Local News

Mar 17, 2014 10:34 PM by Janine Reyes

Military's Top Honor Delayed Decades Due to Heritage

CORPUS CHRISTI -- A Corpus Christi native will receive the military's highest honor in Washington D.C. tomorrow for his bravery in battle more than 44 years ago.

The delay is his heritage.

The medal of honor can only be received after fellow soldiers make the nomination.

Four decades ago, Green Beret Commander Master Sgt. Jose Rodela risked his life for his men and someone stepped up to recognize him, only it took decades and an Army investigation for him to get the award.

Rodela's family couldn't be more proud.

"I taught them how to organize their own special units, you know," Rodela said in an interview describing his time in Vietnam.

There's a lot Rodela won't say about his time there, but, one thing he openly admits is that his biggest honor was to serve beside his men.

Now that he's being awarded the biggest honor there is in the Army, the Medal of Honor, its obvious his men felt the same for him. The only way to earn this medal is by being nominated by witnesses who attest to your bravery.

His son will witness the special distinguishment on TV from his home in Corpus Christi.

"I've never seen him happy like that before, they even took him out to a Spurs game and put him out there on the court," he said, ""next to David Robinson."

It's red carpet treatment for an 18-hour battle that ended with 11 dead and 33 injured, including Rodela who battled gunfire to salvage his troops.

During his time in Vietnam, he recruited Cambodian and Vietnamese fighters. Albert Rodela says his dad planned to adopt a 12-year-old boy he'd taken in over there.

"He wanted to bring the boy back and I would have a had a brother here, a Vietnamese brother, but he stepped on a mine at night and he lost it and my dad still cries about it too," Rodela said.

Master Sgt. Rodela did not discriminate during his time in battle.

Ram Chavez, another service man who received a much delayed honor because of his heritage says that's a theme throughout hispanic service members.

"The Hispanic community is very humble, they just accept it and move on," Chavez explained.

In fact of the 24 being honored after the 12-year-long Army investigation, Rodela says, he is glad his dad is one who survived to enjoy it.

"That kind of broke my heart at first when I first heard about it, but still, he's still getting it so, I'm proud of him," Rodela told us.

Rodela has been awarded two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Army Congressional Medal of Honor.

Chavez has never met him, but hopes to invite him down to be honored by the community and to speak at an upcoming Vietnam Veteran event.

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