On March 18 of this year President Obama plans on establishing 24 belated awards of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Of these twenty-four awards, more than half will be to Latinos. Their stories are widely varied and unique by time and circumstances.
As pleasing as it is to see some Latino heroes finally receiving the recognition they deserve, it is sad that most of the veterans cited will receive a posthumous award. Time has not dealt fairly with our heroes nor has the recognition been complete and so I have mixed feelings about this belated ceremony that has some glaring omissions. I would like to explain some simple facts.
Several notable veterans of the Latino community have been attempting for years to gain recognition of some impressive narratives that describe our hero veterans. The list is not a complete one but it includes: Pete Lim??n, Placido Salazar, Alfred Lugo, the late John Lopez and myself, Eddie Mor?¡n. We have sought help and publicity from the politicians, the media and the public sector with little to show for it. Even though it is gratifying to see the list of heroes honored that are being honored we have to ask: "Why have so many been overlooked?" It may be true that "half a plate is better than none", but I want to know why can't we have the full platter?
During WWII, Guy Gabald??n single-handedly captured over 1,500 enemy soldiers who were indoctrinated to kill as many Americans as the could before laying down their lives for the emperor. There can be no doubt that a great many lives were saved by Guy Gabald??n and yet no Medal of Honor was ever awarded him even though he truly deserves one. And so it goes, as anyone who has examined the facts can tell you.
In a combat mission in Fallujah, Iraq Marine sergeant Rafael Peralta led his men on an assault of enemy positions. When a grenade was tossed his way, he selflessly threw his body over it to absorb the blast. This devotion to his men has been negated by the reviewers who have over-ridden the eyewitness testimony of others who were there and insist that he was probably fatally wounded and must have just fallen in that direction. He was a hero and should be acknowledge as one!
Here is a list of other veterans that should have been considered: Macelino Serna, Ramon Rodriguez, Isaac Camacho, Manuel F. Martinez Jr., Fred Ogas, Ray B. Gonzales Guy Gabaldon, Rumaldo Medina, Rufino Gallegos, Miguel Encinas. and Gabriel Navarette.
I'm certain that there are more and I realize that not every case can be closely scrutinized and yet I believe a lot more credibility can be had by better examination of eyewitness accounts. During the Clinton Administration the Commander in Chief saw fit to award forty Medals of Honor to our Japanese veterans. The question has to be asked; aren't Latinos deserving of full inclusion also?
Consider that during the War with Mexico, the Civil War and the Indian Wars the Congressional Medal of Honor was common and not really elevated until later, the status of the award has increased significantly.
Today it stands as a testament to the highest valor above and beyond the call of duty.
It should never be regarded lightly but then neither should our heroes.