The late grandfather of Texas state Rep. Marisa Marquez [was] honored today during the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Fort Bliss Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard [presented] Pvt. Juan C. Marquez's World War II medals, including the Purple Heart, to his family during a ceremony at Costello Hall on Fort Bliss.
"We're very honored that not just any soldier will be presenting the medals, but that Maj. Gen. Pittard will be the one to present them," said Tony Marquez, Juan Marquez's oldest son. "I'm sure my dad will be smiling from above."
The ceremony is being conducted today to coincide with the 71st anniversary of the attack that killed 2,400 Americans and wounded an additional 1,100 at the naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The attack caused President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim the day as "a date which will live in infamy," and led to the United States involvement in World War II.
According to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, only a few thousand survivors of the attack are still alive.
Juan Marquez was a rifleman in the Army from 1944 to 1945. He died in a car crash three years after being discharged.
As a member of the 44th Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, 71st Infantry Regiment, Juan Marquez was wounded in action on Dec. 11, 1944, near Woelfling, France.
"He was hit by a German tank in France," Tony Marquez said.
Juan Marquez returned to El Paso on July 20, 1945, and was killed in a car accident on Aug. 29, 1948.
In Juan Marquez's discharge papers, it was mentioned that he had earned the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, European/African/Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon and two Bronze Stars. However, he was never presented with the medals before he died.
"My dad was a very humble man," Tony Marquez said. "The medals were never pursued, and yet here he was owed two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart."
Juan Marquez had four sons, including Ricardo Marquez, Marisa Marquez's father, who was 8 months old at the time, and Tony Marquez, who was 9 when his father died.
Juan Marquez's two other sons, Carlos Marquez and David Marquez, are dead.
Tony Marquez, an El Paso dentist, said his family's success is because of his father.
"Being presented with his medals is kind of a capping to a very busy life I've had, and we all owe our family's success to the genes from my dad," Tony Marquez said. "He would have been so proud of us."
Juan Marquez was a patriot, his oldest son said, because he had the option to live in Mexico when he was drafted into the Army.
"He could have stayed in Mexico and not reported," Tony Marquez said. "But my dad was a proud citizen, and he was proud to serve."
Marisa Marquez said it is a surreal feeling because she considers her grandfather a hero, even though she never met him.
"It's very much a legend," she said. "There isn't very much memory for my family. My dad was 8 months old and his oldest brother was 9."
The state representative said 20 to 25 members of her family will attend.
"It's very special for our generation, but for my father and brother it means so much more," Marisa Marquez said. "All our cousins share his name, but my dad and uncle were his sons."
Aside from her family ties to World War II, Marisa Marquez said, Pearl Harbor Day is important to El Paso because of its history with Fort Bliss and the military.
"It's a testament to honoring that generation," she said. "World War II vets mean so much to us and we need to remember them. There are so few, and sometimes it is like they are forgotten."
The number of World War II veterans in El Paso is declining. In October, WWII veteran Angel Romero died of natural causes, causing some of his fellow veterans to reflect on the era's importance.
"There is a special comradeship between World War II veterans, and we realize that our ranks are getting smaller," Bob Chisolm said at the funeral. "We realize that in five or more years we might all be gone."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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