Congressman awards medals to widow of WWII soldier
April 27, 2011 at 9:04 p.m.
Updated April 26, 2011 at 11:27 p.m.
GOLIAD - Esmel G. Rubio's World War II medals rested clasped between four hands before his widow lifted the awards to her lips for a kiss.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa placed the decorations one-by-one in the palms of Rubio's wife of 42 years, Neurania Rubio, at a ceremony in the couple's old La Bahia Restaurant on Wednesday night.
"I stand before you in admiration of a soldier who put his life on the line for all of us," Hinojosa told the crowd of local leaders, family and friends gathered in the back banquet hall of the restaurant. "On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind."
Better known as E.G., the Army veteran had never received the medals he'd earned 66 years earlier during his service in central Europe.
While his family planned the medal ceremony with the congressman, Rubio's health deteriorated. Fearing he may die before receiving the recognition due for his sacrifice, the family showed him the medals in December.
Rubio died Jan. 19 at the age of 85.
"I'm sure he's around here and very happy," his wife said Wednesday night.
Attendees said the set-up at the restaurant, which the couple owned for 42 years, was quintessential Rubio.
American flags rested on sprawling white tablecloths and patriotic patterns added a backdrop to photos and memorabilia from Rubio's life in Goliad.
Those who knew him said Rubio never stopped serving his country and community since enlisting at the age of 17. He was a member of the Goliad school board, the Lion's Club, the Knights of Columbus and the General Ignacio Zaragoza Society, among other things.
Rubio voted for the last time in the November election.
"Mr. Rubio was a patriotic American who deserves to be honored for answering the call to duty," Hinojosa said. "We are united in saying that every person who returns from war deserves all the care and dignity that this nation can bestow."
Rubio's wife teared up when she spoke of how much more she learned at the end of the life of her husband, who never spoke of his experience in the war.
"I'm so very proud of him," she said. "I also want to tell all the soldiers that I am very proud of what you are doing or did for this country to keep us alive."
She said her husband, though humble, wouldn't have been that surprised by the medal ceremony anyway. She was always surprising him, like the party she threw for his 80th birthday.
"I tried my best to be a good wife because he was the best husband. He was a good father," she said.