Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Veterans received honors they deserved

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 25, 2014 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2014 at 10:25 p.m.

Veterans are the pride and strength of America. From the first shots at Lexington and Concord to today, the men and women who have put their lives on the line for our freedom deserve the utmost respect and gratitude.

Unfortunately, America has not always been a model of the liberty and equality we idealize. In the past, the service of some of our best has been overlooked or not given the full measure of recognition they deserve because of something as trivial as the veteran's ethnicity. Thankfully, in the case of 24 veterans, that injustice has been rectified. A 12-year review of prejudice against Hispanic and Jewish veterans who were not given the Congressional Medal of Honor resulted in the awarding of the commendation to 24 veterans from three different wars. Two of those veterans, Michael Pena and Santiago Erevia, have connections to the Crossroads.

Pena served in World War II and the Korean War, where he died Sept. 4, 1950, near Waegwan. According to the commendation citation, he was leading a platoon that was approached by enemy forces in heavy fog. After an exchange of gunfire, Pena pulled his men back and manned a machine gun to cover their withdrawal. He held his position until the early hours of the next morning, when he was overrun and killed. He was originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the military's second-highest award, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Erevia served in Vietnam. He was originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions May 21, 1969. He was on a search and clear operation near the city of Tam Ky in Quang Tin Province when he and four wounded soldiers in his care came under fire. According to the award citation, Erevia collected ammunition and took out four enemy bunkers while being shot at.

We applaud these brave men and the 22 others who received the Medal of Honor for their actions. Unfortunately, Erevia was one of only three of the veterans who were alive to receive the upgraded commendations. The 21 others were represented by members of their families at the award ceremony March 20.

It is disappointing to know that some of America's bravest veterans who were willing to give their lives for this country were denied the honors they deserved because of something as ugly as racism. However, it is comforting to know that steps are being taken to rectify that injustice. Those who served our country deserve to be treated with honor and integrity. The fact that they had to wait for so long before receiving that recognition is shameful. We hope a similar circumstance will never occur again.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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