RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
On the eve of Veterans Day, leaders and members of the Randolph community had the opportunity to thank and present the Purple Heart medal to a World War II veteran for wounds he sustained 63 years ago.
Former Army Air Forces Cpl. Hilario L. Riojas of Karnes City, Texas, received his Purple Heart from the commander of the 12th Flying Training Wing, Col. Jacqueline Van Ovost in the Clark Rotunda of Randolph's landmark "Taj Mahal."
In a ceremony surrounded by friends, family and numerous military members, he was awarded the Purple Heart he should have received when he separated from the service in November 1946.
In the winter of 1945, Corporal Riojas sustained shrapnel wounds from enemy artillery fire in the Rhineland Campaign, known as the last great "stand-up fight of the second World War. Corporal Riojas was only one of eight out of 50 in his unit to survive the battle.
"We never gave up, we fought hard and you should never give up," said Mr. Riojas, addressing the crowd.
He was given a rousing, extended standing ovation as he stood before those gathered after receiving his medal.
"Today we have the amazing opportunity to honor one of our World War II Veterans, a member of the "Greatest Generation," said Colonel Van Ovost. "Honoring people like Corporal Riojas is, simply put, awe-inspiring. He endured the horrible conditions of war, bravely fought the enemy and then returned to the U.S. to live the life of a quiet hero.
"On this Veterans Day, let us remember and honor all those who have served, for they are true heroes," said Colonel Van Ovost.