Two San Antonio men are among 24 war veterans who will receive the Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration, at a ceremony at the White House next month, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Retired Master Sergeant Jose Rodela and former Sergeant Santiago Erevia are both being honored for their heroism during the Vietnam War. Both have previously received the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions in battle, but a 12 year study done by Congress, The Pentagon, and the White House has determined that the 24, 19 of whom are still living, had their heroism overlooked or not properly recognized due to discrimination. Most of the new honorees are Hispanic, African American, or Jewish.
Rodela was a member of the First Special Forces and was training a company of Cambodian troops when his unit came under 'an intense barrage of mortar, rocket, and machine gun fire,' according to the Army citation.
"Rodela ignored the enemy fire, and immediately began placing his men into defensive positions to prevent an enemy assault which might overrun the entire battalion."
The citation says Rodela 'repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire' and directed his unit to return fire, despite the fact that he had been wounded in the back and head by rocket shrapnel while assisting a wounded comrade.
Erevia was a radio-telephone operator for the 101st Airborne Division near Tam Ky City and had been assigned to take care of wounded soldiers when he was attacked by an enemy company.
"Without hesitation, Erevia crawled from one wounded man to another gathering weapons and ammunition," the citation reads. Now armed with two M-16 rifles and several hand grenades, he charged directly into the line of fire of the hostile gun emplacement, destroying both fortification with 'well placed grenades.'
The Army says the heroism of the two men saved lives, and 'brought credit upon themselves and upon their country.
The citations will also focus new attention on the role Mexican Americans played in the Vietnam War. Latinos enlisted in numbers well beyond their percentage of the population, and many served in the most dangerous places and received heavy casualties.