Former ‘Big Red One’ soldiers to be awarded Medals of Honor

By The Mercury

FORT RILEY — Two 1st Infantry Division veterans are among the 24 World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans set to receive the Medal of Honor on Tuesday at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.

The 1st Infantry Division is based at Fort Riley.

Sgt. Alfred B. Nietzel and Sgt. Candelario Garcia will receive the nation’s highest military award posthumously in recognition of their gallantry and valorous actions during World War II and the Vietnam War, respectively.

Sgt. Alfred B. Nietzel, a native of Queens, N.Y., served in Company H, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Inf. Div.

Nietzel is being recognized for his valorous actions in Heistern, Germany, on Nov. 18, 1944.

When an enemy assault threatened to overrun his unit’s position, Nietzel selflessly covered for the retreating members of his squad, expending all his ammunition and holding his post until an enemy hand grenade killed him.

Sgt. Candelario Garcia, a native of Corsicana, Texas, served in Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry, 1st Brigade, 1st Inf. Div.

Garcia distinguished himself on Dec. 8, 1968, as a team leader during a reconnaissance-in-force mission near Lai Khe, Vietnam.

Garcia destroyed two enemy machine-gun positions in an attempt to aid casualties that were in the open and under fire. Garcia then rejoined his company in a successful assault on the remaining enemy positions.

Garcia died Jan. 10, 2013, in Corsicana.

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, the 1st Infantry Division’s senior noncommissioned officer, is set to accept the Medal of Honor from the President Barack Obama on behalf of Garcia and his family.

The 24 veterans originally were recognized with Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award.

After a re-evaluation of the soldiers’ records and additional supporting evidence, those awards were upgraded to Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.

Tuesday’s event will be the largest Medal of Honor ceremony in history.

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