Veteran Awarded Purple Heart Almost 8 Decades Later

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WESLACO – The Area Agency of Aging and Social Security Administration held its 20th annual celebration for centenarians.

"Every year, we have an event where we recognize the accomplishments of our individuals who are 100 years old,” said Joe Gonzalez, the agency’s director.

This year’s event included a long overdue recognition. Sgt. Manuel Cantu of San Juan finally received his Purple Heart medal.

The 101-year-old was wounded in Germany in World War II. He was one of five brothers who served in the war. Cantu was 25 at the time.

“All the other four brothers are deceased, and he's the only one left,” said his daughter, Maria Elena Corona.

About 13 years ago, she collected his medals and noticed the Purple Heart was missing. Corona’s first attempts to get the medal for her father failed. "I tried and I tried. And I couldn't get it, because they told me the place where the archives were had burned. And they had no records of it,” she said.

But the determined soldier raised a determined daughter. Corona said, "At some point in time, I said, ‘I'm going to get it. I'm going to get it somehow.’"

She eventually found a cedar chest full of her father’s military records at her mother’s house. “On page eight was his name with all his credentials and it said Purple Heart,” she told us.

The director of the Area Agency of Aging contacted Felix Rodriguez of the Hidalgo County veterans’ office. “He took it from there. He contacted different veterans groups,” said Gonzalez.

Almost 79 years after serving his country, Cantu was presented with a Purple Heart medal.

"I am very proud of my dad,” said Corona. “He is my hero."

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