First Mexican American to receive the Distinguished Service Cross
Marcelino Serna, most decorated Texan of World War One
By Stefan A.
via the Vintage News web site
When the U.S. entered World War One in 1917, it is estimated that roughly 500,000 people who joined the United States armed services were immigrants. According to the National Park Service, this amounted to 18 percent of U.S. troops.
From the memoirs of Sergeant Alvin York from Tennessee, one of the most highly decorated Americans who served in the U.S. forces during World War One, we can learn more about life for this diverse collection of people. At first, he writes, he had been shocked by the fact that there were so many foreigners in his units: Italians, Poles, Irish, Greeks, and Mexicans. But, as he recollects, they soon became his buddies and he “learned to love them.”
Many of these non-American soldiers went on to prove that their bravery and dedication to the cause was of the highest order. Among these, one of the most highly decorated was a Mexican-born illegal immigrant named Marcelino Serna, the first Mexican American to collect a Distinguished Service Cross.
He migrated from his home country of Mexico to El Paso, Texas, in 1915, when he was almost 20 years old. After working illegally for two years, Serna was eventually arrested by Federal officials concerning his status as a citizen. While he waited to find out if he was to be deported back to Mexico, Serna decided that he would show his desire to become a U.S. citizen by volunteering for the army.
He received less than a month of training in Kansas, after which he was deployed with his infantry unit to Europe, to fight in the French trenches. He was part of the 89th Infantry Division. Serna did not speak much English and upon his arrival, his superiors immediately noted he was Mexican. They offered to discharge him from service, but Serna politely declined.
On the battle lines, he proved his courage as a soldier several times, his actions speaking for themselves as to why he was worth all the decorations he later collected. In one confrontation with enemy soldiers, his squad was attacked and 12 fellows were killed. Injured himself, Serna nevertheless proceeded with the fight, going after the attackers and capturing eight adversaries.
External Web Site Notice: This page contains information directly presented from an external source. The terms and conditions of this page may not be the same as those of this website. Click here to read the full disclaimer notice for external web sites. Thank you.