My GECU

El Paso VVA remembers combat, recognizes contributions of combat veterans

Humberto M. Nevarez, president, El Paso Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 574, salutes the flag, signaling the start of the group’s monthly meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 10354 in East El Paso March 8. Photos by Staff Sgt. Ricardo J. Branch, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs.

Humberto M. Nevarez, president, El Paso Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 574, salutes the flag, signaling the start of the group’s monthly meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 10354 in East El Paso March 8. Photos by Staff Sgt. Ricardo J. Branch, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs.

By Staff Sgt. Ricardo J. Branch, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs :

(El Paso, Texas, March. 16, 2017) Two veterans, one from World War II and the Korean War, and the other from the Vietnam War, struggled to keep their composure as they stood before the members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 574, in East El Paso March 8 and praised their country.

“Everyone who has served and still serves deserves to be recognized for their contributions while in the military,” said former Spc. Michael De La Rosa, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of an award certificate from the VVA. “It comes with a lot of sacrifice to wear the uniform.”

Both combat veterans, hailing from different parts of the country, came to the night’s event at the behest of the local VVA to honor them for their military service and for enduring some of the hardest fought wars in U.S. history.

Retired Staff Sgt. Ralph Moreno, right, a World War II and Korean War veteran, receives a certificate of appreciation award from Humberto M. Nevarez, president, El Paso Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 574, during an award presentation in East El Paso March 8.

Retired Staff Sgt. Ralph Moreno, right, a World War II and Korean War veteran, receives a certificate of appreciation award from Humberto M. Nevarez, president, El Paso Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 574, during an award presentation in East El Paso March 8.

“Serving back then was an interesting experience for me,” De La Rosa said. “In ‘Nam, you had to prove yourself pretty quickly after you arrived because you were the bottom of the totem pole … once you proved yourself and more people arrived, you were OK.”

De La Rosa, 65, from San Antonio, remembers why he enlisted in the Army and eventually fought for his country in Vietnam.

“I joined when I was just 17 years old,” he said. “I joined more so to get out of the house and see the world. I wanted to travel as much as I could, but the Army sent me to Germany, so I volunteered to go over to Vietnam and help out.”

The Vietnam veteran recalls one instance where he witnessed a CH-47 Chinook crash on a beach and didn’t think he’d be able to stand 46 years later to remark on the occasion.

“Me and a buddy saw the Chinook plunging down to the beach,” De La Rosa said. “We hopped on a wrecker and rushed over there to help anyone that might be hurt. When we got there, it was a lot of smoke, explosions, and people needing help … we were able to help those people that day.”

Staff Sgt. Ralph Moreno, who served during WWII also with the Army, echoed the sentiments of De La Rosa.

“When you are in combat, you need to help those people around you to accomplish the mission,” he said. “Serving your country is about giving more of yourself to make things happen.”

Moreno, 90, from El Paso, credits the military with giving him something he never had but only realized after he got out and joined others as a veteran.

“I got a lot of discipline from being a Soldier,” he said. “I remember being in basic training and hearing the corporals command such authority while they helped make people better Soldiers.”

As a young draftee, he credits that time as the moment he found what he wanted to do in life.

“I wanted to be a Soldier back then but didn’t know it just yet,” Moreno said. “Twenty-five years later, I had four children while in the Army, most of them have served and my grandchildren always say, ‘Grandpa, I want to be like you,’ so I think I did something alright.”

Approximately 50 people from the Vietnam Veterans, city of El Paso and Fort Bliss installation gathered in the local VFW post to witness the honors bestowed upon the two veterans.

Among the attendees was Vietnam War veteran, Humberto M. Nevarez, who remarked about the occasion and why it’s so special to keep honoring the troops that serve in America’s wars.

“For us Vietnam veterans, it’s really important to keep recognizing all the guys who fought in war,” Nevarez said. “During Vietnam, we all were never properly recognized for our sacrifices to our country, so it’s vital to support those who have been and still are in harm’s way.”

For more information on the Vietnam Veterans of America, visit the website at https://vva.org/ or call 346-9975 to speak to a member of the local 574 chapter.

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