The Vietnam War (1954-1975) was known to be one of the longest and most controversial wars that Americans watched from their living rooms. The United States government justified its involvement as a prevention of a communist takeover of South Vietnam, but failed to achieve its objectives. Out of the 2.7 million Americans that fought, 58,000 selflessly paid the ultimate price for their country and fellow comrades.
The Vietnam War was America’s first racially integrated conflict and coincided with the protests of the Civil Rights Movement. Many service men of different ethnicities and backgrounds believed that if they defended democracy abroad they would receive it at home. Unfortunately that was not always the case, and many of them were not honored for their actions until years later. The Hispanic population was not counted separately in the U.S national census until five years after the war ended; however, over 170,000 Hispanics fought and sacrificed their lives for this country. The Defense Authorization Act of 2014 reviewed records of all Jewish and Hispanic American veterans who received a Distinguished Service Cross during or after World War II. The review was to ensure that no prejudice was shown to those deserving the Medal of Honor.
One of those recipients was Staff Sergeant Félix Conde Falcón who was born in Juncos, Puerto Rico, and enlisted in the United States Army in 1963. He served in the Vietnam War with the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Infantry Regiment, 1st Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Battalion. Falcón showed extraordinary heroism during a sweep operation near Ap Tan Hoa, Vietnam, when his platoon encountered an enemy battalion command post.
Ordered to assault and clear the bunker, Falcón fearlessly moved ahead of his platoon and threw grenades towards the enemy while being under heavy hostile fire, and destroyed three bunkers. He rejoined his platoon to continue moving forward when they came under another attack. Single-handedly with a machine gun, Falcón destroyed the enemy’s defense wall before running out of ammunition. Grabbing another weapon, he was on to his next bunker when he was shot and killed by an unseen assailant 10 meters away from his goal. Falcón was later recognized for his bravery in 2014 when President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to his son.
Private First Class Milton L. Olive III was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor award out of the 258 Vietnam War Recipients. The Chicago native enlisted in the United States Army in 1964 and served in the Vietnam War in the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Olive had only been serving for a year when he was moving through the Vietnamese jungle and a grenade was thrown towards him and four other soldiers. Unhesitatingly, Olive threw himself upon the grenade absorbing with his body the full force of the explosion and sacrificed his own life for his comrades. Two of the four men whose lives were saved by Olive’s actions were present when President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor to Olive’s family in 1966.
No matter the difference in backgrounds, all those that fought in the Vietnam War had a common goal. Men like Falcón and Olive did not fight thinking about skin color, they simply fought for the guys to their left and right.
Our military men and women selflessly fight to protect our country and they will always be remembered for their bravery. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to helping provide assistance to ALL members of the military, veterans, and families. Nearly 90% of cash donations the Purple Heart Foundation receive provides funds for programs that help the National Service Officer Program, the Scholarship program, as well as other programs. It is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for our men and women in uniform who have sacrificed for our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.