Hero Street, U.S.A., Book Review

Hero Street USA

The Story of Little Mexico’s Fallen Soldiers

Author: Marc Wilson

ISBN: 978-0-8061-4012-4, Pages: 224, $19.95, Publication Date: May, 2009, Cloth, Military History/Biography, University of Oklahoma Press

Marc Wilson steps back in time to deliver a message which brings to life the “Hero Street USA” and tells the stories of 8 brave men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, The United States of America.

As sons of Mexican immigrants, our government military had accepted these brave young men as equals in the performance of their duties as servicemen without regard to heritage. Each had served in either World War II or Korea and never came back. They were classified as Caucasians and did not feel the sting of discrimination as they had back home in Illinois while growing up. In the service, they were welcomed as equals, yet back in their hometown, they were not allowed access in many restaurants or clubs.

Wilson incorporates into his story the background of each of the hero’s immigrant parents who came to the United States at the time of the civil war in Mexico, so they could raise their families and contribute to society. The civil war disrupted their lives in Mexico and the opportunity for successful rearing of a family was non-existent. Their parents migrated to Illinois and lived in squalid conditions, often in railroad box cars or small houses with dirt floors, but were resolute in their belief it was best for the children. They worked for the railroad, earned a living, and were not a burden upon the community.

When the war came and the rest of Americans signed up, the young Mexican men of Silvis, Illinois were counted among them. These men’s stories of bravery and death are very unique because they came from the same street. Never before had eight fallen heroes come from the same street in the United States and this book is the story of their lives interacting as youngsters. Then, as men, Wilson distinguishes them as American patriots.

The heroic eight were not the only heroes from this community. There were over 90 men from Silvis who also served in World War II and Korea. When they returned home, they found out things had not changed. Discrimination was still rampant and they were denied membership in the VFW by blackball! They were told to form their own post, which they did, and ironically, it still flourishes today. However, the original post to which they had applied has disbanded due to lack of membership.

Silvis had a bad history of handling their Mexican immigrants. While many streets were paved in this community, the three blocks where these Mexican families lived, were not. President Lyndon Johnson was very instrumental in granting funds for the paving and raising the standards of life in the community. 2nd Street in Silvis, Illinois, was not only paved, but was re-named Hero Street, and a monument was constructed to honor its lost heroes.

This book is highly recommended.