Richard Cruz

The Journey Continues -- Richard Cruz

     Veterans often wear baseball-type caps representing the war they fought in; or sometimes the units where they served. This was the case last Tuesday when I met Richard V. Cruz for an interview at the Hays County Veterans Memorial --- we both wore our 25th Infantry caps. A family of seven from San Antonio were viewing the Memorial. As we sat on the bench in front of the memorial, a sweet little girl from the family approached to softly say, “Thank you for your service.” This made our day!

     During our discussion, I quickly learned that Richard and I had both served in Vietnam with sister battalions of the 35th Infantry Regiment at the same time —1966 --- and at the same locations. We probably flew in the same helicopters, hated the ‘ham and lima beans’ c-rations, discussed the same exposure to Agent Orange, and felt the same cold nights in the highlands. We fought the same enemy in both the Central Highlands and in the Duc Pho/Mo Duc areas and lamented together the loss of our fallen comrades. Veterans share a camaraderie and feel the warmth of brotherhood when we meet. I always say, ‘I know your heart’ due to our unique military experiences.

     A born in San Marcos (BISM) and San Marcos high school graduate, Class of 1965, Richard Cruz was drafted in 1966 and served as a squad leader in an infantry rifle company in combat in Vietnam. He earned a Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Purple Heart (he still has grenade fragments in his right eyeball and right leg). Departing the service, Richard returned to San Marcos and followed his interest in data automation and key punch. He said, “Everything fell into place,” as he accepted a job with SWT’s computer operations. Later, he graduated with a B.A. in his field and went on to become Head Computer Operator for Computer Services at Texas State (SWT). He retired after 39 years of service to the University.

     His leadership and the Hays County Veterans Memorial are synonymous. His war cry to challenge this county to build a memorial was: “Without names, there can be no memories; without memories, there can be no past; without past, there can be no future.” Beginning in 1997, it took eight years of organizing and inspiring others in Hays County before the 2003 dedication. The finished memorial is beautiful and brings peace to many. In one speech, Richard V. Cruz said: “Our intent in creating this memorial and remembering deceased veterans is neither to advocate nor denounce all wars. We should keep in mind that the power is not in remembering wars, but in remembering the people who gave their lives so that this nation would not parish from this earth.”

     Richard and Estella Pavia Cruz are parents of three children and members of St. John Catholic Church. Cruz is a community leader and has served in many civic positions. A private man at heart, he shared his favorite or “life” verse is “Lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). As we left the memorial, I recalled a quote, “the blood of our fallen stains the hearts of their loved ones and comrades-in-arms.” They are not forgotten. Thank you, Richard, for your service to the Nation and Hays County.