b. 17/07/1917 Camargo, Mexico. d. 26/11/2007 Glendale, Arizona.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 15/03/1945 Mertzweiler, France.
Herrera was born in the Mexican city of Camargo, Chihuahua, and not, as he believed until he was twenty-seven, in El Paso, Texas. His parents died in an influenza epidemic when he was only a year old, and the man he had thought was his father was really an uncle who had brought the 18-month-old Herrera there to provide him with a better life in the United States. Herrera worked as a farm hand, marrying and raising a family in El Paso before moving to Phoenix, Arizona with his American wife Ramona and three children, Mary, Elva, Silvestre, Jr. and his uncle. When the United States entered World War II Herrera was drafted into the Texas National Guard, 36th Division. Expecting yet another child, Herrera felt it would be important for his parents to be there for him while he was gone and so went to break the news.
That is when the man Herrera had believed to be his father gave him the stunning news of his Mexican birth, and said, "Son, you don't have to go, they can't draft you...you aren't an American citizen." Even in the face of these multiple shocks, and a perfect opportunity to dodge the war, Herrera was unswayed. As he later related, "I thought, I'm going anyway. I didn't want anybody to die in my place... I felt that I had my adopted country that had been so nice to me. I thought, I have an American wife and the kids and one on the way." It was only the first of several life-changing acts of heroism Herrera would take.
He advanced with a platoon along a wooded road until stopped by heavy enemy machinegun fire. As the rest of the unit took cover, he made a 1-man frontal assault on a strongpoint and captured 8 enemy soldiers. When the platoon resumed its advance and was subjected to fire from a second emplacement beyond an extensive minefield, Pvt. Herrera again moved forward, disregarding the danger of exploding mines, to attack the position. He stepped on a mine and had both feet severed but, despite intense pain and unchecked loss of blood, he pinned down the enemy with accurate rifle fire while a friendly squad captured the enemy gun by skirting the minefield and rushing in from the flank. The magnificent courage, extraordinary heroism, and willing self-sacrifice displayed by Pvt. Herrera resulted in the capture of 2 enemy strongpoints and the taking of 8 prisoners.
BURIAL LOCATION: RESTHAVEN PARK CEMETERY, GLENDALE, ARIZONA.
Section 26 Block 16 Lot 1