15 year quest to honor Latino Medal of Honor recipients

Mercer 1720

Courtesy of Obregon Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

Artist's rendering of Eugene Obregon/Medal of Honor monument going up next to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

The first Southland monument dedicated to recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor is about two-thirds finished on a patch of grass next to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Highlighting the contributions of Latino Americans is a big deal to Bill Lansford. After combat duty in World War II and the Korean War, the Los Angeles native earned a college degree and got a job writing film and television scripts, including one for the late 1960s legal drama Ironside. "I did the story of a Latino kid whose father had earned a Medal of Honor and I happened to write into the script about the Latinos having received more Medals of Honor than any other group."

He got lots of mail from fans of that episode. One letter arrived from an elementary school teacher who said she was going to start teaching about Latinos in the military. That stuck with Lansford.

Sixteen years ago he founded a group to honor Latino medal of Honor winners. "We were looking for some thematic material, so to speak. In a book called Among the Valiant, we found the name of a young, 19-year-old Marine named Eugene Obregon."

A native of East L.A., who died during the Korean War as he exchanged fire with the enemy and aided a wounded comrade. Obregon received a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military medal.

The Eugene Obregon Monument next to Olvera Street will include a sculpture of Obregon in his last moments of life. Lansford says the monument’s evolved into a tribute to all 3,400 soldiers who’ve received the medal since its inception nearly 150 years ago.

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