At the end of the Second World War, many veterans just wanted to get home. Pedro “Pete” Cortez of Dos Palos was one of those veterans, and in his hurry to get back on American soil, he missed receiving medals he was due as part of the occupation of Japan after the war.
On Saturday, U.S. Congressman Jim Costa of California’s 16th District rectified that error, presenting Cortez with the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Japan Clasp and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, World War II. Costa also presented to Cortez a flag that flew over the United States Capitol Building.
“A lot of these guys didn’t want to spend another day on foreign soil,” said Roy Hart of the American Legion Post 86, which presented an honor guard for the ceremony at the Dos Palos Veterans Memorial at Marks Elementary School, which he said is the only veterans memorial in the country on the grounds of a school. “They wanted to get home, they didn’t want to wait around for a medal ceremony. His daughter recognized that he didn’t have them and asked Mr. Costa to help.
“...Mr. Costa was instrumental in researching what medals he deserved.”
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Cortez, born in Comstock, Texas in 1927, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1946 and was assigned to the 92nd Air Base Group, part of the occupation forces in Japan. He was a heavy equipment operator with a carbine sharpshooter qualification, and was honorably discharged in 1949. After his service, Cortez went into agriculture at Newhall Land & Farming until 1975, when he went into a farming partnership with Gary Brooks until his retirement.
Costa asked the father of six, grandfather of 18, great-grandfather of 21 and great-great-grandfather of two if he wanted to say anything, but he chose only to say “Thank you” with a smile on his face, bringing smiles and tears to the faces of his family.
“Sorry it took so long, Pete, to do the right thing,” Costa told him, “but we thank you now.”