Lucian Adams, WWII Medal of Honor recipient
Lino Garcia Jr., Spanish literature professor emeritus at the University of TexasPan American, has written extensively about Latino contributions to military service.
In fact, more than 1.2 million of the nation's 21.8 million veterans have Hispanic backgrounds. Hispanics have served the country in every conflict since the Civil War, and 44 Hispanics have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor.
The breakdown of Medal of Honor winners comes from the following conflicts:
- The Civil War: Joseph H. De Castro, John Ortega and Philip Bazaar.
- The Boxer Rebellion: Frank Silva.
- World War I: David Barkley Cantu.
- World War II: Joe P. Martinez, Lucian Adams, Macario Garcia, Jose M. Lopez, Jose F. Valdez, Cleto Rodriguez, Manuel Perez Jr., Silvestre S. Herrera, Ysmael Villegas, Harold Gonsalves, David Gonzales, Alejandro Ruiz, and Rudolph Davila.
- The Korean War: Baldomero Lopez, Eugene Obregon, Joseph Rodrigues, Rodolopho P. Hernandez, Edward Gomez, Fernando Luis Garcia, Benito Martinez, and Ambrosio Guillen.
- The Vietnam Conflict: David Fernandez, Euripedes Rubio, Elmelindo Rodrigues Smith, Maximo Yabes, Carlos J. Lozada, Alfredo Gonzalez, Jay R. Vargas, Roy Benavidez, Hector Santiago-Colon, Jose Jimenez, Ralph E. Dias, Emilio de la Garza, Miguel Keith, Louis Rocco, John P. Baca, Alfred Rascon, and Humbert Versace.
- Afghanistan: Leroy A. Petry.
Hispanics have served the country in and out of the military. More than 9,000 Hispanics participated on both side during the Civil War, including 20 companies of Tejano Cavalry.
The First, Middle and Last Recipients Shared Commitment and Patriotism
- Joseph H. De Castro
De Castro was a member of an all-volunteer unit in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War.
In the historic Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett's Charge turned disastrous, but flag-bearer De Castro charged through enemy lines and captured the enemy flag from his counterpart in the 19th Virginia Infantry regiment. His courage was rewarded with the first Medal of Honor awarded to an Hispanic American.
- David Barkley
Enlisting in the Army at the age of 17, Barkley fought in France in World War I.
The Hispanic soldier kept his background secret, fearing he would not be allowed on the front lines.
Barkley's unit, Company A of the 365th Infantry, surveyed the Meuse River on November 9, 1918. Barkley volunteered to swim across the river to get intelligence about the enemy force. Unfortunately, the challenging swim caused cramping on the return trip, and Barkley drowned in service to his country.
- Sargeant 1st Class Leroy Petry
Under heavy enemy fire, Sgt. Petry picked up a live grenade to attempt rescue of his fellow Rangers.
The grenade exploded, causing severe facial damage and amputation of the hand. The Ranger's quick thinking and courage saved people from being killed, and the Hispanic role model serves as an inspiration to Latino Americans.
Hispanic veterans have fought and died for their country, often remaining unrecognized during their lifetimes.
Discrimination forced many veterans to hide their ethnic backgrounds to serve their country.
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