A half-dozen Texans were among the 24 veterans who received belated Medals of Honor today at the White House. President Obama presented the honors to three living recipients and 21 who have died. All were veterans of World War II or the Korean or Vietnam wars who were passed over earlier because of their Jewish or Hispanic heritage.
NPR's Tom Bowman profiled of one of the living Medal of Honor recipients, Santiago Erevia of San Antonio. The Vietnam vet charged into enemy gunfire and destroyed a series of bunkers during an ambush.
In addition to Erevia, these five other Texans were among the group today that received the Medal of Honor:
- Pvt. Pedro Cano -- "for his valorous actions in the months-long battle of Hurtgen Forest. He was advancing with his company near Schevenhütte, Germany, in December 1944, when the unit met heavy enemy resistance. During a two-day period, Cano eliminated nearly 30 enemy troops. Sometime later, while on patrol, Cano and his platoon were surprised by German soldiers that caused numerous casualties within their platoon. Cano lay motionless on the ground until the assailants closed in, then tossed a grenade into their midst, wounding or killing all of them. It was in this engagement, or shortly thereafter, that Cano sustained serious injuries." He died in 1950.
- Sgt. Victor Espinoza -- "for his actions on Aug. 1, 1952, at Chorwon, Korea. While spearheading an attack to secure 'Old Baldy,' Espinoza's unit was pinned down by withering fire from fortified positions. In daring succession, Espinoza singlehandedly silenced a machine gun and its crew, discovered and destroyed a covert enemy tunnel, and wiped out two bunkers." He died in 1986.
- Sgt. Candelario Garcia -- "distinguished himself on Dec. 8, 1968, as a team leader during a reconnaissance-in-force mission near Lai Khe, Vietnam. Garcia destroyed two enemy machine-gun positions in an attempt to aid casualties that were in the open and under fire. Garcia then rejoined his company in a successful assault on the remaining enemy positions." He died last year.
- Master Sgt. Mike C. Pena -- "for his actions on the evening of Sept. 4, 1950, near Waegwan, Korea, when his unit was fiercely attacked. During the course of the counterattack, Pena realized that their ammunition was running out, and ordered his unit to retreat. Pena then manned a machine-gun to cover their withdrawal. He singlehandedly held back the enemy until morning when his position was overrun, and he was killed."
- Master Sgt. Jose Rodelo -- "for his valorous actions on Sept. 1, 1969, while serving as the company commander in Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam. Rodela commanded his company throughout 18 hours of continuous contact when his battalion was attacked and taking heavy casualties. Throughout the battle, in spite of his wounds, Rodela repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to attend to the fallen and eliminate an enemy rocket position." He lives in San Antonio.
Here's the full list of today's Medal of Honor recipients.