PFC SILVESTRE S. HERRERA
Company E, 142d Infantry
36th Infantry Div.
Near Mertzwiller, France
15 March 1945
Silvestre’s day got weirder with the trifecta of unexpected events as the man he always believed was his father gave him the letter. It was a draft notice. The next thing Silvestre was told is that he didn’t have to go.
He could go if he wanted, but the man explained that Silvestre was an undocumented immigrant smuggled up from Mexico as an infant. The man he believed was his father told Silvestre that he was just a family friend. When Silvestre’s parents died, Mr. Herrera, an American citizen, smuggled the baby north and raised him as his own.
Silvestre was not an American. He couldn’t be drafted. This was good news, Herrera’s wife was carrying his 4th child, not being drafted meant he would be home to help out. Herrera wasn’t having any of that and marched himself down to the 36th infantry recruiting office and enlisted.
He loved the nation who adopted him and would gladly fight for her.
Soldiers sometimes carry sentimental items into battle with them; a child’s picture, an old coin, or maybe a trinket given for good luck. PFC Silvestre Herrera carried his most prized possession – His U.S. Citizenship study guide.
On 15 March 1945, Herrera advanced with his platoon along a wooded road until confronted with heavy enemy machinegun fire. Study took a back seat to survival on that March day, and PFC Herrera charged headlong toward the enemy gun emplacement. Herrera single-handedly captured the enemy gun, taking eight enemy prisoners.
The obstacle removed, Herrera’s platoon continued to advance until again confronted and pinned down by heavy enemy fire. The addition of a minefield protecting the enemy gun emplacement blocked the platoon’s escape route. Disregarding the danger of exploding mines, and machinegun fire, Herrera continued to move, engaging the enemy as he advanced.
When an antipersonnel mine detonated, shredding both of Herrera’s legs below the knees, rolled into the prone position and continued to deliver accurate covering fire on the enemy gun crew who had the rest of his platoon pinned down. His covering fire allowed his platoon to re-deploy to better fighting positions allowing a squad from Herrera’s platoon to take the objective. Expert combat medical aid saved the young immigrant’s life. PFC Herrera was granted US citizenship by order of President Truman.
A year after Silvestre was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Nation of his birth, recognized PFC Herrera by awarding him its highest award for valor the “Premier Merito Militar.” He is the only person in the world authorized to wear both the Medal of Honor and Mexico’s equivalent.
Eventually, he had three more children and is the grandfather of 11 and great-grandfather of 2. All of whom are Natural Born American Citizens. Silvestre Herrera lived a full and active life. He passed away on November 26, 2007.
Personally, I believe he earned his citizenship that March day in France. – Gid.