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Heroes Among Us: New Mexico’s Medal of Honor Recipients

These New Mexican heroes are listed in alphabetical order:

LT. ALEXANDER BONNYMAN, JR.
U.S. Marines, World War II, Oct. 28, 1946

Bonnyman enlisted with the Marines in New Mexico and became executive officer of the 2nd Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. During an assault on Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands on Nov. 20-22, 1943, U.S. troops were trapped by blistering fire from Japanese shore batteries. Again and again, Bonnyman organized and led the men across an open pier to the beach and later led them in organized attacks against the Japanese artillery sites. The next day he volunteered to crawl 40 yards ahead of the lines and laid demolition charges at the entrance of a Japanese stronghold. He then led an assault on the bastion, "flushing more than 100 of the enemy out."

Standing on the edge of the structure, he fought to keep the Japanese from retaking it and was finally killed. "By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort," according to the citation.

STAFF SGT. DREW D. DIX 
U.S. Army, Vietnam, Jan. 16, 1969

Dix was honored for voluntarily leading several missions into the city of Chau Phu to rescue civilians trapped by Viet Cong attacks on Jan. 31, 1968. The next day, Dix voluntarily assembled a 20-man team to clear the hotel, theater and adjacent buildings of the enemy. Dix was credited with actions that helped capture 20 enemy combatants and the rescue of 14 U.S. civilians. He became the first enlisted Green Beret to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He lives in Mimbres, NM.

SPC. 4TH CLASS DANIEL FERNANDEZ
U.S. Army, Vietnam, April 6, 1967

Albuquerque native Fernandez was honored for his actions on Feb. 18, 1966. His patrol was ambushed by the Viet Cong and driven back by automatic weapons fire. Fernandez and three other volunteers fought back through the firestorm to rescue a wounded soldier. As they were carrying him away, Fernandez saw a grenade tossed into their midst and threw himself on top of it to protect the other men. Fernandez died in the blast.

STAFF SGT. DELBERT O. JENNINGS
U.S. Army, Vietnam, Sept. 19, 1968

Born in Silver City, Jennings entered the Army in 1966 in San Francisco. On Dec. 27, 1966, he was part of Company C, (1st Battalion, 12 Cavalry Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Division) defending an artillery position, when his unit came under heavy enemy attack. According to the citation, Jennings killed 16 enemy soldiers, then "aided the air-landing of reinforcements by throwing white phosphorous grenades on the landing zone despite dangerously silhouetting himself with the light." After helping to fight off the final enemy assaults, he led a group of volunteers to an area where eight seriously wounded men lay, and "braving enemy sniper fire and ignoring the presence of booby traps in the area" helped save them.

PVT. JOE P. MARTINEZ
U.S. Army, World War II, Nov. 11, 1943

Martinez, a Taos native, was an automatic rifleman with Company K, 32nd Infantry, 7th Division. Over several days, Allied Forces had been unsuccessful in driving the enemy from a key defensive position in the rugged mountains between East Arm Holtz Bay and Chicago Harbor in the Aleutians.

During one attempt by his battalion to advance, Martinez stood up and kept going under withering machine-gun fire. He paused periodically during the steep climb to urge his fellow soldiers on. He used hand grenades and rifle fire to eliminate an enemy position. Martinez continued firing and advancing another 150 feet up a steep rocky ridge to the Holtz-Chichagof Pass. He was mortally wounded fighting soldiers in a trench at the top, but had cleared the way for his fellow soldiers to take the pass.

STAFF SGT. FRANKLIN D. MILLER
U.S. Army, Vietnam, June 15, 1971

Miller, who was living in Albuquerque when he enlisted, served with the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces in Kontum Province. Leader of a long-range American-Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol deep in Viet Cong territory, Miller administered first aid to four of his men when they were wounded by a booby trap and then ordered them to a more secure position away from him. Alone, he fought back two attacks by the Viet Cong and then led his men to a helicopter extraction site. When the enemy attacked again, all members of the patrol, including Miller, were seriously wounded, but he again drove them back until a relief force could arrive.

CPL HIROSHI "HERSHEY" MIYAMURA
U.S. Army, Korean War, Near Taejon-ni, Korea, 24 and 25 April 1951
4 November 1953

Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura was born in Gallup in 1925. He enlisted in the Army in World War II but did not see action. The Korean War proved to be a very different story. On a dark April night in 1951, Corporal Miyamura's company (Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division) was holding a defensive position on a hill by the Imjin River when thousands of Chinese soldiers swarmed over the American position amidst a cacophany of bugles and whistles. Miyamura, a machinegun squad leader, leapt into the fray, dispatching numerous soldiers with his bayonet. Another assault forced Miyamura's company to withdraw, but he remained to provide covering fire. Although wounded, he managed to kill fifty enemy soldiers before he ran out of ammo. His comrades-in-arms last saw him fighting in a sea of attackers and presumed him dead.

Unbeknownst to the US military, Miyamura was taken to a North Korean prisoner of war camp where he remained in savage conditions fo 28 months, losing 50 pounds. In the meantime, a Top Secret decision was made to award Miyamura the Medal of Honor, but no mention was made in case he had survived and was being held prisoner. In August 1953 he was among fellow liberated POWs at Freedom Village near Panmunjom when he learned that he had been awarded his nation's highest military honor. Corporal Miyamura was able to receive his Medal in November of 1953.

PVT. HAROLD MOON JR.
U.S. Army, World War II, Nov. 15, 1945

Born in Albuquerque, Moon was stationed with Company G, 34th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division in the Philippines during intense efforts to take and keep key beachheads. On Oct. 21, 1944, Moon's platoon came under heavy fire, and several men on the flanks were killed. Moon, in a forward position, was wounded in his foxhole, but continued firing his machine gun at the Japanese, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to encourage the men left in the platoon. When the enemy maneuvered a light machine gun within 20 yards of the platoon's remnants, Moon stood up to locate the gun and radioed back coordinates to friendly mortars to blow up the weapon. He fought through the night and by dawn was surrounded. "An entire platoon charged with fixed bayonets. Firing from a sitting position, Pvt. Moon calmly emptied his magazine into the advancing horde, killing 18 and repulsing the attack. In a final display of bravery, he stood up to throw a grenade at a machine gun which had opened fire on the right flank. He was hit and instantly killed. ... Nearly 200 dead Japanese were found within 100 yards of his foxhole."

2ND LT. RAYMOND G. MURPHY
U.S. Marines, Korea, Oct. 27, 1953

Born in Pueblo, CO., Murphy entered the service in 1951, and in Korea he served with the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Company A, 1st Battalion. According to the citation, on Feb. 3, 1943, Murphy, although painfully wounded by fragments from an enemy mortar shell, "refused medical aid and continued to lead his men up a hill through a withering barrage of hostile mortar and small-arms fire, skillfully maneuvering his force from one position to the next and shouting words of encouragement." Murphy made several trips up and down the hill to direct evacuation teams to wounded Marines and carried many of them to safety himself. He personally killed two of the enemy with his pistol and after the units began to disengage, he remained behind to cover the movement of friendly forces off the hill, despite his wounds. He later led a search party back up the hill to check for missing Marines, locating and carrying the bodies of a machine-gun crew back down the hill. He was wounded a second time conducting the force to the line of departure and refused medical assistance until all his men, including casualties, had preceded him to the main lines.

After his discharge, Murphy moved to New Mexico, and from 1974 until his retirement in 1997 he worked for the Veterans Administration as a counselor. He stayed on as a volunteer until 2005. Murphy died in a veterans nursing home in Pueblo in 2007 and is buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

STAFF SERGEANT LEROY A. PETRY
U.S. Army, Afghanistan, July 12, 2011

Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry, a native of Santa Fe, NM, distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy in the vicinity of Paktya Province, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2008. As a Weapons Squad Leader with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Staff Sergeant Petry moved to clear the courtyard of a house that potentially contained high-value combatants. While crossing the courtyard, Staff Sergeant Petry and another Ranger were engaged and wounded by automatic weapons fire from enemy fighters. Still under enemy fire, and wounded in both legs, Staff Sergeant Petry led the other Ranger to cover. He then reported the situation and engaged the enemy with a hand grenade, providing suppression as another Ranger moved to his position. The enemy quickly responded by maneuvering closer and throwing grenades. The first grenade explosion knocked his two fellow Rangers to the ground and wounded both with shrapnel. A second grenade then landed only a few feet away from them. Instantly realizing the danger, Staff Sergeant Petry picked up the grenade and threw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers. As he was releasing the grenade it detonated, amputating his right hand at the wrist and further injuring him with multiple shrapnel wounds. Petry continued to maintain the presence of mind to place a tourniquet on his right wrist before communicating the situation by radio to coordinate support for himself and his fellow wounded Rangers. Staff Sergeant Petry's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the United States Army.

W.O. LOUIS R. ROCCO
U.S. Army, Vietnam, Dec. 12, 1974

Rocco, an Albuquerque native, was serving with Advisory Team 162, U.S. Military Assistance Command in Katum on May 24, 1970. He was cited for helping a team evacuate eight critically wounded Vietnamese personnel. When enemy fire brought the rescue helicopter down, Rocco, despite a fractured wrist and hip, rescued three survivors and was severely burned by the wreckage. He carried each unconscious man across 20 meters of exposed terrain back to Army of the Republic of Vietnam territory. He helped administer first aid until he collapsed from his own injuries. "His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty," the citation read.

PVT. 1ST CLASS ALEJANDRO RENTARIA RUIZ
U.S. Army, World War II, June 14, 1946

Ruiz was nominated for his actions while in Okinawa with the 165th Infantry, 27th Infantry Division on April 28, 1945. Born in Loving, he was honored for helping his squad when it was pinned down under a surprise machine-gun fire and grenade attack from camouflaged enemy. Ruiz lunged to his feet, grabbed an automatic rifle and leaped through the grenades and rifle fire to the top of his troop's position, firing on the enemy. He repeated the action until he could climb the top of the pillbox and fire into one opening after another, destroying the Japanese entrenched there. "His heroic conduct, in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the lives of many comrades," according to the citation.

CAPT. ROBERT S. SCOTT
U.S. Army, World War II, Oct. 14, 1944

Scott enlisted in Santa Fe and was assigned to the 172nd Infantry, 43rd Infantry Division. He was among the troops who fought enemy combatants for 27 days attempting to capture the Munda Air Strip at New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. On July 29, 1943, Scott pushed forward alone to within 75 yards of where the enemy held a critical hilltop and held the spot through an assault and threw grenades repeatedly until they fell back. His actions inspired other troops to charge forward and take the hill, allowing U.S. forces to capture the air strip four days later.

PVT. 1ST CLASS JOSÉ F. VALDEZ
U.S. Army, World War II, Feb. 8, 1946

Born in Governador, NM, Valdez was with Company B, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division near Rosenkrantz, France, on Jan. 25, 1945, on outpost duty with five other soldiers. Valdez was credited with helping the patrol reach safety under the withering fire from two companies of German infantrymen. He continued firing even after he was shot in the stomach until the other men reached safety, then he used a field telephone to call in the position for artillery and mortar fire. He held his ground against 200 German soldiers until he could drag himself back to U.S. lines. He later died from his wounds.

LANCE CPL. KENNETH L. WORLEY
U.S. Marines, Vietnam,1968

Born in Farmington, Worley completed the eighth grade at Farmington Elementary School and attended high school in Truth or Consequences before moving to California. He enlisted in the Marines in Fresno, Calif., and was killed in action while serving as a machine gunner with Company L on Aug. 12, 1968, in Bo Ban, Quang Nam Province, after saving five fellow Marines. According to the citation, "during the early morning hours the Marines were abruptly awakened by the platoon leader's warning that 'grenades' had landed in the house. Fully realizing the inevitable result of his actions, L/Cpl. Worley, in a valiant act of heroism, instantly threw himself upon the grenade nearest him and his comrades, absorbing with his body, the full and tremendous force of the explosion."

Sources:

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

U.S. Army Center for Military History