Celebrating Hispanic heritage month: David Barkley

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Brad Graffam
  • 19th Component Maintenance Squadron
(Editor's note: The United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month Sept.15 - Oct. 15. Sept. 15 is the beginning of the festivities because it's the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries. In celebration and remembrance of the Hispanic culture and its impact on the armed forces, the Hispanic heritage month committee will feature a different person who has contributed to the remembrance of Hispanic heritage in each week's edition of the base newspaper.)

Medal of Honor recipient David Barkley was born in Laredo, Texas, on March 31st, 1899. At the age of 17 he joined the United States Army as an infantry soldier. During this time period, the Army was still segregated and banned minorities from serving in combat areas, so Barkley hid his Hispanic identity. Barkley was an enlisted private in the United States Army from 1916 to 1918.

On Nov. 19, 1918, Barkley's unit, Company A, 35th Infantry, was surveying the Meuse River in order to locate German enemy positions. Barkley, with another soldier, volunteered to swim across the river, explore German territory and return with strategic information about the enemy. On Barkley's return to the American side of the river he suffered massive cramps and drowned. Barkley's brave service was commended by Gen. John Pershing and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The General presented the Medal of Honor to Barkley's mother at her home in San Antonio, in 1919. Barkley also received other honors, such as the Croix de Guerre from France and the Croce Merito de Guerra from Italy. Several schools were named after him in his honor, including Camp Barkley in Wichita Falls. Barkley's Hispanic heritage was unknown until 1989, almost 80 years after his death, when he was recognized by the Army as the first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient.

"I am proud of my Heritage and proud of what the Hispanic culture has completed in the military", said Staff Sergeant Peche of the 19th CMS Fuel Systems Craftsman.

Peche said she hopes that military, as well as civilian people, take the time to honor what the Hispanic people have done for this country. Heroes come from all walks of life and nationalities. Barkley was recognized as a hero by the United States, but had to conceal his ethnic background. Today Barkley's courage and sacrifice make his remembrance a proud one for all Hispanics serving in the military.