Whenever the discussion about immigration comes up there is always a retort from someone challenging me to tell them what has Mexico ever done for the United States, or Mexicans for that matter. One commenter in particular asked what has “Mexico or Mexicans ever done for the world that anyone cares about?” The answer is more than people who oppose anything about Mexico would care to acknowledge. This sentiment is the reason I launched the Braceros Project website. Eventually I plan to create a concise and complete list of contributions by Mexicans to the wellbeing of the United States.
Today, I am starting the collection of data by sharing with you the following seven Mexican citizens who have been honored by the United States for their heroism in defense of the freedoms many US citizens enjoy today. There are many Mexican-Americans who have consistently contributed to the defense of the country and many of them have sacrificed their lives for the US. Today, I am going to focus on seven citizens of Mexico who fought for the United States in her times of need.
These seven individuals were citizens of Mexico when their valor was documented and acknowledged by the United States in the form of the United States Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the United States Armed Forces. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there have been 3,493 recipients of the Medal of Honor. Of these, 88 were awarded to Hispanics. Seven to citizens of Mexico.
On July 25, 1963, Congress established a set of guidelines under which the Medal of Honor can be awarded. In order to be awarded the Medal of Honor, the recipient must be engaged in action against an enemy of the United States, in military operations involving conflict with an opposing force or while serving with friendly forces engaged in combat.
Being a citizen of the United States is not a requirement for the medal; however, the recipient must be a member of the United States Armed forces at the time their actions lead to the award of the medal. The following seven Mexican citizens were awarded the Medal of Honor.
Isaac Payne, born in Mexico was a Trumpeter in the US Army. According to the citation on his Medal of Honor, he and three other men participated in a charge against 25 hostile Indians on April 25, 1875 near the Pecos River in Texas. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 28, 1875.
Pedro Cano was born on June 19, 1920 in La Morita, Mexico. On December 2, 1944, Private Cano, armed with a rocket launcher, crawled through a minefield. Under heavy enemy fire, Cano fired a rocket and killed two gunners and five riflemen disabling a German emplacement that had repulsed US infantrymen. Cano then attacked another enemy position with another rocket and hand grenades. He then crawled in front of his company and with two additional rockets killed four gunners and disabled another German gun. The next day, Private Cano, armed with his rocket launcher killed an additional six gunners and destroyed three German gun emplacements. For extraordinary heroism, he was awarded the Medal of Honor on March 18, 2014.
Staff Sergeant Garcia, acting as squad leader of Company B, 22d Infantry, single-handedly assaulted two enemy positions on November 27, 1944. Although wounded he refused to be evacuated and on his own initiative crawled towards the enemy position that was pinning his company down. Once he reached the German machine gun emplacement, he destroyed the gun. He killed three enemy soldiers who were attempting to escape. He then stormed a second emplacement, killed three Germans and captured four prisoners. Garcia, born in Villa de Castaño, México did not allow himself to be evacuated for medical care until after his unit reached its objective. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on September 1, 1945.
Silvestre S. Herrera
Private First Class Silvestre Herrera was born in Camargo, Chihuahua, México. His parents died when he was one year old. His uncle brought him to El Paso, Texas where Herrera worked as a farm hand. Up until the age of 27 years old, Herrera believed that he was born in El Paso, Texas. It was not until his unit was mobilized that his family told him the truth about his citizenship and place of birth. While his platoon was pinned down on March 15, 1945, near Mertzwiller, France, Herrera made a frontal attack against the gun emplacement and captured eight enemy soldiers. Later that day, his platoon was once again pinned down by another gun emplacement. This time Pvt. Herrera attacked the position. This time, however, both his legs were shattered by mines that he had stepped on during his attack. Disregarding the pain and loss of blood, Herrera pinned down the enemy gunners allowing another squad to capture the enemy emplacement. Pvt. Herrera was awarded the Medal of Honor on September 5, 1945. The government of Mexico also presented him the Order of Military Merit, First Class.
Jesus S. Duran
Jesus S. Duran was born on July 26, 1948 in Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, México. He joined the US Army on May 13, 1968. Specialist Four Duran, on April 10, 1968, with an M-60 machinegun blazing from his hip thwarted the imminent overrun of his command post and assaulted enemy positions causing the enemy to flee. His actions also saved several wounded US servicemen.
Jose F. Jimenez
Jose Fernando Jimenez was born in Mexico City on March 20, 1946. On August 28, 1969, while his unit was under heavy attack by North Vietnamese soldiers, Jimenez advanced under heavy fire killing several enemy soldiers and silencing an antiaircraft gun. Although the target of concentrated enemy fire, Jimenez continued his assault destroying another enemy position. He was killed while continuing his assault. Lance Corporal Jimenez was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on August 1969.
Alfred V. Rascon
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Velasquez Rascon was awarded the Medal of Honor on February 8, 2000 for his heroism on March 16, 1966. Then Specialist Four Alfred Rascon, assigned as a Medic ignoring directions to stay sheltered until covering fire could be provided, he ignored flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach severely wounded soldiers. Rascon intentionally placed his body to protect a wounded comrade while under intense fire. As a result, Rascon suffered various injuries, including a serious wound to his hip. Ignoring his own injuries, Rascon then delivered ammunition to a machine-gunner running out of ammunition. Fearing an abandoned machine gun would fall into enemy hands; Alfred Rascon recovered the weapon and gave it to another soldier for additional suppression fire. In the process, Rascon was severely wounded again, the wounds now including shrapnel to his face and torso. Although critically wounded, Rascon ignored his wounds and continued to search for and aid the wounded. Not until after the enemy broke contact and he was on an evacuation helicopter did Rascon allow his own wounds to be tended.
Next time someone asks you what has Mexico, or Mexicans done for the United States you should point them to these fine examples. These courageous men from Mexico not only demonstrate what Mexicans have done for the United States but they also demonstrate the benefits of immigration. I will continue to add more to the immigration repository in the coming weeks.