TORNILLO, Texas - U.S. Rep. Will Hurd spent Wednesday breaking ground in far east El Paso County.
The congressman for Texas' 23rd congressional district was the main speaker at the renaming ceremony of the Tornillo port of entry. It is now the Tornillo-Marcelino Serna Port of Entry.
Serna was a World War I veteran who was from the area. It's a move that local veterans groups, and Serna's family pushed for Hurd to do.
"Marcelino Serna is a hero. He's the most decorated World War I veteran from Texas," Hurd said.
Hurd said it was an honor for him to be there.
"Being here and taking off the blanket and seeing Marcelino Serna's name is pretty cool," Hurd said. "It's pretty surreal because this was really the first project I heard from constituents since I was elected."
Serna was the first Hispanic to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
"Proud and honored. It's such a huge honor for our family," said Genny Steopani, Serna's great-granddaughter. "I feel so proud to be his great-granddaughter, and so proud of the family."
Hurd said this is one of the first projects he started working on when he was first elected in November, 2014.
"It took a little over two and half years," Hurd said. "There were so many groups that were supportive of this. It showed there was a groundswell of support for this. Then, getting it through the House and the Senate and getting it signed by President Obama last year was pretty exciting."
Serna was born in Chihuahua in 1896 and came to the United States as a young man. At 20, he enlisted into the Army, and after just three weeks of training was sent overseas with the 355th Infantry, 89th Division. When his officers learned he was Mexican, he was given to option to return to his country. But Serna refused and chose to stay and fight.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, Serna was recognized for heroism by France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States by receiving two French Croix de Guerre with Palm Medals, the French Medaille Militaire, the French Commemorative Medal, the British Medal of Honor, the Italian Cross of Merit, the WWI Victory Medal with five stars, the Victory Medal with three campaign bars, the St. Mihiel Medal, the Verdun Medal, and two Purple Hearts.
But despite these accolades, Serna has not been awarded either the Congressional Medal of Honor or the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. In 2015, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) introduced a concurrent resolution to award Serna the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor; however, only one for that era can be awarded per session and it was given to another Texas war hero, Edwin Dyess. Rodriguez has again recommended Serna for the Medal of Honor. You can read his letter to the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Committee here. To read the resolution recommending Serna for the award, click here.
Additionally, Rodriguez sent a letter to the Texas National Guard recommending Serna for the Medal of Valor. Maj. Gen. John F. Nichole penned a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott recommending Serna for the medal, which was awarded and formally presented to Serna's family at the bridge-naming ceremony.
Earlier in the day, Hurd celebrated two different groundbreaking ceremonies for water treatment facilities in Socorro and Clint. The new facilities are expected to provide clean drinking water for more than 365 residents.
"This is an example of how local government, federal government, and the private sector can actually work together," Hurd said. "That's why I ran for Congress, to help communities. It's pretty cool to see it come to fruition."