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Family elated by vetís honors decades after war
SIERRA VISTA Herald/Review ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 01/10/2010 7:07:02 AM PST by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — Stunned. That’s the word used by Larry Chavez to describe his feelings at a Saturday morning ceremony to honor his late father, a soldier who served in combat during World War II.

It was a simple, short ceremony that was years in the making, remembering Pfc. Mack Chavez, who began his Army service in November 1942 and ended them in September 1945.

On the stage of the Fitch Auditorium in Alvardo Hall were the late soldier’s son and Col. Michael Joiner, the chief of staff of the Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca. On the large screen was a photo of the soldier in his World War II uniform.

Of Mack Chavez, Joiner said he is one of the number of World War II veterans who have declined — the former soldier died in 1993 — “and we are presented with fewer opportunities to celebrate their bravery.”

It took nearly 65 years after Mack Chavez left the Army and nearly two decades after his death for the awards he earned to be presented.

“Today, Mack’s son, Larry Chavez, will accept those awards on Mack’s behalf,” Joiner said.

Framed for presentation were a Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the Honorable Service Label Button, commonly called the ruptured duck and presented to all who served during World War II once they left service.

Before presenting them to the soldier’s son, the colonel made a comment to the many family members, who came to the ceremony from Arizona, California and New Mexico, saying it was a “personal and professional honor” for him to officiate.

Speaking for the family, Larry Chavez said for years, he and others tried to have the person being honored talk about his military service.

Once he returned to Arizona and settled again in Springerville, all his father wanted to do was to continue with his life and enjoy family and playing music, the son remarked.

When he found out that his father was authorized some medals, and not knowing which ones, the son said he tried to entice his father to apply for them.

But his father told him, “That’s a done deal. No sense rehashing it,” speaking of his war experiences.

Many experiences

According to a short biography read by Joiner about his World War II service, Mack Chavez served in the 1st Battalion, 415th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division — the Timberwolves — and was in combat for 195 consecutive days.

His combat experience included liberating towns in France and Holland and capturing towns in Germany, Joiner said.

Mack Chavez also witnessed the largest Allied bombing campaign during the war, took part in house-to-house fighting in the capture of a major industrial complex north of Cologne, Germany, fought in a defensive campaign during the Battle of the Bulge and liberated a concentration camp that also was a key construction facility for V-2 rockets, the colonel commented.

Saying his father was low-keyed and closed-mouth about his time in the Army, the son said no matter how much gentle pushing was done, he would not speak about those days.

Even one night when Larry Chavez showed up, as he said, “with a fifth of Jim Beam,” that did not loosen his father’s tongue, Larry Chavez said, as the audience laughed.

It took the dedication of relatives, help from Sen. John McCain and his staff and Army officials at many levels to lead to the official honors, the son said.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’m stunned by the ceremony. Thank you,” the son said.

KEYWORDS: arizona; awards; fthuachuca; vet; wwii

1 posted on 01/10/2010 7:07:03 AM PST by SandRat
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To: SandRat

Hand salute!

2 posted on 01/10/2010 8:09:27 AM PST by pabianice
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