President Obama has corrected a historic wrong by awarding the Medal of Honor to Victor H. Espinoza of El Paso for extraordinary bravery during the Korean War.
The White House on Friday announced Medals of Honor for 24 people previously denied the nation's highest honor for heroism.
The reconsideration was made possible by a 2002 law that ordered a review of Jewish and Hispanic service members from World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War to see if any were denied the medal because of race, religion or ethnicity.
Espinoza, who died in 1986 and is buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1953 for his actions in battle a year earlier, but he was denied the top honor until Friday.
His citation for the Distinguished Service Cross clearly shows that his actions warranted the Medal of Honor:
“Corporal Espinoza distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces at Chorwon, Korea, on 1 August 1952. While spearheading an attack to secure 'Old Baldy,' Corporal Espinoza's unit was pinned down by withering artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire from strongly fortified positions. Fully aware of the odds against him, Corporal Espinoza stormed forward in a daring assault and, firing his rifle and throwing grenades, silenced a machine-gun and its crew. Continuing up the fire-swept slope, he neutralized a mortar, wiped out two bunkers, and killed its defenders. After expending his ammunition, he employed enemy grenades, hurling them into the hostile trenches and inflicting additional casualties. Observing a tunnel on the crest of the hill which could not be destroyed by grenades, he obtained explosives, entered the tunnel, set the charge, and destroyed the tunnel and the troops it sheltered. His fearless display of valor inspired all who observed him and enabled the unit to continue the assault and to secure the strong point.”
Obama will present the 24 Medals of Honor in a ceremony March 18 at the White House.
It is tragic that this honor comes almost 28 years after Espinoza's passing. But it is never too late to correct the record and give our heroes their proper recognition.
Hispanics and other minorities for decades fought courageously and with honor for our country, but some were denied proper recognition from their country. The military has taken steps in the past 20 years to redress those past failures.
The latest recognition of 24 heroes is one of the most important steps to date in an important effort to correct the historical record.