Salutes & Awards

September 27, 2013

Hispanic Heritage Month, remembering Hispanic heroes

President Clinton and LTC Alfred Rascon, USA, retired. The White House, 2000

As a soldier and public servant, LTC Alfred Rascon, retired, served the United States with distinction for nearly four decades.

At the age of four, Rascon came to the U.S. from Mexico with his parents. Raised in the barrios of California near Port Hueneme Naval Station during the Korean War, he was fascinated by the military, making parachutes out of sheets and staging imaginary combat jumps off the roof of his house.

At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a medic in the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

In March 1966, Rascon’s unit moved to reinforce its sister battalion that was under attack. A firefight broke out, beginning what Rascon would later recall as “ten minutes of hell.”

Ignoring orders, “Doc” Rascon ran to tend to the wounded soldiers. He was hit by shrapnel and a rifle bullet that traveled from his hip through his shoulder blade. He managed to drag one man to safety then crawled back into the melee to bring ammunition to a wounded machine gunner.

Fearing an abandoned machine gun would be used by the enemy, he went to retrieve it. A grenade exploded, spraying his face with shrapnel. Later, he saved the life of another GI by shielding the man with his own body as he administered treatment.

When a grenade landed near an injured sergeant, he threw his body over the sergeant. The explosion blew off Rascon’s helmet and rucksack. He refused morphine so he could continue treating his wounded comrades.

Alfred Rascon, medic in the U.S. Army (center) Vietnam, March 1966

He was nominated for the Medal of Honor days afterward, but the paperwork was lost. Upon his discharge from the Army in 1966, he joined the reserves, attended college, and became a naturalized citizen. In 1969, he returned to active duty and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He returned to Vietnam in 1972 for another tour.

In 1993, some of the men whose lives Rascon saved heard that the recommendation for his medal was lost. They took the case to the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

In 2000, Rascon was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service at a White House ceremony with the men he had saved looking on. Rascon became the 343rd person awarded the nation’s highest military honor.

Today, describing himself as “Mexican by birth, American by choice,” he is a role model for students. He also works with soldiers, veterans, and their families, offering support, assistance, and recognition for their contributions to the country.

In presenting the Medal of Honor, President Clinton said, “On that distant day, in that faraway place, this man gave everything he had, utterly and selflessly, to protect his platoon mates.”




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