Image copyright ELIZABETH M. COLLINS/DOD
By Richard Simon
Copyright Los Angeles Times
Using an ammo crate as a chair and an Army tent as his office, Pfc. John "Mac" MacFarland set up his typewriter and began to write.
It was the sweltering summer of 1969, about a month after the fierce battle of Tam Ky in South Vietnam. MacFarland had been ordered to write a recommendation nominating Spc. 4 Santiago Jesse Erevia for the Medal of Honor, and he tried to put into words how Erevia's "conspicuous gallantry" had saved so many fellow soldiers.
"Although Erevia could have taken cover with the rest of the group," MacFarland wrote, "he realized that action must be taken immediately if they were able to be relieved from the precarious situation they were now in."
MacFarland, a 23-year-old college student who had been drafted, spent weeks working on the nomination, sure that Erevia, a 23-year-old high school dropout who had enlisted, would be awarded the medal. MacFarland sent the recommendation up the chain of command.
"And then I never heard another thing," MacFarland recalled decades later.
Erevia knew that he had been nominated, and though admitting initial disappointment that he did not receive the Medal of Honor, he went home to Texas and never dwelt on it.
Over the decades, he searched lists of Medal of Honor recipients, looking for Erevia's name. Again and again, he dug out his mimeographed copy of the recommendation, fearing he had failed to capture Erevia's extraordinary heroism.