As the only living native New Mexican Medal of Honor recipient still living in the state, Hiroshi Miyamura is a popular man. He is regularly invited to tell his story, provide motivational comments at special functions and join veterans anywhere they assemble.
At a recent school assembly at his Alma mater, Gallup High School, Miyamura told the hundreds of young students, “my mission is to talk to young people like yourselves about our country — the sacrifices that have been made.”
Often with the help of younger, modern day Air Force veteran, Ken Riege of Gallup, Miyamura is constantly shuttling around the state and country. He acts little like one might expect from a 92-year old, but then again, it was determination, patriotism and honor that got him through the events of a rainy Korean night, on April 24, 1951.
Hiroshi Miyamura was a squad leader on the front lines in the Korean War when his unit was overrun by thousands of Chinese troops. Miyamura thought of his fellow soldiers first.
The Medal of Honor citation recounts that Miyamura, “unhesitatingly jumped from his shelter wielding his bayonet in close hand-to-hand combat killing approximately 10 of the enemy. Returning to his position, he administered first aid to the wounded and directed their evacuation.”
Miyamura used his machine gun to strafe enemy troops until he ran out of ammo. He ordered his squad to retreat while he protected them, bayoneting his way through more enemy soldiers to a second gun position and helping to get it going.
“When the intensity of the attack necessitated the withdrawal of the company,” said Cpl. Miyamura’s citation, he “ordered his men to fall back while he remained to cover their movement. He killed more than 50 of the enemy before his ammunition was depleted and he was severely wounded.”
While he was trying to make his way back to US lines, the Chinese captured him. Miyamura’s quickly convinced his superiors that he should receive the Medal of Honor. However, they kept the award secret until after Miyamura was released by the Chinese to make sure his captors did not know. He spent two years in a prison camp.
Today in his hometown of Gallup, there is a Miyamura High School and Miyamura Drive recognizing their hometown hero.
Across the state, there are some statues and plaques honoring nine other New Mexican recipients of the Medal of Honor that includes Richard Rocco of Albuquerque and Leroy Petry of Santa Fe. The list dates back to the Indian Wars of the late 1800’s and stretches through World War II, Vietnam and the actions in the Middle East.
In Gallup, Miyamura keeps looking for opportunities to reach out to young people in his latest ‘mission’. Hoping they will become more involved in the democratic process.
“A lot of the children today don’t even know the name of our own governor,” he laments. “Let alone any member of the legislature. To me, that’s a shame.”