SAN ANTONIO – An honor was delivered more than 60 years in the making when San Antonio World War II veteran finally received well-deserved medals, decades later.
Petty Officer Raul De la Garza, 90, reminisced about his first desire to serve his country. It was 75 years ago after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was just 13.
"I tried to get in any way I could have. My father, my mother (said), 'Nope, nope, nope," De la Garza said, while chuckling at his parents' reactions.
At age 16, his parents caved and signed the consent papers allowing him to join the U.S. Navy.
"I joined the service because I wanted to help the people and I wanted to feel good about it," he said.
De la Garza served in both WWII and the Korean War. His memory has faded, but his wife, Felicitas, still remembers his stories, such as the one where Japanese Kamikaze planes attacked at Okinawa
"He said that he brought down three Japanese airplanes, and it was kind of scary because he had to run and remove all the people that got killed," Felicitas said.
De la Garza left the Navy 61 years ago, and on Wednesday, he was awarded eight medals.
"Well, you have them now," said fellow San Antonian Rep. Joaquin Castro, as he presented De la Garza with the awards.
The awards include: the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, the China Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Three Bronze Service Stars, the Navy Occupation Service Medal with an Asia clasp, the World War II Victory Medal, the Honorable Service Lapel Button for World War II and the Navy Honorable Discharge Button.
"Thank you. We're very grateful for your service. It's great to see a San Antonian who did all this," Castro said.
De la Garza is incredibly proud of serving his country.
"I said, 'Do you mind if your grandchildren go in the Navy? He says, 'That’s the best thing they can do,'" Felicitas said.
De la Garza never wanted to be a hero, but he became one anyway.
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