Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on Gen. Richard Edward Cavazos

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Robert Cyr
  • 104th Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity

September 16 through October 15 is recognized in the United States as Hispanic American Heritage Month. Hispanic and Latinx (Latino/Latina) traditions and culture, from places as diverse as Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American and Iberian nations, have had a major influence on our society and our shared military history.

A shining example of this shared heritage is the life and story of Gen. Richard Edward Cavazos, the first Mexican American to become a Brigadier General and the first Hispanic American four-star general in the U.S. Army.

While serving as a First Lieutenant in the Korean War 1953, Lt. Cavazos was selected as the platoon leader of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment. Cavazos led his company on three separate assaults on the enemy, each time under heavy fire. Through these assaults he and his men were able to destroy integral enemy equipment and kill multiple enemy fighters. Even when he was ordered to withdraw from the combat arena, Cavazos remained, exposed to intense enemy fire, to search for those of his men that had gone missing in the fight. He managed to carry five from his unit out from the scene, one at a time, back behind friendly lines. Safe among U.S forces, he refused treatment for his own wounds until he was sure that the outpost was clear. For his meritorious service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

In 1967 Cavazos found himself fighting in Vietnam, now a Lieutenant Colonel. He was known among his subordinates for his fierce leadership style. Rather than directing from behind, he led from the front – fighting alongside his men. In one such instance, after being pinned down by enemy artillery, he led a counterattack on the enemy’s hillside position at Loc Ninh.  Exposing himself to enemy fire frequently while moving between his own troops.  He was able to direct such a barrage of return fire that the Viet Cog ultimately fled and his unit was able to take their position. For his bravery and valor, he was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross. 

After returning home, Cavazos went on to serve for another 17 years, in that time becoming the first Hispanic American Four-Star General in the U.S. Army.  After thirty-three years of service, Gen. Cavazos retired from the Army in 1984 with his final command as head of the U.S. Army Forces Command. Throughout his career, he was also awarded a Silver Star, two Legion of Merit awards, five Bronze Stars with valor, a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantry Badge and a Parachutist Badge.  His meritorious service is an inspiration and source of pride for all of us in our shared military heritage and  diversity.