“Silvestre Santana Herrera, World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Camargo, Chihuahua, Mexico, on December 31, 1916. An uncle brought Herrera to El Paso, Texas, when he was only eighteen months old following the deaths of his parents due to an influenza outbreak. Herrera was raised first by his uncle in El Paso and then by a maternal aunt in Phoenix, Arizona. When he was drafted into the United States Army in January 1944, Herrera was informed that he could opt out of service due to his Mexican citizenship, but he chose to serve. He was deployed to Europe as a private first class with Company E, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, also known as the Texas Division.
On March 15, 1945, Private First Class Herrera’s platoon was halted by machine-gun fire along a road near Mertzwiller, France. While the rest of his unit was pinned down, Herrera single-handedly assaulted the enemy emplacement, killing several enemy soldiers and capturing eight more. When a second enemy emplacement opened fire on the platoon, Herrera again moved forward alone to attack the position. Using a two-by-four to probe the ground ahead, he carefully negotiated his way through a heavily-mined field but was forced to abandon his slower pace after coming under enemy fire. Herrera attempted to take cover but stepped on a landmine which launched him into the air. He then landed on a second landmine and had both legs severed below the knee. Despite the pain and loss of blood, Herrera lay on his stomach and continued to lay down accurate rifle fire to keep the enemy pinned in the emplacement. Herrera’s platoon was able to flank around and capture the second emplacement.”
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