ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) – After 47 years, a Vietnam veteran from Sterling, Illinois received his wartime medals for the first time. This comes decades later, as he took an early discharge to care for his ill father.
Ray Torres, now 68-years-old, served in Vietnam from November 1967 to February 1968. The Navy Corpsman was injured overseas, and one of the medals he received today was the Purple Heart.
Torres’ family reached out to the office of Congresswoman Cheri Bustos for help to track down the medals. In a meeting with the family today, Bustos said, “I am very honored that you would ask our office to help you with this and I’m very pleased that we’re able to get these long overdue.”
Torres told his wartime story and was in tears when he spoke of that night he was injured in February 1968. “The grenade went off,” said Torres, “Got both legs, my arm. And I put my hand up and I caught a nail through my arm otherwise it would hit me in the face.” Torres couldn’t see, and all he could hear was ringing in his ears.
After the grenade hit, another corpsman came to help, dragging Torres out of the foxhole and knowing that the North Vietnamese Army was nearby. “He pulled out his pistol, started firing and to this day, I don’t know how I got over that boulder, but I was over that boulder,” said Torres.
47 years later, it still brings painful emotions and tears as Torres thinks about how many people lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
Along with the Purple Heart, Torres also received a National Defense Service Medal and a Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars. He says today’s honor is for all the soldiers that served and sacrificed in Vietnam. “Where I was, there was very many that didn’t make it out,” said Torres, “The ones that we want to really give credit to are the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Today, Torres lives with his family in Sterling, Illinois. He says his family, friends and religion are what keeps him strong every day.
Torres is also one of thirteen veterans spotlighted in a six-hour documentary called “Vietnam in HD”, which can be watched on Netflix.