“Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.” – Wallace Bruce
Here’s Joe’s Story
My grandfather Joe B. Montoya served in the Army from 1944 – 1959. He passed away in 1983 when my mother was age 17 and still, to my disbelief, she’ll mention her father was not recognized by the government when she inquired about burial benefits at the time of his death. My mother wrote letters to various branches including the Army and Coast Guard since some of his service photos he wore the uniform of a Merchant Marine, but there were no voyage records made by this man. After his death, several of the sisters went to the VA in Los Angeles, California to locate his medical records where he was treated after a broken leg but no records were found there either. After his death, the garage in their California home burned down along with the military records Joe saved. Yet, the occurrence of unfortunate “fiery” events just began.
My grandfather’s service records, along with 18 million other service member records from 1912 to 1964 were burned in the 1973 St. Louis Missouri National Personnel Records Center, also known as the National Archives Center, so proving his service was problematic. Records were lost, scorched and erased from history.
Time was ticking, people requested his military documentation and he needed to be buried. Due to limited time and inadequate proof of service, he was laid to rest in a private cemetery – with no veteran recognition. That’s a tough pill to swallow. No recognition? Well, approximately 4 years after his death the government produced material of his service and sent my mom an official U.S. flag in his memory. One could only imagine, this was the news they wanted to hear for years; however, the opportunity to honor him when he deserved it most passed decades ago. During my college years, I’d visit grandpa Joe and my grandmother Mary their gravesite but in my heart, I always knew something more was needed to be done for him, the mission was not complete.
I found my grandfather forged his birth certificate since he was 16 at the time when the enlistment age was 18, provided a fictitious name among and his aunt pretended to be his mother at the enlistment office because his mother did not consent to him joining during wartime. My grandfather was CPL. in the 26th Regiment “Blue Spader” of the 1st Division during WWII.
After exhausting many leads, calls, and faxes to the VA; finally, in December 2019 the VA recently awarded my family with a US Army veteran medallion to be placed on his headstone along with a Presidential Memorial Certificate signed by the 45th President of the United States. Come June 14th, 2020 the Veterans of Foreign Wars San Dimas will honor Joe Bennie Montoya with a final salute with friends, family, and the community.
As an heir to a Blue Spader and someone whose career is in hospital administration, it is my obligation to my country and our veterans is to stand ready to serve them when they need medical treatment. I am on a mission to honor these brave men and women and their families to tell their stories on my Testimonials page so that gallant stories of honor, courage, sacrifice, and allegiance to our flag can be told for many generations to come. The Patriot Mason will always honor this American hero and the ultimate sacrifice he made to this country for our freedom.
Thank you for your service, grandpa.
Gone but never forgotten