Twenty four veterans were awarded a Medal of Honor today after a Pentagon review found they were passed over the first time around because of their diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Prompted by a law passed by Congress in 2002, the Pentagon conducted an extensive review to examine past discrimination in Medal of Honor decisions and concluded that 19 men did not receive the honor because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds. The group included 17 Latinos, one African American and one Jewish soldier, according to the military.

Of the 24, only three Vietnam veterans were still alive to receive their medal from President Obama in the East Room:

Melvin Morris, a former Green Beret who was wounded three times while recovering the body of his fatally injured master sergeant in the Chi Lang district; Santiago J. Erevia, a former radio telephone operator who conducted "courageous actions" during a search-and-clear mission near Tam Ky; and Jose Rodela, who served as a Special Forces company commander during 18 hours of combat in Phuoc Long province.

"We've wondered why he didn't receive it the first time and thought it may have been because of his name," Erevia's son told the Washington Post.

The retrospective began when Congress ordered the Pentagon to review past discrimination as part of a 2002 military spending bill. At the time, Defense officials cited evidence that many Jewish and Hispanic soldiers had to deal with intense discrimination, some even going so far as to change their last names to hide their ethnicity. Overall, close to 1,000 records ended up requiring reassessment in the review.

[image via AP]