The family of Sgt. Eduardo Corrall Gomez knew about his heroics during the Korean War but said he never received recognition for it in his lifetime.
It's believed Gomez was one of 24 men passed over for medals due to prejudice. President Barack Obama said he was going to right that wrong during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.
In September, 1950, during the Korean War, Gomez defended his company by maneuvering across open ground with a faulty machine gun. His nephew, Pete Corrall, said his uncle took out a tank with a grenade.
Gomez burned his hand and injured his right side but stayed with his regiment. Corrall said his injuries made it impossible to salute.
Obama presented his relatives with the Congressional Medal of Honor in an engraved shadow box, along with a flag from the Pentagon.
Carroll said he borrowed from his retirement account to bring his grandchildren and his mother and other relatives to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony.
They said they have met celebrities in their hometown of Ojai but they never imagined meeting the President in the Oval Office.
They also met the families of other posthumous honorees including relatives of Army Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz , the uncle of singer and actor Lenny Kravitz, who died defending his platoon during the Korean War in 1951.
If Gomez had been awarded the medal during his lifetime, it would have made his life easier financially by increasing his military benefits, Corrall said.
Gomez' sister-in-law Margaret Moreno Corrall said the president kissed her cheek and welcomed her with open arms.
She said she is grateful that an investigation into discrimination led to her brother-in-law's posthumous honor.