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Honoring a hero

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A Gallup hero has died.

Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura passed away on Nov. 29. He was 97 years old.

Miyamura was known for his heroic actions during the Korean War, for which he won a Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award given to soldiers. Miyamura was one of two surviving Medal of Honor recipients of the Korean War.

 

MILITARY SERVICE

Miyamura was born on Oct. 6, 1925 in Gallup.

He arrived in Korea in November 1950. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on April 24 and 25, 1951, south of the Imjin River near Taejon-ni (Daejeon-ni) in Yeoncheon County while serving as a corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. During a night attack by the Chinese, he saw that his squad could not hold much longer, so he ordered his men to retreat. However, he remained behind to cover their withdrawal, killing an estimated minimum of 50 invading Chinese forces.

Miyamura was captured immediately after staying to cover his retreating allies. As he and other prisoners of war were marched away, he helped his wounded friend Joe Annello keep moving, but the North Koreans threatened to shoot him if he did not leave Annello behind. Miyamura refused, but Annello convinced him to put him down.

Annello survived the war and later visited Miyamura in Gallup.

Miyamura’s award was the first Medal of Honor to be classified Top Secret. As Brigadier General Ralph Osborne explained to Miyamura and a group of reporters upon notifying them of his medal, “If the Reds knew what he had done to a good number of their soldiers just before he was taken prisoner, they might have taken revenge on this young man. He might not have come back.”

Miyamura was held for 28 months. Following his release on Aug. 20, 1953, he was informed that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to sergeant. He was repatriated to the United States and honorably discharged from the military shortly thereafter. His medal was presented to him by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in October 1953 at the White House.

A book was written about Miyamura and Annello’s experience, “Forged in Fire: The Saga of Hershey & Joe,” which was published in 2012. The book details the horrors of the Korean War while also showing how one beautiful friendship was formed. It can be purchased online through Amazon or the Japanese American National Mu seum’s website.

 

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Many people in Gallup loved and admired Miyamura and all that he stood for.

Dave Cuellar, head of Veterans Helping Veterans, explained why Miyamura inspired himself and the Gallup community.

“He’s inspirational because he was the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, but more than that it was the way he conducted himself in the neighborhood. I don’t know how to explain it, he was just a very nice guy,” Cuellar said.

Jessica Rodriguez, principal of the Gallup-McKinley County School that bears Miyamura’s name, agreed with Cueller by saying that Miyamura was humble, kind, and caring. She said that one of the goals that the Hiroshi Miyamura High School holds dear is living up to what Miyamura stood for.

“He gave us the legacy that we strive to live up to through the ideals that his life exemplified,” Rodriguez said. “We do our best to persevere, we do our best to have that resilient mindset, and as a school we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that whatever we do here goes out in a way that represents Mr. Miyamura in a way that he would be proud of.”

Rodriguez became principal at Hiroshi Miyamura High School in May 2021. She expressed her gratitude towards Miyamura for the kindness he showed her when she entered the role.

“To me, individually, he means a whole lot because I was unfortunately the last principal that got to have that conservation with him and be blessed by him to be running this school, which is amazing,” she said.

The high school holds a tradition where each graduating senior receives one of Miyamura’s Challenge Coins. The Challenge Coins represent the pride and commitment that someone in the service showed. Miyamura’s coin shows his face on one side of the coin and the Medal of Honor on the other.

Before COVID, Miyamura used to give the medals out to each graduating senior during their graduation ceremony. When Rodriguez became principal, she promised Miyamura that the school would make it a priority in their budget to keep the tradition going for years to come. She said that the coin tells students that “once they’re a Patriot, they’ll always be a Patriot.”

 

A LASTING LEGACY

Rodriguez said she’s glad that her school is named after Miyamura.

“I think it was the right fit for our community. Him and his family are just amazing people; they’re just so generous, humble, and kind,” Rodriguez said. “Everything that he represents was something that I think the district at the time - and now - wholeheartedly believed.”

The high school is currently planning a special event to honor Miyamura and all that he achieved and gave back to his community. However, at press time, no date had been set for the event.

Staff Reports

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