In the coarse of Military History, there have been many great men who
have given unselfishly of themselves towards
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Among them is this year's
Honorary Veteran. This is our first Memorial Day Tribute, it is our hope
that we have accomplished to honor not only Mr. Antonio Ortegon SR. but
also the millions of other Veterans who have sacrificed much so that we
can have this day to Honor them in the very Liberty for which they
Antonio Ortegon served for three years as an
Air Force Engineer, entering service on March 25, 1943. He served in the
Philippine Islands where under hostile enemy fire, together with other
men, constructed much needed landing airstrips. After the war ended, Mr.
Ortegon along with at least four more Laredoans and many others were
left behind in the Island of Guam. These heroic warriors were left to
fend for themselves as best they could. Their initial friendly relations
with the Island's Natives is perhaps what saved them from a doomed and tragic
eat what-ever we could find and our clothing after many washings deteriorated
into shreds of clothing because of the corrosive nature of
the salt water with which we washed them", one of many stories told
to me by my father, recalled Alejandro
one of his sons; his proud mother and brother Andres attentively
listening, as if reliving the many horror stories Antonio must have
confided to them. The Island natives taught them how to dress using
banana leaves and how to survive eating what the Jungle produced.
"The natives would eat the monkeys and other animal meat raw"
recalled Andres, gesturing with his mouth as if he had tasted something
ufly bitter or rancid. According to another story, my father and others
would teach them in return for their generosity, how to cook the meat
using fire. Fire was one commodity that was hard to find according
Alejandro. The bugs perhaps were the hardest to accustomed to but the
pangs of hunger made them a delicacy after a while. So when they were
fortunate enough to eat the "carnitas" whether it was monkey
or lizards, it was a real "fieston" added Alejandro with a
huge smile made even bigger by his mustache. "So every time we make
carne asada, it brings back bitter-sweet memories of mi viejo lindo"
, added Antonio's wife Maria Alejandra.
The men were finally rescued off the Island but not before enduring many
hardships. By this time their skin pressed hard against their ribs. But
they were proud Americans and would do it all over again and that is why
we honor them today.
Antonio is survived by his wife Maria Alejandra, sons Alejandro, Andres,
Reynaldo, Arturo, Antonio Jr., daughters Angelita and Ana Maria.