The Best of Arizona: War heroes

2011-10-30T00:00:00Z The Best of Arizona: War heroes Arizona Daily Star
October 30, 2011 12:00 am

2nd Lt. Frank Luke Jr.

Luke was the first Army flier to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. He recorded 18 confirmed kills in just 17 days during World War I. The Phoenix native died in action at the age of 21.

Marine Cpl. John Henry Pruitt II

He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by both the Army and Navy for the same action during World War I. He silenced and captured two German machine-gun nests, then captured 40 soldiers. Pruitt was wounded and died the next day - his 22nd birthday. He lived in Jerome as a child and then in Phoenix.

Marine Col. Jay R. Vargas

The Winslow native was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership and repeated bravery during a three-day battle in Vietnam. Then a captain, his actions included carrying his wounded battalion commander to a covered position on the final day even though he'd been wounded three times himself.

Navajo Code Talkers

The Japanese never broke the coded messages of the approximately 420 boys and men who used their Navajo language to send intelligence messages during World War II. Their work on behalf of the Marines was a classified secret until 1968.

Army Pfc. Silvestre S. Herrera

With his platoon in trouble, he plunged alone onto the battlefield, leading to the capture of two strongholds and eight prisoners in France during World War II. Both feet were blown off as he crossed a minefield in the second assault. Herrera was born in Mexico but spent most of his life in Glendale, where he died at the age of 90.

-Selected by Bobbie Jo Buel, editor

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