The Story Behind the National Mall’s “Three Soldiers”

Vietnam War Memorial - 1 America, 1 Latino and 1 AfricanAmerica

The Three Soldiers sculptures stand on the National Mall, near the Vietnam War Memorial

If you walk along the National Mall today, you’ll find monuments that honor military veterans alongside memorials of past presidents and other national heroes. Among them, the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited. One statue in the memorial, The Three Soldiers, signifies the diversity of the troops who served in Vietnam.

The Memorial Wall adjacent to the statue lists every soldier who went to Vietnam; many of them from foreign countries. The appearances of the Three Servicemen Statue (also referred to as the Three Soldiers) reflect that: even though all three men share the same bronze skin tone, they are meant to be Black, White, and Hispanic.

Today we honor more than 1.1 million service members who gave their lives for this country, many of whom died while fighting in Vietnam. The Three Servicemen Statue is a powerful reminder of who pays the price for our freedoms and rights. Latinos have also made ample contributions to our society, and many have paid with their lives while serving their country. We are incredibly grateful to them and their families. They are not forgotten.

Latinos Have a Proud Tradition of Military Service

By Jonathan Marrero, Senior Digital Manager, NCLR

This Memorial Day, the NCLR familia honors the memory of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our freedoms, including the countless Latinos who have served courageously since our country’s founding.


Private Marcelino Serna. Photo: Wikipedia

Hispanics have a long, rich history of service in the U.S. Armed Forces that dates back to the 19th century. During World War I, Latino soldiers fought alongside their non-Hispanic brothers and sisters in Europe. One such soldier, Private Marcelino Serna, an undocumented immigrant of Mexican descent, was awarded two of the military’s highest honors after returning from the battlefields in Europe: the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. Serna was awarded these medals for singlehandedly capturing 24 German soldiers. His story is one of many that exemplify the pride and honor Latinos have taken in their service to this great country.

In World War II, many Mexican American servicemen and women were stationed in the Philippines, where they fought valiantly beside non-Hispanic soldiers against the Japanese in battles that endured for months. One such battle took place in the Bataan Peninsula. After three months of hard fighting, the soldiers were ordered to surrender, and eventually they embarked on the tortuous 85-mile Bataan Death March. Many of those who started the march did not finish—Latinos included.

This longstanding tradition of service and heroism continues today with the more than one million Latinos currently in uniform—a point of pride for us here at NCLR. So, as we head into this holiday weekend, let’s reflect on the sacrifices made by countless soldiers throughout American history.


In remembrance of those who have fallen in the line of duty, NCLR asks that you join us on Monday, May 25 at 3:00 p.m. local time for a national moment of remembrance. Let’s reflect on the lives given so that Americans can enjoy the most fundamental of rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.