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Woody Keeble to Be Awarded Medal of Honor

Local War Hero Honored Posthumously for Heroic Service During Korean Conflict

February 22, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  Senators from North Dakota and South Dakota today announced that Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble has been posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest tribute our nation can bestow on a member of the military. He is the first member of any of the Sioux tribes to earn that award.

A member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux, Keeble served in two wars and is one of the most decorated soldiers in history, yet he was never considered for the Medal of Honor due to bureaucratic mix-ups. Now, more than 20 years after his death and 50 years after his military service, Keeble will receive the nation's highest military honor.

"This is a proud day for the Keeble family. If anyone deserves to be recognized among our nation's greatest heroes, it is Woody Keeble," Senator Kent Conrad said. "Woody dedicated his life to defending our nation and preserving our freedom. For his extraordinary heroism, our nation owes him a deep debt of gratitude."

"Woodrow Wilson Keeble displayed uncommon valor on the battlefield, and this is a long-overdue but well-deserved honor for him and his family," Senator Byron Dorgan said. "His life should be an inspiration to all Americans. We've been working a long time to get this Medal of Honor approved, and it's good to see him finally get the recognition he deserves."

"I am very pleased that Master Sgt. Keeble's bravery and valor will be recognized with our nation's highest military honor," Senator Tim Johnson said. "Master Sgt. Keeble's family first contacted me in 2002 and I have been fighting ever since to get him the recognition he deserves. The Keeble family, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and all the people of Dakotas today have reason to celebrate and remember his service and valor."

"The Medal of Honor is the highest distinction a soldier can earn, and Master Sergeant Woodrow Keeble's valiant service certainly deserves this recognition," said Senator John Thune. "Master Sergeant Keeble's legacy is a great source of pride for his family, his fellow Dakota Sioux, and his country. I am honored to have played a role in securing this distinction for him and humbled by his service and sacrifice."

Born in Waubay, South Dakota, Keeble moved to Wahpeton, North Dakota as a child. When he was old enough, Keeble joined the North Dakota National Guard and, in 1942, shipped out to the South Pacific with the North Dakota 164th Infantry Regiment.

On the island of Guadalcanal, Keeble saw some of the most intense combat of WWII. In late October 1942, Keeble - known by his fellow soldiers as Chief - was wounded in an attempt to rescue his comrades. He was recognized for his actions and awarded his first Bronze Star and the first of his four Purple Hearts.

Keeble returned to service in the Korean War at age 34 as a Master Sergeant. On Oct. 20, 1951 he was near Kumsong battling the Chinese. With his fellow soldiers pinned down by heavy enemy gunfire Keeble - already wounded - made his way up a hill and single-handedly took out four machine gun bunkers, killing nine enemy soldiers. During the assault Keeble was hit multiple times, but he continued to fight, taking out two trenches of enemy troops, killing seven more riflemen and finally forcing the enemy to retreat.

For his action, Keeble's men twice recommended him for the Medal of Honor, but the paperwork was lost. Keeble instead received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest commendation.

Following his service in Korea, Keeble returned to North Dakota where he worked as a counselor until a series of strokes rendered him unable to work. He died in 1982, at the age of 65 and is buried in Sisseton, South Dakota.

For the past several years, the senators from North and South Dakota had been working to get Keeble's Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. President Bush will present the award to Keeble's surviving family members at a White House ceremony on March 3, 2008.