Carlos Guerra from the San Antonio Express-News wrote about his appreciation for his Tio Beto. Of course, we all know Ken Burns didn’t show any love for Chicano/Latino vets. Taking a page from Carlos’ stylebook, I have a WWII Tio to celebrate, as well. My Tio Pedro (Pete) Teran of Crystal City. Although this post is about Tio Pete, I must mention other WWII vets in the family, like Pete’s brothers Alfredo and Abraham, as well as my mom’s big brother, Rodolfo.
At 86, Tio Pete is still kickin’, although we’ve had a few scares these last few years. Still active and always a proud Vet, he was recognized earlier this year by Congressman Ciro Rodriguez for his many years of service as Historian for the Melecio Ortiz Post of the American Legion (photo above). He has also been one of those Vets that has been there to honor other Veteranos, either at funerals or during National holidays.
Tio Pete served in the Navy during WWII, having seen action in the Phillippines and other Pacific Islands. Being the history buff that I am, my main “failure” has been never getting him to talk about his experiences during the war. What we do know is that he was one of many who served in the Pacific Islands who was finally recognized for his service back in the 80s during the Reagan Administration. Still, war is ugly and I cannot blame him for not wanting to say much.
What we do know is that he has always been a family man. He and my Aunt Quina raised three daughters and two sons–all of them great kids who have done much to impact South Texas as long-time educators. Always a hard-worker, he retired from a local company which manufactured those huge gun and bank safes, as well as other steelworks. And he has enjoyed his retirement all these years, visiting relatives, and always hanging out with his friends at the downtown Gazebo in front of the HEB, or at a local convenience store where all the retirees enjoy the all-you-can drink coffee (and the all-you-can-say conversation/chisme).
Always the comedian, I live for every visit I make to Cristal because it never fails. Soon after arriving, Tio sits next to me and rattles off 8 to 10 jokes within a few minutes. The laughter never stops, whether it’s jokes or just remembering something funny that occured within the family.
I also remember Tio Pete for always being there for my family. In fact, he was right there with my mom at the hospital when my dad passed away, ensuring mom wasn’t by herself while she waited for our arrival from the cities in which we lived. And throughout much of the 17 years since my dad’s passing, he would visit the graves of all his relatives, ensuring they were visible and clean.
And he’s been there for so many others. Why he never ran for office is beyond me, but he would have made a great politician!
So, while Ken Burns didn’t even try to find these stories, the bottom line is that they do exist. Always a proud American, a proud voter, and yes, a proud Mexicano, Tio Pete Teran is part of our American History. And as Carlos mentions about his uncle and other WWI Vets:
I owe them all because they are why I am where I am, and I will never forget it.