AUSTIN (KXAN) – As most of us get ready to head into the 4th of July weekend, a weekend to celebrate our independence, one Austin veteran is finally being recognized for his efforts during World War II.
“Right now I’m afraid to say I’m 86 years old,” said Benjamin Mendoza, WWII Vet.
Mendoza has seen a lot in his 86 years. He spent 27 of them in the Army. For three years during World War II he fought in the Philippines, New Guinea, and Guam.
“I spent 180 days in continuous combat,” said Mendoza.
He suffered from malaria and often questioned whether he would survive.
“We ran out of ammunition, food, and water,” said Mendoza.
While his efforts overseas were highlighted in the newspaper they went virtually unrecognized by the military.
“I was in a medical tent and I didn’t sign any forms, I wanted the war to get over with and get out of there. You don’t think about medals, you don’t think about anything,” said Mendoza.
And he continued to not think anything about it until he started telling old war stories to his family and displaying some of his war memorabilia on the wall.
“Here you have not just my dad but a guy who did all these things in the military and we never knew about it,” said Erica Ojeda, Mendoza’s Daughter.
But when Mendoza’s home burned to the ground in February and what military memorabilia he did have perished in the fire, his daughter Erica contacted Congressman Lloyd Doggett to figure out what happened to his military medals.
“Apparently they were with his separation documents back when he left the military but were some how not provided to him,” said Congressman Lloyd Doggett.
After waiting nearly six decades, the Congressman presented Mendoza with his well deserved medals during a ceremony at Juan In A Million in East Austin Thursday.
“We have a wall full or table full of presentations to make to you,” said Doggett.
Mendoza received not one, not two, but 11 medals for his service.
“And of particular importance his bronze star medal for serving,” said Doggett.
“To see him this happy, that’s what we wanted,” said Ojeda.
“I feel that my mission has been accomplished,” said Mendoza.
Mr. Mendoza is still waiting to receive the Purple Heart.
Congressman Doggett’s office said they are working on it.