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 fought. 

     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 end.  

     "We would 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.




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