Veterans of Foreign Wars Orange Post, Speaker Phelan honor last Mexican/American WWII Veteran

Published 12:20 am Friday, February 10, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Staff Sergeant Patrick Silva Aguilar was one of the oldest Mexican American World War II veterans in Southeast Texas.

Last year, on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, he passed away.

Several months later, on the morning of February 9, 2023, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Orange Post 2775 honored his memory.

Cole Michalk, Senior District Director for Dade Phelan, visited the VFW to gift an American flag to the family of Aguilar in recognition for his service to the nation. Along with the flag that was flown over the Texas state capital, he presented a house resolution penned by Speaker Phelan in honor of SSGT Aguilar’s service.

Cole Michalk, senior district director for Texas Speaker Dade Phelan, speaks with Patrick Glenn and Mary Aguilar. (Shari Hardin/Special to The Leader)

Michalk expressed the Speaker’s condolences to Aguilar’s family, and read the resolution.

“Unfortunately, Speaker Phelan could not be here today to present himself. We are in legislative session [88th], we will be there until the end of May [29th]. He is up in Austin, he sent me down here to make sure that I could honor SSG Aguilar and the family.”

The resolution reads in part: “Drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces in October 1942, he proudly served in the 9th [Army] Air force during WWII and was one of only two Mexican American members of his squadron. He helped provide support services to other units as Allied troops advanced across Europe and he ultimately obtained the rank of sergeant. When the war ended, he joined the Texas Air National Guard and was called to active duty during the Korean War rising to Staff Sergeant”

In attendance during the ceremony were Aguilar’s children: son Patrick Glenn, daughter Mary Aguilar and daughter Patricia Muñoz, who spoke on behalf of the family.

“The Patrick Aguilar family is truly honored for all that the VFW Auxiliary has done for us,” she said. “They contacted the patriot board and the VFW in Fort Polk and they sent a couple of their people in their uniforms. They were at the mass and they escorted my dad’s casket out of the church and they played Taps. Then the patriot guard escorted the hearse from the church to the cemetery. Mr. Joseph Akers, he just handled all of that. He was a big help, Mr. Akers and the Auxiliary.”

Joseph Akers, Lamar University PhD candidate, and Tish Hubert conducted interviews with Aguilar and his family in connection with academic research. Hubert is a U.S. Navy veteran and university student whose thesis explores Mexican American WWII veterans.

Aguilar’s family migrated from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 1916 and eventually made residence in Port Arthur.

Cole Michalk, senior district director for Texas Speaker Dade Phelan, stands by as Veterans of Foreign Wars Orange Post 2775 Commander James Seales speaks. (Shari Hardin/Special to The Leader)

When WWII began, Aguilar along with his brothers found themselves drafted into military service in defense of the nation. As a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, Aguilar served his country as a radio operator in support of pilot bombers and soldiers on the front lines.

VFW Post Commander James Seales remarked on the importance of soldiers like Aguilar and the people at home who supported them.

“For all the people who served, including the ones who supported us when we were in combat, it took five people that weren’t in the combat itself to support one combat troop in the field, so we honor all these people and honor all of them serving now,” Seales said.

During World War II, Aguilar played a vital role in supporting infantrymen and bombers. Army Air Corps radio operators were record keepers who logged the downing of planes, and they were first responders to wounded soldiers.

“He was the last Mexican American WWII veteran in SETX; that’s why we really have gone all out to pay our respects to him and his family,” Akers said. “I find it truly a blessing. Everybody helps everybody. It doesn’t matter race, creed, religion.”

The Orange VFW is open to all veterans.

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2775 is located at 5303 N. 16th street in Orange.

It is a community service organization that exists to help the brotherhood of veterans and the wider community. Community involvement includes participation in the annual Orange County Blue Santa program, volunteerism with Boy Scout troops, scholarships for middle and high school students and visits to local school districts.

Services for veterans and their families include peer-to-peer support, assistance with healing of trauma or “whatever their needs are.”

For more information regarding the VFW Orange Post 2775, reach their organization through social media, or call 409-886-9738.

— Written by Shari Hardin