Crossroads veterans remembered in Wall of Honor (video)
Dec. 27, 2012 at 6:27 a.m.
Updated Dec. 28, 2012 at 6:28 a.m.
His once jet-black hair has transformed into a distinguished silver over his 67 years.
He walks slower than he did as a young man, and his battle with brain cancer has damaged his ability to speak.
But Manuel Rivera, a Vietnam War veteran, will always be a soldier, said friend and veteran Juan Medellin.
"He is a friend, but here we are all brothers. In the military, we are all brothers," Medellin said.
Which is why Medellin worked tirelessly to make one of Rivera's dreams come true when he learned Rivera was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer in August.
And Dec. 20, Medellin unveiled a "Wall of Honor" at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post designed by his daughter, Pearl Gonzales, and funded by Compadres Ink and Platinum Properties.
The boards hanging on the VFW wall are covered in designs from the United States military and are meant for families to hang pictures and information about veterans and current servicemen and women.
Rivera, who had been trying to get a Wall of Honor accomplished before he started chemotherapy in Houston, was overcome by the surprise Thursday night, clutching Medellin in a tight hug and battling tears.
"It's beautiful. It was beautiful to see that look in his eyes," Medellin said, watching Rivera examine the wall.
Rivera said it is necessary to remember all veterans and the sacrifices they have made. He hopes a memorial for area servicemen and women will help keep their memories alive.
"I'll never forget those years I was in the Army," Rivera said, eyes gazing into the distance, seeming to see past the walls of the VFW post in Victoria and into a land and time far away. "Especially Vietnam - you can't forget that. I don't talk about it, but not a day doesn't go by that I don't think about Vietnam in one way or the other."
The first picture pinned on the wall was of Rivera from 1969 when he first joined the Army, along with a news article about his service.