by Joseph G. Sandoval, Professor
Criminal Justice and Criminology
Metropolitan State College
FARISITA- The November 11, 2011 commemoration of veterans reminds me of the separate fates of two cousins named Joseph Medina. Both spent their youth in Farisita, Colorado; both served in World War II theatres of war and both were killed, one fighting the enemy on the battlefield, the other fighting inner enemies in the battlefield of life.
With others I applaud all veterans who served our country during World War II and were called “the greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw. The fervor of the Vietnam war and the controversy over the role of the United States military in the world continue into the 21st century. I regret the indifference to the military found throughout American society today as we live in relative peace.
Joseph P. Medina was my uncle, whom I did not know except through pictures and other memorabilia. He was my godparent through proxy at my baptism at Saint Cajetan Church in Denver on the present day location of the Auraria campus. On February 25, 1945, my rebirth through baptism was completed. My uncle Joseph P. Medina died on February 28, 1945 in the Battle of Manila in the Philippine Islands.
Joseph P. Medina, born March 19, 1919, was a staff sergeant in the Fifth Calvary. According to a letter from F.F. Wing, Jr., Colonel and Cavalry Commanding Officer, to Mrs. Teresa Garcia, my grandmother and the mother of Staff Sergeant Medina, troops from the Fifth Cavalry had attacked the agricultural building on Gral Luna Street in Manila.
Apparently the Japanese were fiercely resisting and the fighting was vicious. As he led his men rushing toward the building, Colonel Wing writes, “…he was wounded in the head by a sniper. He was given immediate medical attention and although every effort was made to save his life he died at the hospital.” He was buried in Manila, but a few years later his remains were moved to the Gardner Cemetery.
Joseph N. Medina, born September 10, 1917 was a Sergeant in Company K, 17th Infantry Regiment; he also served on the Philippine Islands. After the war ended he returned home engaging in farming near Farisita. On February 8, 1946, an article appeared in the Walsenburg newspaper, the World-Independent, announcing the award of the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in action in Leyte, Philippine Islands in December 1944.
According to the information available, he led his squad in a maneuver against the Japanese south of the Panilahan River in Leyte when suddenly sniper fire pinned them down. He crept through tall grass until he was within range of a bamboo thicket protecting the snipers. He threw a grenade and charged forward.
According to the citation, he killed three of the snipers and signaled the machine gun squad forward advancing 200 yards where the squad “drew machine gun fire from an undertermined [sic] position and rifle fire from a native hut held by the enemy.” He rushed forward alone escaping gun fire concentrated on him.
From a point 10 yards from the small hut, he threw a grenade through the window and “rushed into the building after the explosion, killed two Japanese only to find two others, charging him with fixed bayonets. He whirled rapidly upon them, shot one with his rifle, and met the charge of the other with a deadly bayonet thrust.”
However, the hidden machine gun continued to pose a threat to his squad. He jumped out a rear window of the hut into tall grass in search of the machine gun nest. The citation reads, “Still exposed to intense fire, he crawled to the vicinity of the enemy machine gun emplacement and eliminated it with grenades … Sergeant Medina made a major contribution to the successful accomplishments of his platoon’s mission of securing an important position.” The news article notes that Joseph N. Medina was wounded in Leyte and in Attu. He received the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.
While Joseph N. Medina survived the war, married and moved to Walsenburg, he did not survive the war against his own internal demons. He was shot by Walsenburg police on December 23, 1967 and died five days later at a hospital.
The account of this event as reported in the Pueblo Chieftain and on the Law Enforcement Memorial Page indicates that Chief Mike Rampa and Captain Vincent Swiskoski responded to a disturbance at the Medina residence. Upon their arrival they faced Joseph N. Medina who warned them not to enter the yard. He stood on the front porch armed with a 30-30 rifle.
Chief Rampa asked him to put the rifle down. Captain Swiskoski was outside the fence with his service revolver in the holster. By this time, apparently Officer Vincent Serrato had arrived. Medina suddenly pointed at Captain Swiskoski and fired, killing him. Officer Serrato then shot Medina in the lower abdomen. Medina was hospitalized and died in the hospital on December 28, 1967.
Joseph N. Medina had been drinking and had chased his wife and children to the house of a neighbor. He died and a police officer also died, victims of the inner enemies Medina faced. Captain Swiskoski is listed on the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial at Camp George West in Golden. Medina was buried in the Gardner Cemetery near the grave of Joseph P. Medina.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward