The Journey Continues: Richard V. 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 at the same time. As we sat on the bench in front of the memorial, a sweet little girl from the family approached to say, “Thank you for your service — it made our day.
During our discussion, I quickly learned that Cruz 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 same ham and lima beans c-rations, discussed the same exposure to Agent Orange, felt the 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.
Cruz, a “BISM” — born in San Marcos — and San Marcos High School graduate in the class of 1965, was drafted in 1966 and served as 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, Cruz returned to San Marcos and followed his interest in data automation and key punch.
“Everything fell into place,” Cruz said. He accepted a job with Southwest Texas’ — Now Texas State University — computer operations. Later, he graduated with a B.A. in his field and went on to become head computer operator for Computer Services at SWT. He retired after 39 years of service to the university.
Cruz, 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 years of organizing and inspiring others in Hays County before the Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 2003. The finished memorial is beautiful and brings peace to many.
In a speech 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 many civic positions. A private man at heart, he shared his life verse.
“Lo, I am with you always.”
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 Cruz, for your service to the nation and Hays County.