The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.
Forty-three men of Hispanic heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Of the forty-three Medals of Honor presented to Hispanics, two were presented to members of the United States Navy, thirteen to members of the United States Marine Corps and twenty-eight to members of the United States Army. Twenty-five Medals of Honor were presented posthumously.
The first recipient was Corporal Joseph H. De Castro of the Union Army for his actions at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1863, during the American Civil War and the most recent recipient was Captain Humbert Roque Versace who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on July 8, 2002, by President George W. Bush. Corporal De Castro was a member of the Massachusetts Infantry, a militia that was not part of the "regular" army; however, Private David Bennes Barkley was a member of the regular army during World War I and has been recognized as the Army's first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient. In 1864, Seaman John Ortega became the first Hispanic member of the U.S. Navy to receive the Medal of Honor and in 1900, Private France Silva became the first person of Hispanic descent in the U.S. Marine Corps to receive the medal.
Ten recipients were born outside the United States mainland, one each in Chile and Spain, four in Mexico and four in Puerto Rico. Seaman Philip Bazaar from Chile received the medal in January 1865 and Seaman John Ortega from Spain in December 1865. The first native Mexican recipient was Staff Sergeant Marcario Garcia and the first Puerto Rican was PFC Fernando Luis Garcia. 1st Lt. Rudolph B. Davila, of Hispanic-Filipino descent, was the only person of Filipino ancestry to receive the medal for his actions in the war in Europe during World War II. Private Joe P. Martinez was the first Hispanic-American recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for combat heroism on American soil during the same conflict. 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez, is the only Hispanic graduate of the United States Naval Academy recipient of the Medal of Honor. Captain Humbert Roque Versace was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor to be given to an Army POW for his actions during captivity in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War