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Texan WWII Veteran Posthumously Receives Medal of Honor

Texan WWII Veteran Posthumously Receives Medal of Honor

During the first week of December 1944, U.S. Army private Pedro Cano, from Edinburg, Texas, on two consecutive days, crawled through minefields under heavy machine gun fire to destroy six German emplacements–saving the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. Cano received the Army’s second highest medal, the Distinguished Service Cross. The family of Private Cano was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMOH) this week. 

The ceremony held in the East Room of the White House honored Cano and twenty-three other warriors from WWII, Korea and Vietnam whose award of the Medal of Honor was allegedly delayed because of their minority status. For the family of Private Cano, the road to this hard-earned and well-deserved recognition was a long and dedicated journey. In the photo provided by former Texas State Representative Aaron Pena to Breitbart Texas–Private Cano’s daughter, Dominga Perez, accepted the Medal of Honor on behalf of her family from President Obama. The award was presented posthumously. Three living soldiers were also recognized during the ceremony including two living Texans, Vietnam War veterans Jose Rodela and Santiago Jesse Erevia.

A few days after his heroic action during the Battle of Hurtgen Forrest in central Germany, Pvt. Cano was injured in action and was sent home. Sometime later, Pvt. Cano would receive the Distinguished Service Cross in the mail. This medal is normally presented in a prominent ceremony by a high ranking military officer. During a Breitbart Texas interview with Cano’s second cousin, Stephen Cano, he said there was much outrage in the Edinburg community about the lack of honorable recognition. Eventually, WWII Pacific War hero General Jonathan Wainwright, would travel to Edinburg to present the medal properly. After reading the citation, Gen. Wainwright, who received the CMOH for his own actions in the Philippines, said Cano’s medal citation was one of the finest he had ever read.  He suggested the appropriate medal would have been the Medal of Honor but, “that is beyond my control.”  Sixty-eight years later, Gen. Wainwright’s prediction would come to reality.

Cano’s Medal of Honor Citation provided to Breitbart Texas reads as follows:

Private Pedro Cano distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Schevenhutte, Germany on December 2na d3, 1944. On the afternoon of the 2nd, American infantrymen launched an attack against German emplacements but were repulsed by enemy machinegun fire.  Armed with a rocket launcher, Private Cano crawled through a densely mined area under heavy enemy fire and successfully reached a point within ten yards of the nearest emplacement.  He quickly fired a rocket into the position, killing the two gunners and five supporting riflemen.  Without hesitating, he fired into a second position, killing two more gunners, and proceeded to assault the position with hand grenades, killing several others and dispersing the rest. Then, when an adjacent company encountered heavy fire, Private Cano crossed his company front, crept to within fifteen yards of the nearest enemy emplacement and killed the two machinegunners with a rocket.  With another round, he killed two more gunners and destroyed a second gun.  On the following day, his company renewed the attack and again encountered heavy machinegun fire. Private Cano, armed with his rocket launcher, again moved across fire-swept terrain and destroyed three enemy machineguns in succession, killing the six gunners.  Private Cano’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Cano received the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Silver Service Star and Bronze Arrowhead, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupations Medal with Germany Clasp, Presidential Unit Citations, Belgian Fourragere, Combat Infantryman Badge and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.

Fifteen members of Cano’s family attended the ceremony and all of the associated presentations this week in Washington, D.C. More photos from the event can be seen in Stephen Cano’s Facebook Photo Album.

Prior to the medal ceremony, Stephen Cano wrote a letter to President Obama telling Private Cano’s life story. He shared this letter with Breitbart Texas:

Dear Mr. President,

The Medal of Honor ceremony on March 18th is fast approaching.  I look forward to attending the ceremony and meeting you and the wonderful families that are part of the Valor 24 men.  Since our family will not be speaking at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes ceremony, I wanted to share some insight on Pedro Cano and some thoughts on his long journey that culminated in Pedro being a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

As a boy growing up in Edinburg, Texas, Pedro Cano lost his father at an early age. He worked hard to help support his mother and siblings. It wasn’t easy but Pedro learned to appreciate a hard day’s work and making an honest living. He was a gentle person and soft spoken. It was very common to see him helping out in the neighborhood or playing his accordion or just fishing near a river. It was a close community and much of Pedro’s identity was established during this time in Edinburg, Texas.  This was his life. Those years would turn out to be the easy years.

As we all know, a dark cloud was soon to come over America and a great world war would soon engulf families across this great nation and Pedro’s life as he knew it was about to change forever. The war in Europe stirred the hearts of American’s from West Coast to East coast, from New York to Los Angeles and from Des Moines, Iowa to Edinburg, Texas. And Pedro Cano would soon join the U.S. Army and be sent off to boot camp and shortly thereafter to Europe in the fight against Hitler’s Nazi regime. Little did Pedro know that he would have a front row seat to some of the most historical and ferocious battles in world history. Pedro served his country with great distinction and bravery well beyond the call of duty.

He came home a changed man. War has a way of doing that. He was moody and easily angered at times and would have that thousand mile look.  But he was a humble man and never looked for special attention. Soon he received his Distinguish Service Cross in the mail which created a mild uproar and eventually brought General Jonathan Wainwright to Edinburg, Texas to personally present Pedro with the Distinguished Service Cross. During the ceremony in 1946, General Wainwright said Pedro Cano’s citation was one of the finest he had ever read and that the award might have been higher and I quote, “but that is beyond my control.” Sixty eight long years have passed since those words were spoken by General Wainwright. His words have comforted our family in the many decades that followed. But those words stirred a belief that this young brave soldier should have received the nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. But the circumstances of the day were beyond Pedro’s control and time moved on. And Pedro’s story stood frozen in time. Remembered by a few and forgotten by most.

A few months ago our family received a phone call from you, Mr. President, and you spoke words we have longed to hear in our lifetime. You said Pedro Cano had been approved for the Medal of Honor. On March 18th, sixty nine long years after Pedro’s heroic acts on the battlefields of Europe, Pedro Cano will receive the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor. We are deeply grateful that Pedro is being recognized by the country. We are touched that his deeds from so long ago are still remembered by our nation.

We will forever be grateful to the men who served by Pedro’s side in World War Two on the battlefields of Europe. When I think of the 4th Infantry Division and especially Pedro’s 8th Infantry Regiment and the men of Company C, I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem, “You are men who in your lives fought for life…and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”  Today we remember and honor the sacrifices made by those men.

Pedro would only live another six years after the war. Although we did not have the blessing of time with Pedro, we gladly share his story with you and all Americans across this great nation. Former President Ronald Reagan once said, “some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference in this world.” Well, Pedro Cano didn’t have that problem because he made a difference for America. 

It has been almost 69 years since WW2 ended. Some may feel resentment or anger over the long wait to recognize Pedro. It is no small matter to deny a Medal of Honor so when it happens and it takes 67 years to correct the injustice…we remember Pedro’s love and devotion and sacrifice for America. We remember that in the end, America did not forget this brave soldier. We will always remember that a grateful President, a grateful Congress, and a grateful Army gathered to honor Private Pedro Cano and the men who make up the Valor 24.

But let us remember this truth as well. “Where there is a brave man, it is said, there is the thickest of the fight, there is the place of honor.”  In that moment, when Pedro stepped forward to face the enemy in the Hurtgen Forest, in that moment, when Pedro crawled his way through the forest and took out seven German machine gun nests, in that moment when death was so near and yet he showed no fear, in that moment, a son, a husband, a father, a soldier, put his love of country above his love of life.  Sixty nine years ago Pedro had his place of honor. And on March 18th, Mr. President, a grateful nation will recognize that fact.

God bless you, Mr. President. God bless the men and women who serve in our armed forces and God bless the United States of America.

Very Respectfully, Stephen Cano

Following is the video presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor to Private Pedro Cano and being received by his daughter Dominga Perez. This presentation shows the awards to all twenty-four recipients.  The Cano presentation begins at the 59:20 mark in the video.

Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX

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