┬íViva la Roja, Blanca y Azul! – The Story of Sgt James Lopez, US Marine Corps

Sgt. James Lopez, one of the Teheran heroes.

While the majority of illegal aliens have arguably originated from Mexico, President Trump is threatening the Mexican government with additional tariffs if they don’t start controlling the flood in illegals from Central America transiting through Mexico.

Yet in wide swaths of the United States with little to no exposure to fellow citizens of Latino heritage, many non-Latinos (thanks in no small part to the news media) are under the mistaken impression that most, if not all Latinos are sympathetic to illegal aliens.

That’s actually quite far from the truth.

As cited in a poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, President Trump enjoys a 50 percent job approval by Latino citizens (48 percent disapproval, 2 percent no opinion), which is 1 percent higher than the national overall rating.

Interestingly enough, the same research noted that among US citizens of Latino heritage, Rep. Nancy Pelosi enjoys only a 37 percent approval, and a 45 percent disapproval rating.

But with all that aside, one the greatest acts of individual defiance to terrorism would be that of Marine Sgt. James “Jimmy” Lopez, who was held hostage for 444 days after anti-American thugs of the Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the US Embassy in Teheran, Iran.

Never heard of Jimmy Lopez? Don’t feel bad. His is one of the greatest examples of patriotism you’ve never heard of.

In fact, it was President Reagan who cited Lopez for his heroic conduct and quick thinking. As reported by UPI, “Lopez [was] singled out by President Reagan for particular bravery in blocking Iranians as they stormed the embassy…”

Thankfully, there is an account of Lopez’s actions that gets much more specific. As reported by the New York Times on Jan. 22, 1981;

For most of the past year Jesse and Mary Lopez kept the secret bottled up inside them. Their pride was nearly boundless but they feared that disclosure would place their 22-yearold son, Sgt. James M. Lopez of the Marine Corps, in greater danger from the Iranian militants holding him hostage in Teheran.

But early this morning, when Sergeant Lopez, 50 pounds lighter and with his shoulder-length hair tied back with a yellow ribbon, walked off a bus in Wiesbaden, West Germany, and called home, the secret came tumbling out.

‘I know about what you did over there the first day,’ said Mrs. Lopez, her voice breaking with joy and relief. According to accounts from several Americans, when trouble broke out on the morning of Nov. 4, 1979, at the American Embassy in Teheran, Sergeant Lopez quickly invoked his authority as the lone Marine guard on duty at the consulate, one of several buildings in the embassy compound.

Drove Back Invaders

In his best drill-instructor manner, Sergeant Lopez barked orders to the 70 or so people huddled inside. Among them were Iranian citizens who had been seeking visas and 14 other Americans, including several American Foreign Service officers many years his senior.

For nearly three hours, Sergeant Lopez, who had been an embassy guard only a month, managed to stave off the angry Iranian demonstrators outside, according to these accounts, securing the doors with coat hangers, herding his charges to the more secure second floor, driving back the invaders with tear gas grenades and destroying the visa stamps.

Former hostages U.S. Marine Corps SSgt Michael Moeller (left) and Sgt James Lopez (center), and U.S. Marine Corps Sgt Paul Lewis (right), pose with a hospital nurse and an Air Force MP. The 52 hostages are spending a few days in a US Air Force hospital after their release from Iran prior to their departure for the United States.

Finally, as the situation grew more desperate, Sergeant Lopez gave the order to leave, dividing those inside into small groups of Americans and Iranians in hopes that they would attract less attention and dispatching them at intervals out of a side door, American diplomats recalled.

Most of the Americans were recaptured soon afterward as they tried to make their way to safety through the back streets of Teheran. But five of the American diplomats were able to evade the mob and, with a sixth man they encountered on the street, ultimately took refuge in the Canadian Embassy. Using false Canadian passports, the six left Iran last Jan. 29 and when they reached the United States, Kathleen Stafford, a consular assistant, telephoned Mr. and Mrs. Lopez to tell them of their son’s bravery.

‘He Didn’t Lose His Composure’

‘By keeping the consulate secure he made it possible for us to go,’ said Mark Lijek, one of those who escaped and who is now a consular officer in Hong Kong. ”He was the one all of us looked to to tell us what to do. He may have been the most junior guy there, but he was certainly up to the occasion. He didn’t get excited, he didn’t lose his composure.’

‘He was standing there and overseeing the entire effort and putting his own safety last,’ Mrs. Stafford’s husband, Joseph, who is also a Foreign Service officer, recalled. ‘I’m grateful and I’m sure everyone in the consulate that day is grateful. He performed superbly.’

Under normal circumstances there would have been two Marine guards on duty at the consulate, the second assigned to the visa section. But the section had been closed in anticipation of trouble and Sergeant Lopez was alone when the mob began to form outside.

The rules of engagement for Marine embassy guards prohibit firing outside a compound without specific State Department approval or firing inside except in defense of American lives.

‘He Beat Them Back’

‘It was a tribute to Jim that he was able to control a group that size,’ said Mr. Lijek. ‘He was the one that actually destroyed the visa plates. He never seemed at a loss throughout the whole thing. There was nobody there to help him. At one point, the students tried to break into the consulate through one of the windows. He beat them back. I think he threw a smoke grenade, or tear gas.’

‘It was tear gas,’ said Robert Anders, another of the escaped diplomats, who works at the State Department and who confirmed Mr. Lijek’s account and added his own praise for Sergeant Lopez.

For much of the next 14 months, Sergeant Lopez told his family on the telephone, he was ”kept in some really bad-hole places, like closets.” But, he said, ”at least I got some of the others out, right?”

Mrs. Lopez was also cheered to learn that, even in captivity, her son had continued to try to resist the militants, at one point scrawling, ‘Viva La Roja, Blanca y Azul‘ on a wall at the embassy compound. But the militants, Mrs. Lopez said, ‘never figured out’ that the words were Spanish for ‘Long Live the Red, White, Blue.

Last night, as the freed hostages stepped off an airplane that had stopped in Algiers on the trip from Iran to West Germany, the tension in the family’s crowded living room became nearly unbearable. Sergeant Lopez, in a red T-shirt, was one of the last to disembark, and when he appeared on the screen the tension gave way to pandemonium.

‘Momma, he has long hair,’ shouted Marcie, Sergeant Lopez’s 10-year-old sister. But, speaking with her a few hours later by telephone from Wiesbaden, he told her that he would have to cut it off. ‘Honey, I have to,’ he said. ‘I’m in the Marine Corps.’

Having been held hostage, he told his family, was ‘like Mark Twain said about being tarred and feathered – if it wasn’t for the honor, I’d rather do without.’