A military family received a special honor this Memorial Day weekend. A World War II veteran was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.
The man of honor, Army PFC Raul Herrera Sr., passed away in 1992. His son accepted the medal at a ceremony on Saturday morning.
Family members say that it was humility that delayed the award presentation more than 70 years after Herrera’s combat injury.
“My uncle, he never brought it up,” Col. Rojelio Herrera Jr. said. “Only after he died and my dad was doing some reminiscing and researching did he find that, in fact, [Raul Herrera] was entitled to have the Purple Heart awarded."
Family members from across the United States gathered in San Antonio to witness the presentation in memory of the World War II hero.
Herrera’s military legacy is now complete. While he died in 1992, the family wanted to honor his memory by making sure he received the award.
“It was something we wanted to do for the family,” said his brother, SMSgt. Rojelio Herrera Sr. “Looking back on things, that’s the way Raul would want it. He [did not want] to be in the limelight at all.”
Researching his brother's time in the Army, SMSgt. Herrera Sr. discovered Raul had been wounded during the war. While in Italy in 1944, the private faced enemy fire while delivering much-needed supplies and ammunition to his fellow soldiers. He sprinted through dangerous territory multiple times to secure the items.
"He got wounded in the hand. We're not sure how bad because he went to an aid station or he got treated and he continued on, never left the unit," Col. Rojelio Herrera Jr. explained.
The honor was commemorated on Memorial Day weekend by a predominantly military family. Their passion for service has been passed down through the generations. Many in attendance attribute their commitment to the armed forces thanks to the honoree’s father. The spark many family members think was also what led to Raul risking his life that day in Italy.
"It was something that my dad deserved,” said Raul Herrera Jr., himself a Vietnam veteran. “And to know that the system works and that he finally got it is very rewarding. I wish he were actually here.”