Since Congress designated the date as a federal observance 31 years ago, March 25 marks National Medal of Honor Day. On this day, members of the armed forces who were presented with the highest military decoration are remembered for what they accomplished during their service to the United States. It is often referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Since 1861, the Medal of Honor has been bestowed to combat veterans, many of whom are honored posthumously for their acts of valor. In the last 160 years, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,507 individuals. Forty percent of these recipients fought in the American Civil War.
Of those Medal of Honor veterans, there are a few dozen Latinos who have earned the distinguished decoration. Here is a small sample of the brave Latino vets who fought for America’s freedom.
Staff Sergeant Marcario Garcia
Garcia was the first native Mexican immigrant to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroics during WWII. In 1944, he was the squad leader in his platoon when he and his men were trapped by German soldiers firing machine guns. He was able to single-handedly destroy two enemy emplacements and capture four Germans.
PFC Fernando Luis Garcia
Garcia was the first Puerto Rican serviceman to be presented posthumously with the Medal of Honor. He was honored for his bravery during the Korean War at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1952. As Chinese soldiers attacked, Garcia sacrificed himself by covering a grenade with his body. He was 22 when he died.
Seaman Philip Bazaar
Bazaar, who was born in Chile, was the first Latino to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the American Civil War. He was an immigrant who joined the Union Navy and was placed on the USS Santiago de Cuba. He and his fellow crew members carried dispatches as Confederates attacked.
Private France Silva
Silva was the first U.S. Marine of Mexican American descent to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He served in China during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century and received the distinction for defending a civilian compound in Peking
Private David B. Barkley
Barkley is the only Latino to be awarded the Medal of Honor in WWI. Born in Laredo, Texas, to a Mexican American mother, he arrived in France in 1918 where he gathered information about German troop strength and deployment. He drowned while swimming across the Meuse River.
Sergeant José M. Lopez
Lopez was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. During the battle, he single-handedly killed approximately 100 enemy troops with a machine gun. He was also presented with Mexico’s highest military award, la Condecoración del Mérito Militar. A statue of Lopez stands at Veterans Park in Brownsville, Texas.
Army Specialist Jesus S. Duran
Duran, who was born in Juárez, Mexico, earned the Medal of Honor for fighting in the Vietnam War. His daughter received the medal from President Barack Obama in 2014 at a White House ceremony. Duran was also inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.