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Corina M. Avila

Marine Corps veteran

Nov. 6, 2012 - 01:22PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 6, 2012 - 01:22PM  |  
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Jose Luis Salazar graduated high school in 1967 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on March 28, 1968. Joe was one of 11 siblings who grew up in a lower-income neighborhood in Corpus Christi, Texas, that is notorious for its high crime rate. Joe was not the only young man from Molina that the brutal Vietnam War would eventually reap. My mother Lydia and my uncle Joe were very close. Joe was a proud, determined Hispanic man who always fought for what he believed in. He never let my mother forget that she needed to be strong and courageous when she dealt with bullies in school. In a high school where race wars among Hispanics and African-Americans were a weekly occurrence, a timid and quiet student like my mother could and at times did fall victim to violence. "Don't let them walk all over you Lydia! You have to stand up for yourself. They don't own us," Joe would exclaim to my worrisome mother. Soon after Joe's deployment to Vietnam, my mother had to quit school and get a job to help her parents with the bills. Joe firmly stated in his letters that he would help with the finances so that my mother could return to school. In the middle of a Vietnam jungle with danger lurking in every dark corner, my uncle was still concerned about family problems that were worlds away. With Joe's help, my mother went back to school and graduated. My uncle, the original warrior of my family, planted a seed so deep that it would end up spreading its beauty and truth across time and space nearly a decade before I was born. Joe's courage, strength and, most of all, his patriotism are traits I have attempted to emulate through my years of service in the Marine Corps and now in the United States Border Patrol. To say his blood runs through my veins is an understatement. Joe served as a beacon of light that would lead me out of darkness to find my true calling. The mine that eventually claimed the life of my uncle on June 20, 1969, has created thousands of "what ifs" in my life. I see his face in my other uncles and my 4-year old nephew, who all resemble him so closely. I feel his presence at every ceremony at Molina Veterans Park, where a monument stands etched with his name and the names of seven other young men from Molina who never made it back from Vietnam. I have never met my uncle and yet, he did not just inspire me to serve my country, he shaped my destiny. My mother has told me that she still doesn't know how I was able to overcome all the hardships that come with serving my country. I know Jose's boots are hard to fill, but with his constant presence, how could I not?

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