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Hispanic Heroes
Hispanic Heroes. (U.S. Air Force artwork by Robert Martinez)
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Hispanic Heroes

Posted 10/2/2009   Updated 10/2/2009 Email story   Print story


by Robert Martinez
17th Training Wing

10/2/2009 - GOODFELLOW AFB, Texas -- Hispanic Americans have made significant contributions to the American Armed Forces, dating back to the Civil War, including 43 who earned the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration a member of the United States armed forces can receive. 

The first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient, Cpl. Joseph H. De Castro, a flag bearer from the 19th Massachusetts Infantry earned the nation's highest honor for valor in dramatic fashion during the Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg. Corporal De Castro "attacked a Confederate flag bearer with the staff of his own colors and seized the opposing regiment's flags" during a failed Confederate assault. 

The most recent Hispanic American to receive the Medal of Honor was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. Spc. Four Alfred V. Rascon initially received a Silver Star but received his Medal of Honor in 2000 for his extraordinarily courageous acts on March 16, 1966. 

Spc. Four Rascon was a medic assigned to the Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate). The platoon's mission was to reinforce a sister battalion which was under intense enemy attack. Rascon's platoon came under heavy fire and several soldiers were wounded. Rascon went to the aid of his fallen comrades, ignoring flying bullets and exploding grenades on more than one occasion. Each time he dragged his comrades to safety, he crawled back to aid someone else. Rascon covered soldiers with his body, absorbed blasts from exploding grenades, and saved several soldier's lives including his sergeant's life when he absorbed the full force of a grenade's explosion. Rascon retrieved an abandoned machine gun he feared would fall into enemy hands and was wounded in the face and torso by grenade fragments in the process. The machine gun added suppressive fire to the pinned-down squad. Although critically wounded, he continued to search and aid the wounded. He remained on the battlefield, inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue the battle. Rascon was so badly wounded that day that he was given his last rites. 

In 1967 Spc. Rascon became a Naturalized United States Citizen. On Feb. 8, 2000, President Bill Clinton bestowed upon Alfred V. Rascon the Medal of Honor. Spc. Rascon's extraordinary valor in the face of deadly enemy fire, his heroism in rescuing the wounded, and his gallantry by repeatedly risking his own life for his fellow soldiers are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service.

 In Iraq, on Nov. 15, 2004, a young Mexico City-born Sgt. Rafael Peralta, United States Marine Corps, became a hero. The legal resident tried to join the Marines but had to wait until he was granted a green card. The day he received it, he joined the Marines. Sgt. Peralta was a scout team leader assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who along with his team was ordered to clear houses. 

Sgt. Peralta was not assigned to enter the buildings, but chose to do so anyway. Clearing one of the houses, Sgt. Peralta was shot multiple times. Mortally wounded, he dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire. The insurgents responded by throwing a grenade into the room. The Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried, but could not get out of the room. Still conscious and on the floor, Sgt. Peralta reached for the grenade and pulled it under his body absorbing the lethal blast, killing him instantly but saved the lives of his fellow Marines. For undaunted courage and intrepid fighting spirit, Sgt. Rafael Peralta was awarded the second highest American medal, the Navy Cross. 

Millions of Hispanic Americans have served in the U.S. armed forces or fought for this country before it became a country. The Mexicans, Spanish, Cubans and Puerto Ricans defeated a British force of 1,200 at what is now St. Louis in 1779. Over two hundred years of valor has been proven by Hispanics for America that continues to this day in battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever American forces fight to protect our country and what we believe in.

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