La Voz de Austin
AUSTIN, TX — During World War II, military recruiters went to the high school in Hebbronville, Texas. They found a number of young men who were willing to answer the call for dutry including, a 17 year old named, Benjamin Mendoza. With permission from his parents, Mendoza join the Army and was sent to Camp Roberts in California for 17 weeks of boot camp training.
Erica Ojeda, Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Benjamin Mendoza
Upon completion of boot camp, Mendoza and his fellow soldiers were put on a ship headed to the front lines when word came down that his father was seriously ill back in Texas. Mendoza was taken off the ship, given a one week leave of absence and a bus ticket to go see his father.
Mendoza’s father pulled through and he returned to California for deployment and was sent to New Guinea. But unknown to him at the time, was that the ship he was supposed to be on was sunk by the Japanese.
As the war moved to the Philippines, Mendoza recalled how he was in a foxhole when a mortar round exploded just above him. He said he crawled out of that fox hole with dirt in his mouth, eyes and ears and his head ringing. He didn’t notice the blood coming from the shrapnel wounds to his body.
When his Major saw him later at a base hospital he reminded him to fill out the forms to get his decorations. Mendoza replied, “Sir, with all due respect, I came here to help win a war. I didn’t come here trying to be a hero.”
The medals Congressman Lloyd Doggett helped to secure for Mr. Mendoza were destroyed in a fire that burned his house down. His daughter, Erica Ojeda , was the one who made the call to the Congressman asking for help.
The presentation of the Mr. Mendoza’s medals took place at Juan in a Million Restaurant in Austin, Texas on June 30, 2011.