Sotero Soto

I wear my ‘Korea Veteran’ hat almost every day. Otherwise people ask me, ‘What part of Mexico are you from?’ Nothing against Mexico, but I’m a fifth-generation Texan. What I learned in combat is that everyone’s blood looks the same. Race doesn’t matter.


Sergeant Soto at a camp in the rugged hills of Korea. Soto collection

Left: Soto, right, drills the platoon at Combat Engineer School. Soto collection

Center: The old soldier always wears his Korea Veteran cap. John Hughes photo

Right: Soto, right, with pals at Combat Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Soto collection

Sotero Soto, the great-grandson of an Apache Indian, was a U.S. Army combat engineer at the peak of the Korean War. He advanced from private to sergeant first class in the space of 14 months.

Often forgotten in the history of “the forgotten war” is that an estimated 10,000 Native Americans served in Korea. The combat engineers were always in the thick of it. They bulldozed roads; built bridges; used logs and sandbags to construct bunkers and planted land mines in barbed-wire barriers.

Soto’s inventiveness impressed his superiors. He created napalm grenades from the cardboard tubes mortars arrived in. “Whatever it takes” was Soto’s motto. He has three campaign stars on his Korean Service ribbon.