Proposed resolution would allow Georgia war hero to lie in state in U.S. Capitol

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle for Hill 205

Ralph Puckett Jr. of Columbus, who died April 8 and was the last living person to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Korean War, would lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda under a bipartisan resolution pending in Congress.

Last week, a measure was introduced that aims to honor all those who served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, including Puckett, a retired Army colonel.

“Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. was a cherished member of the Columbus community,” said U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., a Democrat who introduced the resolution. “He remained an integral part of the U.S. Army family, taking an active role in the life of Fort Moore and its soldiers.”

Among the resolution’s cosponsors is Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas.

“Allowing him to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda will pay tribute to his remarkable heroism and provide an opportunity for all Americans to express their appreciation and respect for his service,” Womack said.

During the Battle for Hill 205 in November of 1950, Puckett repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he led his Ranger company on an attack, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The Rangers were outnumbered 10 to 1. Wounded by grenade fragments and mortar rounds, he ordered his men to leave him behind. But the Rangers refused, retrieving him from his foxhole.

“I certainly feel that my Rangers deserved recognition and that kind of award for what they had done,” Puckett said of receiving the Medal of Honor, according to the society. “They did the work. They did the fighting. Two of them carried me off the battlefield. They’re the ones who should get the credit.”

Born in Tifton, Puckett graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1949. He also served with the 101st Airborne Division in the Vietnam War. Puckett received two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Silver Stars, five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Star Medals with the “V” device for valor.

The National Infantry Museum in Columbus is preparing to hold a public ceremony honoring Puckett Saturday at 11 a.m.