“When they first found me, they had me in a body bag because they thought I was dead,” said Rodolfo Hernandez, a Medal of Honor awardee.
Hernandez, 82, and a retiree likes to spend his time talking to middle and high school age youth telling his story, not because he has to, but because his story is an inspiring one.
On May 31, 1951, his platoon was attacked while defending Hill 420 in Korea and overwhelmed by an enemy counterattack that inflicted heavy casualties.
A close-quarters firefight broke out when enemy troops surged up the hill. Hernandez was wounded during the attack, but was able to continue firing upon the rushing enemy troops. After his rifle jammed, Hernandez continued attacking the enemy with his bayonet.
“I was good at fighting in close,” said Hernandez. “I had to kill five or six men like that.”
His attack enabled his comrades to regroup and take back the hill.
Then a grenade explosion blew away part of his brain and knocked him unconscious. He had grenade, bayonet and bullet wounds, and appeared dead to the first arriving medics.
However, medics realized Hernandez was still alive when they saw him move his fingers.
Hernandez woke up a month later in a military hospital, unable to move his arms or legs or talk.
He wasn’t out of danger. and after many surgeries and physical therapy over a five-year period, Hernandez regained limited use of his right arm and learned to write with his left hand.
On April 12, 1952, President Harry S. Truman awarded Hernandez the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in the White House Rose Garden.
“As a Family, we are all proud what my dad did,” said Martha Hernandez. “His sacrifice has meant so much to so many people.”