Story and photos by JASON K. WATKINS / For the Herald
HIDALGO COUNTY - A ceremony to mark the bloody Battle of Chiricahua and the 33 men who were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism drew nearly 200 people Saturday afternoon in Rodeo at the Chiricahua Desert Museum.
Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Bill Cavaliere introduced the speakers, which included members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe and elected officials from Arizona and New Mexico, before a casual luncheon and indoor presentation finished the event. Bill Tooahyaysay Bradford, attorney general of the Chiricahua Apache Nation, said the land where the battle took place is now sacred ground. “This was a battle like all of our battles,” Bradford said. “It was forced upon us. The U.S. was fighting a war of choice and a war of aggression ... This was not a war that we wanted.” People from all over, including Lordsburg, Douglas, Phoenix, and as far as Bend, Oregon, attended the dedication.
The Battle of Chiricahua took place on October 20, 1869 in a pass near the Arizona-New Mexico border when two army companies encountered 100 Apaches led by famed warrior Cochise. A 5-hour battle followed with an unknown number of casualties; 33 men would go on to receive Medals of Honor to mark their bravery in battle.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award given by the United States for heroism. Only 66 living veterans have received the medal. In attendance at the event was Lordsburg war hero, Fred La Marca, who was awarded a Bronze Star, the nation’s fourth highest honor, for actions in Vietnam. The Chiricahua Desert Museum has displayed legendary Indian chief Geronimo’s bow and arrows. The Cochise County Historical Society sponsored the event.