Uncommon Valor: The Story of Marcelino Serna
As published in the El Paso Times
I want honor a brave Veteran who stood out in the battlefield. He is known for his boldness, dignity, and love for this country and his companions.
The heroic story of Pvt. Marcelino Serna began when he volunteered for the U.S. Army during World War I.
After a brief training, Serna was sent overseas to join the Allied forces in Europe. Upon arrival, it came to light that he was not a U.S. citizen, but, rather, a Mexican citizen. Serna had the option of withdrawing from the fight. Instead, he decided to stay and fight together with his fellow soldiers.
During his time abroad, Serna’s dedication and bravery stood out with acts worthy of a Medal of Honor.
On one of these occasions, Serna was injured in a confrontation that left twelve of his companions dead. He continued to fight, chasing those who had attacked them, managing to capture eight German soldiers.
In another confrontation, Serna managed to capture twenty-four enemy soldiers alone. Upon discovering a sniper’s position, Serna shot and wounded him. As the soldier fled to his base, Serna decided to follow him. After discovering the base, Serna began to shoot, and in a cunning strategy, changed positions so often, it seemed that he was not alone.
Eventually, 24 soldiers surrender. He then discovered that in the midst of the battle, he had killed 26 enemy soldiers.
Without a doubt, these two examples of heroism demonstrate his dedication and commitment to the fight, but there is more to Serna’s story.
As he led the prisoners back to the Allied base, some of his fellow soldiers suggested that they should be executed. Serna refused to allow this. Alongside his courage, he possessed a remarkable sense of honor.
For his acts of courage and honor, Serna was honored by the U.S. Army with two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross, the highest honor that a soldier can receive after the Medal of Honor. This was presented by General John J. Pershing, and Serna became the most decorated World War I Veteran from Texas.
In addition to receiving these honors, he received two "Croix de Guerre", the highest honor in France, one of which presented to him by the Supreme Commander of Allied troops in Europe, Ferdinand Foch.
After the war, Serna returned to Texas to live and work as a civilian, until his retirement in 1961, obtaining his American citizenship in 1924. Pvt. Serna died on February 29, 1992 and is buried with full military honors at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
While he never obtained the Medal of Honor in life, there is an initiative that seeks to honor him posthumously.
For my part, I've introduced a bill which renames the Tornillo Port of Entry in honor of Pvt. Marcelino Serna. This is a joint initiative between local leaders, the descendants of Serna and the community.
The Tornillo-Marcelino Serna Port of Entry will not only honor this extraordinary man’s service to our nation, it will serve as a reminder of the countless Mexican-American immigrants that have fought valiantly to keep our nation safe. Their contributions will not be ignored or forgotten.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.