Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
America honors Hispanic Heritage this month, I would like to recognize some of Texas’ heroes who served their country in body and deed, held up the torch of bravery and, in turn, were awarded Medals of Honor for their actions.
Born in San Marcos, Texas, Cleto Rodriguez enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1944, where he served as a Private in Company B, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. On February 9, 1945 in Manila, while crossing a railroad station, Cleto’s platoon was stopped by intense Japanese gunfire. Without being ordered to do so, Rodriguez and a fellow soldier, Private First Class John N. Reese, Jr., left the platoon and marched straight into the enemy volley. For two and a half hours, charged on conquest, Rodriquez and Reese killed over 82 Japanese soldiers and paved the way for an American victory at the railroad station that day. Sadly, Reese was killed in action defending his friends and country. For his ‘determination to destroy the enemy and courage in the face of tremendous odds,’ Rodriguez was awarded the Medal of Honor. He became the first Mexican American GI to be given this award in the South Pacific.
Private First Class Silvestre Herrera, drafted to the U.S. Army in 1944, was a seasoned veteran. He had been stationed on the front lines in Germany for several months. A part of the 36th “Texas” Division Herrera had experienced the most violent fighting in the Central Europe campaign when the Allies closed in to deliver the finishing blow on Nazi Germany. As Americans advanced toward the border, German resistance mounted. That day, Herrera’s division, the 142nd Regiment, neared the French-German border town of Mertzwiller. When orders were given to advance the town, Herrera, being a scout, was 400 yards ahead of his company. The regiment was suddenly overwhelmed by machine gun nest fire from the enemy. Armed with only a bayonet and a M1 hand rifle, Herrera single handedly captured eight German soldiers and sent them to American lines. However, upon gearing up for a second attempt to end the gunfire, he stepped on an anti-personnel mine that blew off both his feet. Despite the intense pain and loss of blood, Herrera continued to fight and kill two more German soldiers. His presence enabled his comrades to lead a full frontal attack on the enemy position. For his heroism that day Silvestre Herrera was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
And last, but certainly not least – a hero from Congressional District 2. One of twelve children from a large Mexican American family, Lucian Adams was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1922. The summer of 1944, Adams was stationed near the town of Saint-Die in the Mortagne forest of France. With supply line cut off by the Germans, Adams’ was sent out as a scout for his company and alerted the commander of three enemy machine gun nests. He was given orders to “go on out there and make a breakthrough to get those GIs.” Armed with a borrowed Browning automatic rifle, Adams and his men started walking in a heavily wooded area of the forest. Having only walked 10 yards, enemy machine guns killed three men and wounded six others almost instantaneously. The company ran to take cover. However, Adams charged forward. He killed nine Germans, shot lobbying grenades, eliminated three enemy machine guns and forced two German infantrymen to surrender. In a matter of 10 minutes, Adams had successfully cleared the woods of enemy soldiers and reopened the severed supply line. Adams was dubbed “The Texas Tornado” by his company men and received the Medal of Honor in 1945.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for gallantry in action is only given to the bravest of the brave. It is the American symbol of knighthood. Men like Rodriquez, Herrera and Adams deserve only the utmost respect from their countrymen. They are statues of strength—true visions of valor. With a thankful heart, I tip my hat to the Texas heroes who fought and are fighting for liberty. America salutes you.
And, that’s just the way it is.