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ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - MAY 30: Headstones with American flags are seen at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. Memorial Day events are being held across the U.S. to honor those who died in active military service.

National Wreaths Across America Day takes place on Saturday, December 17th. Coordinated wreath-laying ceremonies will take place in memory of soldiers who have passed at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 2,500 additional participating locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. To support this incredible organization, we’ll be publishing stories of veterans over the next few weeks.

This week, we’re paying tribute to Korean War Medal of Honor Recipient Rodolfo Perez “Rudy” Hernandez. He is buried at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He received the award from President Harry S. Truman at the White House Rose Garden on April 12, 1952, for his actions as a corporal with the 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company G, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, US Army, on May 31, 1951, near Wonton-ni, Korea. He joined the US Army in 1948. Following his recruit and paratrooper training, he was assigned to Germany. Following the outbreak of the Korean War, his newly formed unit was sent to Korea. On May 31, 1951, while defending Hill 420, his platoon was the object of a numerically superior enemy counterattack.

After a close-quarters firefight, he was wounded but was able to fire upon the rushing enemy troops. After a cartridge in his rifle ruptured, he continued attacking the enemy with his bayonet, which enabled his comrades to regroup and recapture the hill. He was also awarded the Purple Heart (with one oak leaf cluster). Following the war, he underwent a number of surgeries and after recovering, he worked for the Veterans Administration. He died from complications of cancer at the age of 82. His Medal of Honor citation reads: “Cpl. HERNANDEZ, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition but Cpl. HERNANDEZ, although wounded in an exchange of grenades, continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative. Immediately leaving his position, Cpl. HERNANDEZ rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet. Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed six of the enemy before falling unconscious from grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds but his heroic action momentarily halted the enemy advance and enabled his unit to counterattack and retake the lost ground. The indomitable fighting spirit, outstanding courage, and tenacious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. HERNANDEZ reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.”

Thanks to Ann Provencher for sharing this story with us. She says, “I had the privilege of getting to know Rudy (for about 8 years), he was a very kind and generous man. He enjoyed golf and making people laugh. He was a devoted husband and he loved the Lord and his church family at Covenant Love Church. He shared his story in the halls of history as the ASOM (Airborne and Special Operations Museum) has a permanent display about his heroism in Korea.”

She adds, “The importance of educating the public to remember our fallen U.S. Veterans, to honor those who served and teach the children the value of freedom is a task that is not only done at this time of year but all throughout the year. Each year there are almost a thousand burials at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery so the number of wreaths each year grows. We have a very small committee of only eight people and we do our best to fundraise but we would not be successful at covering all of our veterans’ graves if not for the help of the public, and of course our friends in the media.”

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