Friday, February 27, 2009

Heroes Walk the Halls of Palo Alto College

Purple Heart Recipient—Dr. Dan Rodriguez, Director of Student Activities (L), presents Army Specialist Jose L. Montanez, a PAC student, with a Veterans Day memento, Nov. 11, 2008. Montanez was awarded his second Purple Heart Medal during a ceremony held at Brooke Army Medical Center, Feb. 17.


Heroes Walk the Halls of Palo Alto College

By Vincent Bosquez

For more than 225 years, our nation’s armed forces have served as the world’s premier “force-in-readiness.” Each November, Americans around the world take time to honor its military service members by remembering the sacrifices of veterans who have fought so gallantly in times of war and have served so faithfully in times of peace.

The legacy of our military’s veterans has produced a solid foundation upon which today’s Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen can march forward and add their names to the courageous deeds history books have recorded from past wars.

While Veterans Day only comes once a year, we are fortunate at Palo Alto College to be reminded on a daily basis that there are those among us who have answered our Nation’s call for service in “every clime and place” by exceeding all expectations of military service and coming home as true American heroes. More than 400 veterans currently take courses at PAC, and I’m proud of every single one of them.

One veteran I would like to bring to your attention is Army Specialist Jose L. Montanez, a pre-nursing student at Palo Alto College. Specialist Montanez was awarded his second Purple Heart in a ceremony at Brooke Army Medical Center by Brigadier General James K. Gilman, Commanding General, Great Plains Regional Medical Command, Feb. 17.

Specialist Montanez was assigned to Bravo Company, 40th Engineer Battalion, 1st Armor Division, serving as a combat medic in Iraq. On Sept. 25, 2006, while treating a fellow soldier, an improvised explosive device exploded near him resulting in combat injuries. SPC Montanez required hospitalization and received a medical discharge as a result of his injuries. Although SPC Montanez requires the use of a cane to get around campus, his injuries have not slowed down his determination to earn a degree and continue to serve the community he loves in the medical profession.

As SPC Montanez will attest to, no one really goes into war with the intent of being labeled a hero. There aren’t any special training courses one can take, no secret military job specialty, no magic pill or background traits that solely prepares a select few for such lofty a title. Most times, it’s simply “the luck of the draw,” and the determination not to let a buddy down.

During my 23-years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, I saw young men and women, the majority of them who looked like the students I see every day on campus, transformed into the finest fighting force in the world. They, like SPC Montanez, go beyond the call of duty because they want to make a positive impact in their life and in the lives of others. Not everything they do is “great,” but then great things aren’t always needed. It’s taking care of the little things, or your buddy, that counts.

When America needs a hero, it doesn’t need to look beyond its military and her veterans. I know, for I have proudly served with them and continue to meet them as they walk the halls of Palo Alto College every day. Thank you SPC Montanez and the more than 400 military veterans who are now students at PAC for your service. Your duty and commitment to our Nation will not be forgotten.