At a time when states are restricting the teaching of racism in American history, Rep. Veronica Escobar is calling for a reform of the bigotry that deprived the Mexican-American World War I hero of the nation's highest military honour.
Escobar, a Texas Democrat, has introduced legislation that would authorize President Joe Biden to posthumously honor Marcelino Serna, regarded as Texas' most decorated WWI soldier, with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"Unfortunately, our country has a long history of discrimination against minorities, and unfortunately, the heroes and women and men who served on the military side have not been able to escape that discrimination," Escobar told NBC News.
Cerna, a former private, was highly decorated for his wartime heroism, which is credited on separate occasions for capturing German soldiers alone, destroying a machine gun site, and taking enemy soldiers as prisoners.
He was the first Mexican American to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military honor for exceptional gallantry that can be given to members of the US Army and previous US Army Air Forces.
An expatriate from Serna, Mexico, who voluntarily waived his immigrant status for duty, was denied the Medal of Honor because he did not have a high enough rank and was told that he could not be promoted. Because he could not read or write, according to a 1989 Defense Department document, English is good enough.
Commanders MR McKinney, Marcelino Serna, Diana Stoppani, Mrs M Serna, and Major Bernard L. Mauerlevet. Courtesy Texas Historical Commission
Escobar's law follows the Texas Legislature's passage of a bill that would restrict how racism is taught in Texas schools. The bill awaits the signature of Government Greg Abbott.
The Texas bill was superseded by an amendment that would require students to learn about white supremacy and how it is morally wrong.
State Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican, said the bill was needed because "at a time when racial tensions are at boiling point, we don't need to burden our children with guilt for racial crimes that they have no part of." Had nothing to do with it," the Dallas Morning News reported.
Other states are also passing similar laws.
Escobar criticized Texas GOP lawmakers for further concealing and discrediting parts of American history that were already hidden from school lessons, such as the 1921 black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Looting and bombing by white settlers. Known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. The nation marked 100 years since the massacre began on May 31.
“It is shocking that we have legislators who want to do everything possible to whitewash history to end atrocities. … that is why we have to redouble our efforts to find the names of those heroes, so that we can celebrate them and tell their stories,” Escobar said. "We cannot identify why they were denied their recognition without understanding what created that denial."
Other efforts have been made to get Serna the Congressional Medal of Honor.
At this year's Texas legislative session, Sen. Cesar Blanco, a Democrat state of El Paso, proposed Serna for the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was approved in both chambers and is awaiting Abbott's approval.
American GI Since then, Serna's heroism has garnered more attention. The Forum, a Latino civil rights and federally chartered veterans group, sent his name to the Pentagon.
Under a Congressional order, the Pentagon is reviewing the records of Latino, Black, Asian, Native American and Jewish WWI soldiers to determine whether they were denied the Medal of Honor because of their race or religion .
The review is taking place as the military also seeks to eliminate the names of military facilities and properties or other memorials to members of the Confederate military and detailed racism and discrimination in the US military, as the Associated Press reports.
In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded the medal to 24 veterans of subsequent wars following a similar review. Many of the recipients were Latino. Of all the medals, three were awarded posthumously.