Historical Vignette 125 – Hispanic Heritage Month: Recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross


 Cpl. Aristides Sosa
(edited photo above; painting below)

President Woodrow Wilson established the Distinguished Service Cross during the First World War to recognize valor in combat. To receive the decoration, soldiers must demonstrate extraordinary heroism at great personal risk during combat. It is second in precedence only to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Of the more than one thousand Distinguished Service Crosses awarded during the Vietnam War, nearly four hundred were posthumous awards. Among the soldiers making the supreme sacrifice was Cpl. Aristides Sosa, Jr.

Sosa was born in New York City on 16 December 1946. While attending Baruch College of Business Administration, he received a draft notice in 1967. Sosa did his duty and went through Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

He then successfully completed engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in the military occupational specialty of 12A10 – Pioneer. On 9 December 1967, Corporal Sosa started his tour in the Republic of Vietnam in Company A, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. Barely three months later during the Tet Offensive, Sosa was part of a four-man engineer team accompanying an infantry unit on a reconnaissance-in-force operation near Lai Theiu in Gia Dinh Province. Enemy forces attacked these soldiers with grenades and small arms fire. In the ensuing engagement, a massive explosion left Sosa wounded and lying in pain in a ditch. The citation for his Distinguished Service Cross tells what happened next:

“As one of his comrades crawled to his position to offer assistance, an enemy grenade was detected flying through the air toward Corporal Sosa’s position. As the grenade landed and began rolling toward his comrade, Corporal Sosa rolled on top of the grenade to save the soldier from its blast and was mortally wounded by the exploding grenade. His courageous actions in complete disregard for his own safety were responsible for saving the life of his comrade. Corporal Sosa’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

Cpl. Aristides Sosa, Jr., was killed in action on 2 March 1968. His Distinguished Service Cross was awarded posthumously on 16 December 1968. His name can be found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in line 043 on panel 42E. In July 2010, Building 200 on Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was rededicated as the Sosa Community Center in Corporal Aristides’ honor. It houses Army Community Service and the Soldier Family Assistance Center.

The Honorable Gloria Sosa-Lintner, Sosa's sister, presenting Cpl. Aristides Sosa's bronzed combat boots to Col. Jerry L. Blixt, Installation Commander at Ft. Belvoir, during the rededication ceremony of
Sosa Community Center in July 2010. (U.S. Army Photo by Janet Davis)

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Special thanks to Andrew Sharbel and James Burnett at Fort Belvoir and to Gloria Sosa-Lintner
for their assistance in preparing this vignette.

September 2010