By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
The family of a late Randsburg man was presented the Distinguished Service Cross Tuesday for his "heroic actions" during the Korean War.
Honored at the U.S. Capitol office of Congressman Kevin McCarthy was Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Keiser, who died in 2009. His wife, Pamela Keiser, received the medal.
The cross is the second highest military decoration -- after the Medal of Honor -- that can be bestowed to a member of the U.S. Army. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism.
On Nov. 30, 1950, while serving as a military policeman with the 2d Military Police Company, 2d Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, Keiser saved countless soldiers by removing a major roadblock under constant enemy fire during a battle that became known as "The Gauntlet," a news release from McCarthy's office said.
The official account from the U.S. Army Awards Branch states:
"... Keiser and his division convoy approached a roadblock consisting of at least 20 damaged or abandoned American vehicles strewn across the Kunuri-Sunchon Road. With complete disregard for his own safety, ... Keiser bounded forward under intense enemy fire and personally moved all the vehicles by physically pushing them or using the starter to propel them off the road into a steep ravine.
"Upon finding a vehicle that would run, ... Keiser would load the dead and wounded lying in the road aboard the vehicles and command and threaten men hiding in the ditches to drive the vehicles through the pass to the safety of friendly lines. After clearing the road, Sergeant First Class Keiser proceeded to a stream a half-mile south of the pass and stood for an hour in a cold stream directing the division convoy through the ford.
"... Keiser's aggressive action was unquestionably a decisive factor in saving hundreds of lives and the 2d Infantry Division's successful withdrawal from the Kunuri-Sunchon Pass. His conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 2d Infantry Division and the United States Army."
Keiser's family is only now being presented with the honor because his initial nomination and approval by the Army didn't meet deadlines in law at the time, according to McCarthy's office. The 1996 National Defense Authorization Act, it said, allowed for the submission of award recommendations or the upgrading of previously approved awards if referred by a member of Congress.
McCarthy, armed with information from Keiser's family showing he had been recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross, worked to include a provision in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act to grant Keiser the cross, the congressman's office said.