Recent Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. Ralph Puckett thanks some of those who supported him with a commemorative coin

News

Ret. Col. Puckett Montage

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) –– More than 200 people, — soldiers, and civilians — interrupted their holiday weekend to receive a gift from the most recent Medal of Honor recipient.

Retired Col. Ralph Puckett, who turns 95 in less than two weeks, was offering a gift to some of those who have supported him.

It’s a simple coin, but those who waited in a receiving line for it Saturday afternoon didn’t look at it that way.

And one of those people is the commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Col. Jim Keirsey.

“I think it’s really interesting, to see the people who are showing up to honor him,” Keirsey said. “It is just a small fraction of the people he’s touched through his leadership through all of those years.”

Keirsey waited in line like everyone else, and what he saw in that line was impressive.

“You’ve got non-commissioned officers. Senior colonels, retirees, and junior soldiers are in there lining up just to see Col. Puckett and share this moment with him,” Keirsey said. “They certainly are not doing this because they were ordered to. It’s something he draws people in, makes them feel better about themselves, but also tells them they got to improve to earn the mantle of being a soldier. So, he’s always challenged us with his example and his presence.”

Col. Puckett was given the Medal of Honor in May by President Biden in a White House ceremony. He earned it 71 years ago to the day on a hill behind enemy lines in North Korea.

But he has shown the qualities of leadership every day since especially in his post-Army life mentoring U.S. Army Rangers and soldiers at Fort Benning and beyond.

One of those is Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Johnson, he currently assigned to Fort Benning’s Garrison Command, but will soon be moving to the 75th Ranger Regiment, also headquartered at Fort Benning.

“When I was a private in the 1st Ranger Battalion, Col. Puckett showed up and talked about the battle,” Johnson said. “And I was a private in the Army. Those experiences I had over 24 years ago, I still carry with me today.”

And it wasn’t just soldiers in line to get the coin that commemorates the nation’s highest military honor. Patrick Albright is a civilian photographer at Fort Benning and he was one of the ones asked to be there.

“Most of the people in line are currently serving or are prior service,” Albright said. “And for me, never having served in the military, to be recognized as someone who’s contributed significantly in Col. Puckett’s eyes, as someone who has contributed to the military, its cause, and its story is overwhelmingly significant to me.”

One retired command sergeant major drove up from Tampa and wearing the cotton and wool uniform that Puckett and his soldier wore in 1950.

Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Rick Lamb made it clear why he was here.

“To hang with a living legend is probably the No. 1 reason to be here,” he said. “These guys are national treasures. And there’s not that many of them around.”

That’s how Johnson sees it, as well.

“His character is unquestionable,” Johnson said. “His care for soldiers and their families, he is truly a leader of leaders. And a soldier’s soldier. And a warrior. You can tell that in his actions, his words, the things he does every day. And just to come up here today and have a receiving line, talk to folks, get pictures with him and hear the stories is just incredible.”

It was a chance for Col. Puckett to say thanks, says his friend retired Col. Rob Choppa.

“Ralph wanted to give them a small token of his appreciation and he could do that through his Medal of Honor coins,” Choppsa said.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Recent Columbus Forecast Updates

More 7 Day Forecast

Beyond the Moon

Remembering D-Day

Faith and Film in the Fountain City

More Faith and Film in the Fountain City

Weather Wise with Bob Jeswald

Weather Facts with Nicole Phillips

Weather Questions with Cody Nickel

PrepZone

Gogue Performing Arts Center

Don't Miss