EDINBURG, Texas — Elected officials in this city honored a local World War II hero Friday, 70 years to the day after Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy.
The ceremony to honor late U.S. Army Pvt. Pedro Cano came nearly three months after his family received a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama during a ceremony in Washington. The observance was not the first time Cano had been honored in his hometown, but it was the first time such an event included the private’s descendents who still live in the Rio Grande Valley.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, arranged to have six U.S. flags flown above the Capitol building in Washington — one for Cano’s sister, Alvina Hernandez, and each of Cano’s five children. A spokeswoman for Hinojosa’s office handed the flags to Cano’s relatives who attended Friday’s event.
“I think the congressman just saw an opportunity to have a gathering here locally,” Mayor Richard Garcia said in an interview after the ceremony. “You know they had their gathering in D.C. for the presentation of the medal, but who gets to see it in Washington except just immediate family? And it’s important that this become part of this city’s history.”
Hinojosa sent a video message in lieu of a personal appearance Friday after Obama asked him to attend a D-Day observance in Normandy, France.
In March, Obama honored Cano and 23 other veterans who earned awards but were deprived them because of their ethnicity or religion.
“I want to first of all apologize for my nation to this family and to Pedro Cano for the slight that occurred in our nation when he was not given the Medal of Honor when he was supposed to have been given that medal,” Garcia said Friday, echoing a statement Obama made in March. “But congratulate our country for as far as it’s come when we see that wrong has been righted.”
Friday’s event was the first to honor Cristela Cano, 64, and her brother, Pedro Cano Jr., both of whom live in Pharr and have a different mother than Cano’s California descendants.
“I’m happy that something was finally done and we’re being recognized also as being his children because he was our father,” Cristela Cano said.
Pedro Cano was born in 1920 in La Morita, Mexico about 60 miles east of Monterrey in Nuevo León state. His family moved to Edinburg about two months later.
As an Army private, Cano is credited with singlehandedly killing with a rocket launcher nearly 30 German soldiers in Schevenhutte, Germany on Dec. 2 and 3, 1944, putting himself in considerable danger on several instances.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1946 and died in Edinburg in 1952, when he was struck by a drunken driver.
Edinburg has honored Cano before, naming a street and an elementary school after him and celebrating at least one Pedro Cano Day.
At the national level, he was awarded a Purple Heart, two Silver Star medals and a Distinguished Service Cross.
But the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest military award — still didn’t come until this year.
“Today, we have the chance to set the record straight,” Obama said during the March ceremony. “No nation is perfect, but here in America we confront our imperfections and face sometimes a painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal.”