PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Family and friends are mourning the loss of a man who was the longest-living Mexican-American World War II veteran in the Southeast Texas area
Staff Sergeant Patrick Aguilar died Wednesday, December 14, 2022. Those who knew him described him as a, "humble man who loved his family and served his country when he was called."
(Editor's note: The above video is from a November 21, 2021 newscast about Aguilar.)
A visitation for SSgt Aguilar will be held Sunday, December 18, 2022 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Clayton Thompson funeral home in Groves. A full veteran's procession will be held Monday, December 19, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Port Arthur.
Related: 'A country that wrote them off' | Researchers say history books omit Mexican American soldiers' contribution to Allies' WWII victory
On Veteran's Day in 2021, Joseph Akers, who is a history teacher, CJ Delgado, who is a Lamar University Student, Tishia Hubert, who is a graduate student, along with Lamar University honored Aguilar as the last living Mexican American who served in World War II.
"World War II veterans are fewer and fewer among us to tell the tale, and SSGT Aguilar's stories are one of many we were able to put to paper and memorialize," Hubert said.
When 12News last spoke to Akers, Hubert and Delgado, they were attempting to rewrite a history that they believe wrote Mexican-American soldiers out. Their muse was SSgt Patrick Aguilar.
SSgt Aguilar served in the Ninth Air Force. His story begins in San Antonio, where he was born in a boxcar on St. Patrick’s Day in 1923.
His parents migrated from San Luis Potosi, Mexico where a revolution was taking place. The revolution brought many Mexicans to Southeast Texas for a better life and better job opportunities in a booming oil industry.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, then 18-year-old Patrick Aguilar was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces on October 8, 1942.
“They wanted 20 gunners and about an hour later they canceled it, and I said, ‘Well, I will go wherever they send me,’” SSgt Aguilar previously told 12News.
SSgt Aguilar's mother, Melquiadez Aguilar, walked on her knees to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Port Arthur. She went there to pray that all of her sons would return home safely from the war.
The veteran was trained as a radio operator. He was transported to England and earned a ribbon as a rifle sharpshooter and carbine expert.
SSgt Aguilar was one of two Mexican Americans in his squadron. He said he never felt any discrimination from his comrades and that they all got along.
That camaraderie was needed in Cherbourg, where the Ninth Air Force was tasked to build an airfield and set up command near the peninsula’s west side. SSgt Aguilar delivered support services to aid squadrons across Europe.
After the Allies successfully took back the port city of Cherbourg and Normandy, SSgt Aguilar cleaned up the death. The Ninth Air Force moved to Reims, France to continue their war efforts.
After the war ended, there was no parade for Mexican-American troops and no women waiting to kiss Mexican-American soldiers. It was a quiet walk home from the bus stop.
SSgt Aguilar simply got back to life in Port Arthur.
“And nothing, I mean, people weren’t there to welcome you home,” SSgt. Aguilar previously told 12News. “You just come and be walking down the street. You got home. We were lucky. Five brothers and we all made it home.”
SSgt Aguilar worked as a laborer at Gulf Oil Refinery. He later went back to serve during the Korean War, where he obtained the rank of staff sergeant.
He got out after a year to take care of his growing family. Mayor Thurman Bartie previously signed a proclamation honoring November 25 as SSgt Patrick Aguilar Day.