Hispanic Heritage Month
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Army began celebrating the heritage of Hispanics in its ranks Sept. 15.

The Army values the contributions Hispanic American Soldiers. They have not flinched in defending the nation in many ways, but especially through military service.

President Barack Obama proclaimed on Sept. 14, 2016 that "Hispanic Americans have had a lasting impact on our history and have helped drive hard -- won progress for all our people … They are the brave men and women in uniform who commit themselves to defending our most cherished ideals at home and abroad. And their lasting achievements and devotion to our Nation exemplify the tenacity and perseverance embedded in our national character."

Hispanics have been fighting in the Army for years and have received 44 Medals of Honor. Since 1985, the percentage of Hispanic Soldiers in the Army has grown from 3 percent of Active Duty Soldiers to 17 percent in 2015.

Cpl. Joseph DeCastro received the award during the Civil War for gallantry and heroism during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg where he attacked a color bearer of the 1st Virginia Infantry with the staff of the 19th Massachusetts Infantry and seizing the colors.

In World War One, Pvt. David Barkeley Cantu, received the MOH after drowning during a scouting mission behind enemy lines Nov. 19, 1918. His citation read: "When information was desired as to the enemy's position on the opposite side of the Meuse River, Pvt. Barkeley, with another soldier, volunteered without hesitation and swam the river to reconnoiter the exact location. He succeeded in reaching the opposite bank, despite the evident determination of the enemy to prevent a crossing. Having obtained his information, he again entered the water for his return, but before his goal was reached, he was seized with cramps and drowned."

During World War Two many Hispanic-Americans, such as Staff Sgt. Lucian Adams, would display extreme gallantry and be awarded America's highest military honor. Adams was awarded the awards after he personally attacked German positions near St. Die, France on Oct. 28, 1944 with a Browning Automatic Rifle. When his company's advance was stopped by intense German fire, he "charged forward dodging from tree to tree firing a borrowed BAR from the hip. Despite intense machinegun fire which the enemy directed at him and rifle grenades which struck the trees over his head showering him with broken twigs and branches." Adams would personally killed nine Germans, eliminate three enemy machineguns, and clear a wooded area of German forces.

On May 21, 1951, near Munye-ri, Korea, Pvt. Joseph C. Rodriguez helped defeat a fanatical enemy by attacking fortified North Korean positions. According to the Center of Military History, "he "leaped to his feet, dashed 60 yards up the fire-swept slope, and, after lobbing grenades into the first foxhole with deadly accuracy, ran around the left flank, silenced an automatic weapon with two grenades and continued his whirlwind assault to the top of the peak, wiping out two more foxholes and then, reaching the right flank, he tossed grenades into the remaining emplacement, destroying the gun and annihilating its crew. Sgt. Rodriguez' intrepid actions exacted a toll of 15 enemy dead and, as a result of his incredible display of valor, the defense of the opposition was broken, and the enemy routed, and the strategic strongpoint secured."

In Vietnam, Hispanic American Soldiers fought bravely and even gave the ultimate sacrifice to save their comrades like 1st Sgt. Maximo Yabes. Yabes was killed while defending against a Viet Cong attack on Feb. 26, 1967 near Phu Hoa Dong. During that battle, Yabes helped wounded, and ran through withering fire to get a grenade launcher from a nearby bunker. Lastly, he "dashed across the exposed area, assaulted the machinegun, killed the crew, destroyed the weapon, and fell mortally wounded."

Fort Jackson's Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon will be held at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 30 at the NCO Club on post.