Profile in Heroism; Medal of Honor Recipient, Silvestre Herrera

By Sgt. Benjamin Cossel
Operation Jump Start – Arizona Public Affairs

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Combat – the ultimate proving ground where service members put to test their years of training. Fear – the natural reaction to unnatural situations where the mind tells the body to go into survival mode and flee. Courage – the mind ignoring its natural reactions and pushing forward in the face of certain disaster.

On the morning of March 15, 1945, near the village of Mertzwiller, France, a young private first class with the Texas National Guard’s 36th Division was faced with all three; combat, fear, and overwhelming courage when his platoon came under a heavy machine-gun attack. Mexican-born Silvestre Herrera faced down his fear and the enemy when he charged the source of the rifle fire, suppressing the German assault, and allowing his platoon to continue.

Later that same day, Herrera would walk through a minefield drawing deadly rounds away from their intended mark. He lost both his legs in the engagement, all the while keeping his M-1 Garand Rifle trained on the source stronghold thereby allowing his brothers-in-arms to flank and overrun the enemy position.

For his actions, Herrera was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. But that is just the beginning of the story…