Medal of Honor Awards to Puerto Rican Soldiers

Next month, President Barack Obama will award 24 U.S.. Army veterans the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In each case, the soldiers have previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the nation’s second highest military award. The Medal of Honor will be awarded in recognition of gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.

Four of the 24 honorees are from Puerto Rico, a clear confirmation of the fact that Puerto Ricans, who cannot vote for their Commander in Chief, still constitute a disproportionate number of the fighting men and women of the United States.

More than a decade ago, Congress called for a review of Jewish American and Hispanic American veteran war records from the three conflicts mentioned above. There was concern that there were soldiers in these two groups who should have received the Medal of Honor, but did not not receive the honor because of prejudice.

The following honorees are from Puerto Rico:

Staff Sergeant Felix M. Conde-Falcon will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving as an acting Platoon Leader in Company D, 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Ap Tan Hoa, Republic of Vietnam on April 4, 1969.

Conde-Falcon was a platoon leader on April 4, 1969, when his unit conducted a sweep operation near Ap Tan Hoa, Vietnam. The soldiers came upon an extensive enemy bunker complex, which turned out to be a battalion command post. After artillery and air strikes on the position, Conde-Falcon’s platoon went in to clear the bunker.

Conde-Falcon charged the first bunker, heaving grenades as he went. He moved on to two more bunkers, destroying them as well. When he rejoined his platoon, they moved about 100 meters before they came under intense hostile fire. Conde-Falcon single-handedly assaulted the nearest enemy position, killing the fighters inside before running out of ammunition. He picked up an M-16 rifle but was shot by an unseen assailant and soon died of his wounds.

Master Sergeant Juan E. Negron will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving as a member of Company L, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kalma-Eri, Korea on April 28, 1951.

On April 28, 1951, near Kalmaeri, Korea, then-Sgt. Negron was told elements of the company were withdrawing from an exposed position, but Negron refused to leave and delivered withering fire at hostile troops who had broken through a road block.

As hostile troops approached his position, Negron hit them with hand grenades and stopped their attack. He held the position all night, while an allied counter attack was organized and launched. After the enemy was repulsed, 15 of them were found a few feet from Negron’s position.

Private Demensio Rivera will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving as an automatic rifleman with 2d Platoon, Company G, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Changyong-ni, Korea on May 23, 1951.

Citation summary: On May 22-23, 1951, Rivera, an 18-year-old native of Puerto Rico, was serving with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division at Changyongni. When his platoon’s outpost was assaulted at night, Rivera, an automatic rifleman, tenaciously held his position. When his rifle became inoperative, Rivera employed his pistol and grenades, and eventually fought the enemy hand-to-hand and forced them back.

As an overwhelming number of the enemy closed in, he killed four with his only remaining grenade. When his position was retaken, he was found seriously wounded and lying with the bodies of the four enemy dead or dying.

Private Miguel Armanda “Nando” Vera will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving as an automatic rifleman with Company F, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division in Chorwon, Korea, on September 21, 1952.

Citation summary: Vera, a native of Puerto Rico native, on Sept. 21, 1952, was serving with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division at Chorwon, Korea. Vera’s unit was committed to assault and secure the right sector of the hill “Old Baldy” and, although wounded in an earlier engagement, Vera voluntarily rejoined elements of the platoon regrouping at the hill’s base.

Forging up the bare, rocky slope in skirmisher formation, the troops came within 20 yards of hostile positions when they were subjected to heavy artillery and mortar barrages and intense cross-fire from automatic weapons and grenades, which forced them to move back. Vera remained behind to cover the withdrawal and, poured crippling fire into enemy emplacements. During this action he lost his life.

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