Native Veteran Recently Given Medal of Honor Welcomed Home - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Native Vietnam Veteran Recently Given Medal of Honor Welcomed Home

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CORPUS CHRISTI (Kiii News) -

For so long, he was an unsung hero -- a Corpus Christi native who served in Vietnam. Yet he was never recognized because of his race.

But two weeks ago, the president wrapped the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest honor -- around Master Sergeant Jose Rodela's neck.

Rodela returned home Thursday and was greeted aboard the U.S.S. Lexington, getting the recognition he should have had long ago.

"I was thinking about the people that were killed in the war. That are not here. My friends. Rudy Chavez and Joe Hega, family men. They didn't come home. That's the sad part about it," Rodela said. "The medal goes to them."

Rodela said he tries not to think about that day in Vietnam when he lost his friends.

"I try not to," Rodela said. "It hurts a lot remembering."

The Corpus Christi native, who grew up across the street from Zavala Elementary, said he will take his family to Arlington National Cemetery because the medal is for his friends who didn't make it.

"Thank them for keeping me alive," Rodela said.

After retiring from the U.S. Army, Rodela worked at the post office. Now, a Forever Stamp will be made in his honor.

Later Thursday afternoon, Rodela received his diploma from Miller High School. He had enlisted into the U.S. Army just after finishing 10th grade, and received his GED while in service.

Kiii-TV would like to congratulate Master Sergeant Rodela and thank him for his service.