By Lisa Ferdinando
Army News Service
Music artist Lenny Kravitz paused to reflect on the life and legacy of his uncle and namesake, Pfc. Leonard Kravitz, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously from President Barack Obama, March 18.
“He’s a hero,” said Kravitz during an interview in Arlington, Va., before heading to the White House for the ceremony.
Pfc. Kravitz was 20 years old when he was killed in Yangpyong, Korea, in 1951.
He was among 24 Soldiers of Jewish, Hispanic, and African-American heritage who received the Medal of Honor, for valor in the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be here today to be a part of this and to see him get his honor,” said the actor and Grammy-winning Kravitz. “It’s part of who I am. I am Leonard Kravitz.”
Pfc. Kravitz, who was Jewish, is recognized for his actions March 6-7, 1951. He voluntarily remained at a machine-gun position to provide suppressive fire for retreating troops after his unit was overrun by enemy combatants.
He did not survive, but his actions are credited with saving the entire platoon.
“Just to know that he died that way, he made the choice to stay and to deal with the situation. As sad as it is, it was a beautiful action, and the fact that he is now going to get this honor just makes it end properly,” said Kravitz.
“He’s getting his due. He’s a hero and that’s what he wanted to do,” Kravitz said.
Pfc. Kravitz was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. But a childhood friend, Mitchel Libman, spent his life campaigning for the private first class to receive the nation’s highest military honor for valor, said Kravitz.
Congress considered a bill nicknamed the “Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act” in 2001, and finally directed a review of Distinguished Service Cross awards as part of the Defense Authorization Act.
After so many years, Kravitz said he let go of the hope for the Medal of Honor for his uncle. He said he was surprised when he received the news.
“I would have loved for it to have happened when my father was alive,” he said, about Sy Kravitz, who died in 2005. Sy and Pfc. Kravitz were brothers.
“But things happen when they’re supposed to happen, and you know, it’s a beautiful day,” said Kravitz.
Kravitz said his father carried around guilt surrounding Leonard’s death, since Leonard followed Sy into the military.
“I think that was something my father had to live with, knowing that he did take some of the blame, if not a lot of it,” said Kravitz.
Kravitz said every story he heard about his uncle was overflowing with love.
“I wish I had known him. It would have been wonderful if he survived and came home to his family, but this is the life,” said Kravitz. “I’m proud to be here to be able to witness this and be with my family.”
Kravitz said he has shared stories of his uncle with his own daughter, Zoe. He added that a painting his grandmother had of Leonard now hangs in his home in Paris.
“He was so young when he died. My grandmother didn’t talk about him much, but that was her baby son. It was quite devastating for the whole family,” he said.
Everything told to him about his uncle was so positive, said Kravitz.
“All the stories were always so wonderful. I even got to know one of his childhood friends who would tell me stories about him,” said Kravitz.
Kravitz said his father Sy, whom he described as a “tough” military man, but a “beautiful father,” would tell him that he would have gotten along very well with his uncle.
“He always told me that I would have liked Leonard because he was a little softer than he was,” Kravitz said with a laugh. “I was addressed like a private for many years.”
Lenny Kravitz’s sister, Laurie Wenger, received the award on behalf of Pfc. Kravitz.