Wendy Alexander/Madera Tribune File Photo
VFW Post 1981 Honor Guard members Martin Medellin, right, and Henry Arredondo salute during a Veterans Day service. Medellin passed away Wednesday.
The Madera Veteran community was in mourning this week over the passing of World War II hero Martin Medellin.
Sgt. Medellin, 93, died on July 24, 2019.
He was well known for his World War II military service and his work providing military funeral honor guards for fallen comrades through VFW Post 1981 and American Legion Post 11.
He was the brother-in-law of Marge Medellin, Madera’s first woman mayor, and first Latina mayor.
He was the final member of his birth family, which consisted of eight siblings.
His nephew is current Madera Mayor Andy Medellin.
“Our family is very saddened by the passing of our beloved uncle, Martin Medellin,” said the mayor.
“God blessed us with 93 years filled with Uncle Martin’s love of laughter, music, friendship, family and faith” he said. “Uncle Martin made a positive impact on so many lives, his wisdom and infectious smile will be truly missed.”
In one instance of his Army heroism, Sgt. Medellin earned a Purple Heart for an injury he sustained during battle.
Then Pfc. Medellin and his sergeant, George Peterson, rescued 283 soldiers trapped by German machine gunfire.
The incident began on New Year’s Day 1945 in Phillipsburg, France. His outfit, the United States Army Company K of the 18th Infantry Regiment, First Infantry Division were pinned down and unable to advance. Following orders, Medellin and Peterson destroyed the German machine gun nest and the enemy. While climbing the hill, Medellin was shot by a sniper in the left shoulder. The bullet passed through his shoulder and through the front of his throat. He continued on their mission, ignoring his wounds. He and his sergeant launched hand grenades into the machine gun nest, saving all 283 trapped American soldiers. Later he was promoted to sergeant.
After the war, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and several additional Medals.
Due to several administrative mistakes, however, it was years before Madellin was presented the Purple Heart for the wounds he sustained on that fateful night.
Eventually, more than 69 years later, Medellin received his medal.
Fellow veteran and long-time friend Michael DeCesare was determined to get Medellin the honor he deserved.
DeCesare brought national attention to what Medellin did to to deserve Purple Heart.
“I was working to help him, writing letters to people and not getting many results,” DeCesare told ABC News.
DeCesare wrote 19 letters to Congress members and other politicians and received no response.
“He was always the first guy to step forward and help out when needed,” DeCesare told ABC News.
The ceremony was kept a secret from Medellin and his family. “I just wanted to help him and his family and if I could do that, that is a satisfaction in itself,” said De Cesare. “I was just helping out a friend and a fellow veteran.”
The presentation was made on March 6, 2014, at the VFW hall in Madera.
In addition to his civic services he was a devout Catholic and member of St. Joachim Church.
A Rosary and a Mass of Christian Burial will be said, with military honors to follow. He will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife Madeline at the Calvary Mausoleum and Cemetery, 28447 Avenue 14, Madera, under the direction of Jay Chapel, date and times to be announced.