Medal of Honor, Veterans – their Values and Extenuating Background

 Medal of Honor - Navy type

As we remember and celebrate the contributions and selfless sacrifices of all of our active duty troops, our veterans, the fallen, or the families of our veterans of our fallen, either on Independence Day, Veterans Day of November 11th, or November 10th for my fellow US Marines, Memorial Day in May, any other day, it is worth remembering the values and backgrounds, even of the trying circumstances of those who have served, especially those of our Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, and all others who have fought in America’s Defense.  (picture from Congressional Medal of Honor Society.)


I believe many of our Veterans, whether US- or foreign-born were driven by the following Values:

Flag – Respect for the Flag which represents a living nation born out of the contributions and selfless sacrifices of other veterans and their families, our families, and our dedicated citizens, in both wartime and peacetime;

Fidelity – Being loyal to our country, our constitutional values and principles of Life, Liberty, Justice, and Equality, for all; even when sadly our imperfect yet great nation has not always lived to the spirit of its own principles; and loyalty always in our duty in attending to the needs of those who have served;

Faith – Nurturing our own personal Faith and our moral compass, in communion with our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Arms, our members and our community; And creating an environment where people of all faiths, or people with spiritual or no religious inclination, can freely practice their faith or beliefs.

Family – Showing Love, Respect, Honor and Gratitude for our Families, and for the Families of those who selflessly and with love sacrificed their lives for our life, freedoms and basic human rights

Friendship – Remembering that Veterans are a community of friends with unbreakable bonds, forged in battle or in service to nation and by their personal actions, which should always be of the highest standard.

The Medal of Honor (MOH) which is the nation’s highest military honor awarded by the President of the United States on behalf of the Congress is awarded to a member of the US Armed Forces who distinguishes him- or herself “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or own life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.”

LOCAL MOH HEROES: (updated 7/5/2012)

Michael A. Monsoor:

(Born in Long Beach, CA April 5, 1981 – September 29, 2006) was a U.S. Navy Seal killed during the Iraq War and posthumously received the Medal of Honor.   Monsoor enlisted in the United States Navy in 2001 and graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2004. After further training he was assigned to Delta Platoon, SEAL Team Three.

Lt. Walter D. Ehlers:  WWII Medal of Honor recipient.  Still active in local civic and patriotic events.

Lt Walter D. Ehler, MOH - WWII; Sarita Ortiz, my niece who sang the National Anthem; and Francisco Barragan. At a veterans event last Nov 2011 hosted by Com-Link in Santa Ana.


This highest of honors has been earned by 43 Hispanic/Mexican-American Veterans.  Four of these Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients were born in Mexico.

Furthermore, in 1982 the US Dept of Defense published “Hispanics in America’s Defense” which summarizes the contributions of Hispanics since the American Revolution.




It is worth noting that many of these US- or foreign-born Heroes, and other Veterans served their country even when they or their families in the USA faced :


About 2,000,000 US born citizens of Hispanic/Mexican descent were deported in the 1930’s and as late as the early 1940’s)  –

(see “Mass Eviction To Mexico In 1930s Spurs Apology”co-authored by former CA State Senator Joe Dunn.


In 1945 African American members of the 477th Bombardment Group attempted to integrate an all-white officers’ club.  The Freeman Field “Mutiny” is generally regarded by historians of the Civil Rights Movement as an important step toward full integration of the armed forces and as a model for later efforts to integrate public facilities through civil disobedience.

A leader who paid a heavy personal sacrifice was Lt. Roger “Bill” Terry (August 13, 1921 – June 11, 2009).  Bill Terry was one of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II.  In 1945 he was stationed at Freeman Field, Indiana, where he was excluded from the “whites only” officers club, PX and theatre, which German POWs were allowed to attend. He was the only individual to be discharged following the Freeman Field Mutiny.  Bill Terry died of heart failure on June 11, 2009. He was 87.

  • Bill Terry graduated from UCLA, and there is a movement to create a statue in his honor at UCLA, and create other recognitions around other areas in southern California.  The Bill Terry Tuskegee Airman Project.  [PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE].
  • I recently met three of the Tuskegee African-American pilots from WWII – “Red Tails” – AKA the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group.  These three pilots represent an incredible group of Americans.  Lt. Col Alex Jefferson. Eric Drummond and Ben “Flaps” Berry.See – “Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free” – Col Jefferson flew 18 successful missions over Germany and was shot down on his 19th. He spent time in a Nazi POW camp. – “TUSKEGEE AIRMEN — To the Moon, Mars and Beyond: (Secrets Revealed)” by Ben “Flaps” Berry. He became an aerospace engineer (shuttle & moon landing projects), even back in WWII he declared that he would build a spaceship.
  • There were about 1,000 African-American pilots in WWII (Tuskegee Airmen), plus thousands more of their support group. The Tuskegee Airmen were the most highly trained and best educated of American pilots in the whole world. This was because white pilots were only required to have a high school education (e.g. Bush Sr was a naval aviator at 19), but African-American pilots had to be college educated, and so they were also a lot more mature, because they were older.Because of negative racial prejudices, their training was designed to make them fail, to attempt to prove failure of this “Tuskegee experiment”. For example for every 1,000 college educated applicants, this was cut-down to 200, and then from these 200 about 20 were selected. Thus, they were truly the best of the best.

Japanese Internment & the 442nd & the 100th:

We all know the unconstitutional internment and relocation of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  There were at least 20 Medal of Honor recipients who were members of the Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion or 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The regiment, originally led solely by white officers, amalgamated the 100th battalion in 1944.


I believe that all those heroes served heroically always believing that the temporary stains in our Nation’s fabric could be cleansed by the sacrifice of their blood, sweat and tears in service to our Nation… and believing in the greatness of America and its principles of humanity, and the promise of opportunity to all those who work to build a stronger nation.

Happy Independence Day & Happy Birthday America!


Paco Barragán

Served in US Marine Corps (1987-1994)

Served in CA Army National Guard  (1994-1997)


About Francisco Barragan