Kevin Lilley, Army Times 8:46 p.m. EDT March 23, 2016
Santiago J. Erevia, whose heroism during a Vietnam War firefight in 1969 earned him a Medal of Honor nearly a half-century later, died Tuesday in San Antonio. He was 70.
Erevia was one of three living Medal of Honor recipients out of the 24 service members celebrated at the White House on March 18, 2014. Each received the award after a review of records ordered in 2002 by Congress aimed initially at undoing potential discrimination against Jewish- and Hispanic-Americans who received valor awards during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The review eventually expanded to include troops of other backgrounds.
On May 21, 1969, then-Spec. 4 Erevia was aiding wounded soldiers in C Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, in Tam Ky when his unit came under heavy fire from four nearby bunkers, according to his award citation. The radio telephone operator armed himself with ammunition taken from his wounded comrades, as well as two M16s and several hand grenades, and charged his attackers.
He eliminated three bunkers before running out of grenades. When he reached the fourth bunker, he "silenced the occupant ... at point-blank range" with his rifle, the citation reads.
"Through his heroic actions the lives of the wounded were saved and the members of the Company Command Post were relieved from a very precarious situation," it continues.
He was awarded the DSC in 1969 and left active service the next year, according to a biography at Army.mil. He served 17 more years with the Texas National Guard, overlapping with time as a U.S. Postal Service employee. He retired from the USPS in 2002.
A cause of death was not immediately available. Erevia's passing was reported by the Bexar County (Texas) Veterans Service Office; Erevia frequently crossed paths with VSO staffers during veterans-outreach events, said Queta Marquez, the county's veterans service officer.''
Retired Master Sgt. Jose Rodela, another San Antonio resident honored in 2014 as part of the so-called "Valor 24," told MySanAntonio.com that Erevia "was really humble. Obviously, he got a lot of attention after getting the Medal of Honor, but he was always very humble."
Erevia, Rodela and retired Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris received their medals from President Obama during the Valor 24 ceremony in what the president called "a remarkable moment."
“Some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal,” Obama said. “With each generation we keep on striving to live up to our ideals of freedom and equality.”
Senior reporter Michelle Tan contributed to this report.
Medal of Honor Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a radio telephone operator in Company C, 1st Battalion (Airmobile), 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) during search and clear mission near Tam Ky, Republic of Vietnam on May 21, 1969. After breaching an insurgent perimeter, Specialist Four Erevia was designated by his platoon leader to render first aid to several casualties, and the rest of the platoon moved forward. As he was doing so, he came under intense hostile fire from four bunkers to his left front. Although he could have taken cover with the rest of the element, he chose a retaliatory course of action. With heavy enemy fire directed at him, he moved in full view of the hostile gunners as he proceeded to crawl from one wounded man to another, gathering ammunition. Armed with two M-16 rifles and several hand grenades, he charged toward the enemy positions behind the suppressive fire of the two rifles. Under very intense fire, he continued to advance on the insurgents until he was near the first bunker. Disregarding the enemy fire, he pulled the pin from a hand grenade and advanced on the bunker, leveling suppressive fire until he could drop the grenade into the bunker, mortally wounding the insurgent and destroying the fortification. Without hesitation, he employed identical tactics as he proceeded to eliminate the next two enemy positions. With the destruction of the third bunker, Specialist Four Erevia had exhausted his supply of hand grenades. Still under intense fire from the fourth position, he courageously charged forward behind the fire emitted by his M-16 rifles. Arriving at the very edge of the bunker, he silenced the occupant within the fortification at point blank range. Through his heroic actions the lives of the wounded were saved and the members of the Company Command Post were relieved from a very precarious situation. His exemplary performance in the face of overwhelming danger was an inspiration to his entire company and contributed immeasurably to the success of the mission. Specialist Four Erevia’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Citation represents Soldier's rank at time of action.
Medal of Honor (2014)
Bronze Star Medal,
Army Commendation Medal,
National Defense Service Medal,
Vietnam Service Medal with five Bronze Service Stars, :Combat Infantryman Badge,
Sharpshooter Marksmanship Badge with Auto Rifle Bar,
Marksman Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Bar, :Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with "60" Device, :Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Gold Star Device
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, First Class.
Medal of Honor Recipients, State of Texas, United States of America