Victoria man receives second highest Air Force medal 59 years after earning it during Korean War
June 16, 2010 at 1:16 a.m.
"Little Lupe" Rendon has received a big honor, one long overdue.
Last fall, Guadalupe Rendon, who was dubbed with the nickname because of his diminutive stature since his school days in Victoria, finally received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal he earned in 1951 during the Korean War.
The Air Force's second highest medal, normally awarded to high-ranking officers, came to Rendon in the mail after he contacted U.S. Congressman Ron Paul's office for assistance
"I was really surprised," Rendon, 81, said from his office at Security Loan Company that he has owned since 1962. "According to an article in Stars & Stripes back then, I was supposed to be put up for a citation, but this is a citation way beyond my expectations."
Rendon, who also owns and operates L.A. Detailing, was not aware of the honor until he got his long-lost discharge papers.
"It finally got to the point, being my age, I wondered about my discharge papers," he said.
He went to the local Veteran Administration's representative and found out that the original paperwork had been lost in a fire.
According to a letter he received from the National Personnel Records Center, records from 1912 through 1959 for people with the last names beginning with H through Z were lost in a fire in 1973.
Someone suggested Rendon check at the county courthouse and it was there he found a copy of his discharge papers. The papers indicated that he was to be awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.
"I'd never heard of anyone receiving that medal, but it was in there," said the graduate of Patti Welder High School.
Rendon then turned to Paul for assistance and in September, received the medals through the mail.
He vividly recalls the incident during the war that garnered him the attention worthy of such a high honor.
"It was a typical day," said Rendon, who was working as an air traffic controller at Kimpo Airfield near Seoul in 1951. "In between landings of flights from Kimpo, we started getting planes that were short on fuel from other bases and from aircraft carriers."
"I had to change flight patterns to coordinate the slower planes with the jets, the bigger planes and the smaller planes," he said. "I didn't think anything about it until it was written up a couple of days later in the Stars & Stripes."
What the article said was that Rendon had helped 94 airplanes land and takeoff without an accident in 40 minutes. Thirty percent of those planes were considered to be low on fuel.
"The way I look at it now, that 30 percent were in dire need of somewhere to land or they would have crashed somewhere," said Rendon.
Rendon said he has some regrets about not receiving the medal while still in the Air Force. He spent another year in the military after leaving Korea and said no mention was ever made of that medal or the others he earned.
He also received the Army of Occupation Medal and Korean Service Medal. Records indicate he is also due a Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal and United Nations Service Medal.
"That really hurts," he said. "I could have used it to back up my credentials to maybe get a promotion. Maybe I would have stayed in the service."
But Rendon is thrilled to have received such a high honor.
"I was only an Airman First Class. It's unbelievable I was entitled to it," he said. "That's what makes it even better, to be considered for doing your job the way it should be done."