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A photo of World War II Medal of Honor recipient Macario Garcia on an iPad Mini sits in Germany's Hürtgen Forest where he performed his heroric deeds. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios.

Deep in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest, one can retrace the paths of Mexican American soldiers on their way to help defeat the Nazis.

The big picture: Returning Latino veterans of World War II played a pivotal role in creating the first large-scale Hispanic middle class in the U.S. and helped spark the Latino Civil Rights Movement. But their actions still are relatively unknown to the public.

Details: Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia region offers opportunities for visitors to hike the Hürtgen Forest trail to see firsthand the area where U.S. Army Pvt. Macario Garcia earned the Medal of Honor for his battlefield heroics.

  • In November 1944, Garcia destroyed two German encampments and captured four prisoners by himself after his pinned-down infantry regiment ducked bullets and bombs near Grosshau, Germany.
  • The son of Mexican immigrants who had learned “to shoot by killing rabbits on the farm in Sugar Land,” just outside of Houston, refused to listen to orders to seek protection after he suffered wounds and went on to destroy the artillery guns.
  • “The intrepid soldier went forward, utterly disregarding his own safety,” Garcia's Medal of Honor citation read.
  • Life Magazine wrote about Garcia's bravery.

What happened next: The following August, President Harry Truman presented the medal to Garcia, who returned to a hero's welcome in Houston.

Between the lines: Today, there are just a handful of historic markers in the U.S. honoring Latino veterans, but in Germany, one can hike the Liberation Route Europe — a network that connects important places of the Allied Invasion.

  • The Hemingway Trail in the Hürtgen Forest outside of Grosshau allows visitors to pay respects to what Garcia and other U.S. soldiers endured.
  • The wooded area once witnessed some of the fiercest fights in WWII.
  • Garcia rarely spoke about the horrors of the Hürtgen Forest.

The intrigue: WWII liberation tours by Latinos are part of a travel movement that Alaska Native poet Joan Kane calls "dialectical travel" — where travelers reinterpret and reclaim sites to restore the history of the forgotten.

One fun fact: Garcia was among the veterans who greeted President John F. Kennedy at the door of the Grand Ballroom of the Rice Hotel in Houston when the president spoke to Mexican American activists the night before his assassination.

Garcia advocated for civil rights in Houston until his death in 1972 in an automobile accident.

Go deeper

Latino veterans in exile

Retired U.S. Marine Manuel Valenzuela stands at the entrance of Buckley Air Force base in uniform and carrying a banner to protest the deportation of veterans. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

An estimated 1,000 U.S. military veterans — many Latino — live in foreign lands, their return to the country they defended in limbo because of their immigration status.

The big picture: A VOCES/PBS documentary scheduled to air on most PBS stations this week focuses on two brothers, both Mexican immigrants, who fought in the Vietnam War on behalf of the U.S. and were honorably discharged. Now both face deportation because of minor crimes.

Democratic senators push bill to halt deportations of U.S. veterans

Ivan Ocon, 44, a veteran of the U.S. Army deported to Mexico after serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom, ties a banner with pictures of deported veterans who died outside the U.S. in front of the border wall in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Nov. 4, 2021. Photo by Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Image

A group of Democratic U.S. senators announced Wednesday a bill that would stop the deportations of some immigrant veterans.

Why it matters: The proposal, similar to a House version, would help prevent deportations of noncitizen veterans, provide pathways to citizenship for some immigrant service members and their families and allow deported veterans to return home to the U.S.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.