The Mexican American Military Experience

First Division Museum Lobby
Exhibit Extended through December 2022

Through all the conflicts in our nation’s history, Mexican Americans were among America’s patriots. This exhibit specifically highlights soldiers who served in the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One.

The First Division Museum is honoring the service of Mexican Americans in the military, past and present, in conjunction with Cantigny Park’s 2022 Mexican folk art exhibit, Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World.

Featured Artifacts

Commemorative Bottle

Candelario Garcia was an acting Team Leader for Company B, 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division during combat operations against the enemy in Lai Khe, Republic of Vietnam, on December 8, 1968. Their reconnaissance revealed an enemy camp, and as they approached they came under heavy fire. Garcia rescued two soldiers, and continually returned closer to camp to destroy fortifications and kill seven enemy combatants. He initially earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

Candelario Garcia passed away in January 2013. In March 2014, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Garcia the Medal of Honor. “Sergeant Garcia’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army,” according to the citation.

This bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whisky made in commemoration of Candelario’s Medal of Honor was donated to the museum in 2016.

Full Archive

Tunnel Lamp

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong (VC), communist guerrilla troops, dug thousands of miles of tunnels to transport supplies, house soldiers, and surprise their enemy. Different design features in these tunnels included narrow angled walls, 50-foot drops to the tunnel, multiple levels, and camouflaged airshafts and entrances.

Despite their ingenuity the VC did not install electricity in the tunnels, instead creating light sources from a variety of materials. This tunnel lamp is an example. The lamp is created from a French perfume bottle, bits of paper, and an old grenade ring to hang it.

Full Archive