops defending a cache of food and weapons opened fire. Morris learned that a sergeant commanding another Special Forces unit had been killed near an enemy bunker. He immediately moved his team forward and went through a minefield with two volunteers to recover the body.
Shortly after reaching the body, the two men with Morris were wounded. After helping them to reach a defensive position, he grabbed 20 grenades, ran back toward the enemy fire and destroyed four North Vietnamese bunkers. When Morris returned to retrieve a map case with classified information, he was hit three times in his chest and right arm.
He wasn’t transported to a field hospital until two days later.
The following year, Morris, a native of Okmulgee, Okla., was awarded a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the second highest miliary award, but not the Medal of Honor. He was one of hundreds of U.S. military members from World War II, Korea and Vietnam who were wrongly denied the highest honor.
In 1993, Congress ordered a review of what turned out to be about 6,500 cases of whether servicemen from those three wars merited consideration for the Medal of Honor. Two decades later, he was one of 24 former military members who received the honor they had earned.
Fiumefreddo said he hopes that local residents come out on Sunday to recognize Morris and an afternoon of entertainment, a car show and refreshments. He especially hopes that veterans and local Purple Heart recipients from throughout the area attend as well. Since it’s Purple Heart Day, there will also be a special ceremony.
“We would hope that the Purple Heart recipients come down to honor the Medal of Honor (recipients) plus themselves,” Fiumefreddo said.
For more information about the event, Fiumefreddo said veterans and others may contact him at 914-424-2283.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/