His portrait hangs in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes. A section of U.S. Route 90 in San Antonio is named for him, as is the school he attended as a boy. For his heroism in World War II, he received the nation's highest military honor.

San Marcos native Cleto Rodríguez was born in 1923. By the age of nine, he had lost both his parents and was raised in San Antonio by relatives.

Rodríguez joined the Army in 1944, and was soon serving as a rifleman with the 148th Infantry in the Philippines. In 1945, during the fierce month-long Battle for Manila, Rodríguez and a fellow soldier played key roles in regaining a heavily defended railroad station from the Japanese. Both men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their "gallant determination" and "heroic courage in the face of tremendous odds."

Rodríguez was the fifth Mexican American ever to earn this honor—and one of fourteen Texans who earned it during World War II.

After the war, Rodríguez returned to San Antonio. He served briefly in the Air Force, and then rejoined the Army, retiring in 1970 as a master sergeant. He became an advocate for veterans and minorities after his military service.

Rodríguez died on Pearl Harbor Day in 1990 and is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. More»

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Portrait of Cleto Rodríguez in his Army uniform. U.S. government photo.