Honorable Immigrants: Korean and Vietnam Wars

If you have been following my recent blog posts, you know that I have been writing a short series about the immigrants who have received the highest military award possible: the Medal of Honor. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can see them at:

This is the final post in this series. We are going to recognize the people who immigrated to the United States, joined a military branch and went far beyond their call of duty to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor. The military personnel we will look at today served in either the Korean or the Vietnam Wars.

Korean War

Corporal Tibor Rubin (1929-2015) United States Army

Tibor was a Jew that was born in Hungary. His Mother and Father were caught carrying Tibor to Sweden and they were all sent to concentration camps. Tibor was saved by American forces, but his parents were murdered by the Nazis.

Tibor emigrated to the United States in 1948. In 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. In Korea, Tibor was under a Sergeant who was anti-Semitic. He would send Tibor to missions that were the most dangerous with a hope of getting him killed. Tibor was a ferocious soldier and was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but his Sergeant disobeyed putting Tibor in for it.

Tibor was caught by the Koreans and spent 30 months in a POW camp.

In 1993, studies were made of soldiers who had been discriminated against. In 2005, President George W. Bush presented Tibor with the Medal of Honor he rightfully deserved.

Lieutenant John Kelvin Koelsch (1923-1951) United States Navy

John was born in London, England. He came to the United States and in 1944, he was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy after completing flight training.

John was a helicopter pilot, and in the Korean war, his job was to save downed pilots. On July 3rd, 1951, a Marine pilot radioed a distress call and John was sent in conditions that were terrible. John still flew low through the clouds and finally found the downed pilot. The enemy was firing at the helicopter, but George Neal, John’s crewman, hoisted the injured pilot to the copter. Just as he was brought in, enemy fire struck the aircraft causing John to lose control.

For 9 days, John aided the injured pilot and his crewman that was also injured, but they were captured. John died of malnutrition in the prison camp. The whole time, he would not submit to their interrogations or threats.

Vietnam War

Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Velazquez Rascon (1945-) United States Army

Alfred was born in Mexico and his parents sought a better life in the U.S. After Alfred graduated from High School, he joined the United States Army. He trained in Medical along with Airborne.

In 1965, Alfred was deployed to Vietnam. In 1966, Alfred was a medic serving in a huge enemy attack. He systematically rescued soldiers, and Alfred would shield their bodies with his own. Back and forth he would go getting injuries himself while saving others. At the end, Alfred was given his last rites, but he survived.

He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but for some reason, he was only given the Silver Star. Alfred kept working within the Army and served both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 1985 during a Platoon reunion, 3 soldiers that Alfred had saved realized he had not received the Medal of Honor. They fought for Alfred as he had fought for them. Finally, in February of 2000, President Bill Clinton pinned the distinguished Medal of Honor on Alfred’s chest.

Alfred is now retired and resides in Laurel, Maryland.

PFC Lewis Albanese (1946-1966) United States Army

Lewis, whose true name was Luigi, was born in Vicenza, Italy. His family moved to Seattle, Washington where Lewis finished High School. He joined the Army in 1965 and was deployed to Vietnam.

When Lewis’ unit was under heavy fire, Lewis charged the enemy with his bayonet. He killed a lot of Vietnamese soldiers allowing his unit to advance past the enemy. Lewis was killed in the chaos.

Lewis’ family received his Medal of Honor in 1968.

Staff Sergeant Laszlo Rabel (1937-1968) United States Army

During the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Laszlo escaped Hungary and soon immigrated to the United States. In 1965, he joined the Army. Deployed to Vietnam, Laszlo was soon a Staff Sergeant. While on patrol, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of his unit. Without thinking twice, Laszlo dived on the grenade sacrificing his life for his fellow soldiers.

Specialist 4 Jesus Duran (1948-1977) United States Army

Jesus was born in Juarez, Mexico. He came to the United States and joined the U.S. Army in 1968. In Vietnam, Jesus was fearless. During 1 mission, he was an M-60 machine gunner. The enemy was swarming and Jesus was killing them as fast as he could. He ran to the aide of downed soldiers and kept the enemy at bay.

Jesus was not awarded the Medal of Honor until years later when a review was called for of Jewish and Hispanic soldiers. It was after Jesus’ death that President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Jesus’ daughter.

Lance Corporal José Francisco Jiménez (1946-1969) United States Marines

José was born in Mexico and schooled for the most part there. He did end up graduating High School in Arizona. Soon after in 1968, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1969, José was deployed to Vietnam. In August of that year, his unit was under heavy attack, and José raced forward killing multiple enemy soldiers and destroying their bunkers before he was fatally wounded. President Richard Nixon posthumously presented José with the Medal of Honor.

Sergeant Peter Lemon (1950-) United States Army

Born in Toronto, Canada, Peter came to the U.S. and joined the United States Army. Peter was a machine gunner in Vietnam. When his base came under a heavy attack by the Vietcong, Peter moved to a defensive position and killed a heavy amount of enemy soldiers. He pulled a wounded soldier to safety and regrouped to kill more enemies. If not for Peter, there is a good chance that Fire Support Base Illingworth would have been overrun.

Peter authored the book Beyond The Medal which has been a top seller.

Sergeant Leslie Sabo Jr. (1948-1970) United States Army

Leslie was born in Austria and when a young boy, his family immigrated to Pennsylvania. Leslie was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam conflict.

Leslie was in a unit whose mission was a secret into Cambodia to engage enemy troops. As they traveled, Leslie was in the rear and the attack came to them. Sabo was a fighting machine. He killed and wounded many enemy soldiers. He exposed himself several times to get more ammunition.

Leslie was recommended for the Medal of Honor as he had died during that conflict, but the records were lost. Finally, in 2012, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Leslie’s widow.

Sergeant Major Jon Cavaiani (1943-2014) United States Army

Jon was born in Ireland. In 1943, Jon made his way to the United States where he was adopted by his stepfather in California. Jon joined the U.S. Army Special Forces and was sent to Vietnam in 1970.

On a mission, Jon’s unit came under a hostile attack and he arranged for their removal. He and a few others stayed to direct air traffic. When the attack came again, Jon ordered the others to escape while he providing cover fire. He was captured and spent about 2 years in a POW camp.

Jon went on to serve as Senior Operations Sergeant Major for British, French and U.S. Forces.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to these immigrants, we can feel safe sleeping at night. And they earned the Medal of Honor for a country that was not their original country.

I just am moved by these men who gave their all.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below. Thanks.

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