March 25 is National Medal of Honor Day. The first Medal of Honor was awarded on that day in 1863. It is the U.S.’s highest military award for valor in action. The U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipients have been celebrated annually in Gainesville, which was recognized as the most patriotic small town in the U.S. for 2012.
The U.S. has awarded a little over 3,500 medals. Only 19 people have been double recipients of the Medal of Honor. One woman, a Civil War contract surgeon named Dr. Mary E. Walker, has been awarded the medal. The youngest recipient is William Johnston who was close to 12 years old at the time of his actions in the Civil War that led to his receiving the medal.
There are three variations of the Medal of Honor — one with the bust of the Statue of Liberty, one with the bust of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, and one with the full image of Minerva.
At least 764 Medal of Honor recipients have been immigrants, which is over 20% of the total number. Louis Cukela and Matej Kocak are double recipients. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has recognized some of these immigrants by dedicating a space for them in 29 of its offices.
Our local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Dallas Field Office honors Army Air Force Sgt. Archibald Mathies for his bravery during World War II. Sgt. Mathies was born in Scotland in 1918, but his family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Pittsburgh. He joined the U.S. Army in 1940 and graduated from airplane mechanic school. He was assigned to a U.S. Army Air Corps Bomber Wing as a B-17 flight engineer. He serviced the plane while in flight and on the ground. On Feb. 20, 1944, while flying over enemy-occupied territory in Europe, his plane was attacked. The copilot was killed and the pilot and radio operator were wounded. The crew was ordered to jump. Mathies and the navigator advised that the pilot was alive but could not be moved, so they wanted to try to land the plane. After two unsuccessful attempts to land, they tried for a third time and crashed. All three were killed. Mathies is buried at Finleyville Cemetery in Finleyville, Pennsylvania.
Another local connection is Hiroshi H. “Hershey” Miyamura. His Medal of Honor is framed and on display at the Muenster State Bank’s Gainesville branch. He was born in Gallup, New Mexico, but his parents were immigrants from Japan. He fought in the Korean War.
Here are the names of the other 28 immigrants who are honored at USCIS offices, along with when they served and where they were born. This list is substantially copied directly from the USCIS website.
- J.C. Julius Langbein, musician — Civil War — Germany
- Capt. Adolphe Libaire — Civil War — France
- Boilermaker Edward Floyd — Spanish—American War — Ireland
- Sgt. John Kennedy — Civil War — Ireland
- Pvt. Cornelius J. Leahy — Spanish—American War — Ireland
- Pvt. Joseph Frantz — Civil War — France
- Pvt. Charles Bieger — Civil War — Germany
- Cpl. John J. Beaufort — Civil War — France
- Spc. Leslie Sabo Jr.— Vietnam — Austria
- Sgt. Jesus S. Duran — Vietnam War — Mexico
- Lt. Col. Frederick Füger— Civil War — Germany
- Army Sergeant Major John M. Farquhar — Civil War — Scotland
- Army Staff Sergeant Isadore Jachman — World War II — Germany
- Army Trumpeter Isaac Payne — Indian Wars — Mexico
- Army Private First Class George Dilboy — World War I — Greece
- Army Private First Class Silvestre Santana Herrera — World War II — Mexico
- Navy Chief Watertender Peter Tomich — World War II — Bosnia—Herzegovina
- Army Sergeant James Mestrovich — World War I — Montenegro
- Marine Corps Sergeant Louis Cukela — World War I — Austria
- Army Technician Fifth Grade Eric Gibson — World War II — Sweden
- Army Sergeant Thomas Plunkett — Civil War — Ireland
- Army Sergeant Major Abraham Cohn — Civil War — Prussia
- Army Private Macario Garcia — World War II — Mexico
- Army Corporal Tibor "Ted" Rubin — Korea — Hungary
- Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Thomas Eadie — Interim Period of 1920—1940 — Scotland
- Marine Corps Sergeant Matej Kocak — World War I — Austria
- Army Staff Sergeant Laszlo Rabel — Vietnam — Hungary
- Marine Corps Private Henry Lewis Hulbert — Philippine Insurrection — England
Details about these Medal of Honor recipients who are also immigrants can be found online at the USCIS.gov website under the section “USCIS Facilities Dedicated to the Memory of Immigrant Medal of Honor Recipients.” Also, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website at cmohs.org provides a wealth of information, including examples of the diversity of recipients including Black, Asian, Latino, Native American and Jewish recipients.
Alice Gruber has been practicing U.S. immigration and naturalization law since 1995. Since 2007, she has practiced in Cooke County for a range of small to medium—sized corporate clients nationwide, quarter horse ranches in Texas and individuals. If you’d like to suggest a specific immigration topic for a future column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.