Remembering our Heritage: One Airman’s inspiration for service

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Perla Tapia
  • 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron First Sergeant

From the American Revolution to the War on Terrorism, Hispanic Americans have served proudly and bravely to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Every year since 1968, by presidential proclamation, September 15th through October 15th has been set aside to honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans. During this period of time each year we recognize the Hispanic population's significant achievements and contributions.

As part of my Hispanic heritage celebration, I want to highlight the life of Private Marcelino Serna who became the first Hispanic American to receive the Distinguished Service Cross. He was also awarded two Croix de Guerre with Palm by the Government of France and the Croce al Merito di Guerra by the Italian Government. The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest U.S military decoration and it is given for extreme gallantry and risk of life in combat with an armed enemy force.

In 1916, at the age of 20, Serna decided to migrate from Chihuahua, Mexico to the United States in search of work and a better life, Serna, who was an undocumented immigrant and didn’t speak English, volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army during World War I. Serna’s bravery would take down 26 enemy soldiers and capture 24 more.

Serna returned to the U.S. as the most decorated World War I veteran in 1924 and became a U.S. naturalized citizen. Today, there have been many requests for Private Marcelino Serna’s eligibility to receive the Posthumous Medal of Honor.

I am Private Marcelino Serna. I was undocumented in search of a better life. I didn’t speak English. I decided to enlist in the Air Force Reserve. I became a naturalized citizen in 2011. I continue to proudly serve.

Thank you Private Serna for leading the way!

Today, thousands of Hispanic American service members continue to protect our nation. Let's continue to leverage our nation’s greatest strength -- our diversity!