Joe + Yolanda Medina
The 2016 Army 1Lt. Daren M. Hidalgo Latino Veterans of the Year are Joe and Yolanda Medina, who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as an engaged couple. Military service is only part of their story. Upon their return home, they served as community bridge builders for more than 30 years.
The Haros were among a group known as Los Primeros — the first wave of Mexican immigrants to move to Milwaukee. At age 22, Mexican-born Jesse Haro found himself in the grips of fear as he prepared to risk his life for his adopted country on D-Day 1944. He fought with the Army’s 3rd Armored Division in the battle of Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes, the Rhineland and Central Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge. He earned numerous commendations, including a Silver Battle Star, four Overseas Service Bars and a World War II Victory Medal. In 2015, he received the 2015 Army 1Lt. Daren M. Hidalgo Latino Veteran of the Year Award as well as the “French Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal,” the highest award from the French government to U.S. veterans who fought in France during World War II.
He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve and stayed active in veterans’ issues. He was an American Legion member for more than 70 years, serving as commander of the David Valdes Post 529 in Milwaukee and the American GI Forum.
The inaugural Army 1Lt. Daren M. Hidalgo Latino Veteran of the Year is Fernando Rodriguez, who entered military service in 1968 and was permanently retired in December 1969 after being wounded while protecting a village in Operation Spring Meadows during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Once home, he extended his service to his community after military life, later serving as State Secretary for the American GI Forum - Wisconsin. Rodriguez has been instrumental in ensuring the legacy of Latino veterans is preserved and shared with every generation.