JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Three-war veteran
and retired Air Force Maj. Jesse Baltazar's quest for his
Purple Heart medal reached a fitting end at Joint Base
Myer-Henderson Hall's Conmy Hall Jan. 20, 2015.
years of waiting concluded for the Philippine-born Baltazar,
a Bataan Death March survivor, who was wounded during the
Battle of Bataan, April 1942.
Now 94 years old, he
has never forgotten the key date which changed his war
fortunes from an active, fighting Soldier to a prisoner of
war. In the spring of 1942, he was 21 years old, an Army
sergeant and lending support to ward off a Japanese
Maj. Jesus Baltazar is awarded the purple heart by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno during a ceremony at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., Jan. 20, 2015. Retired Maj. Jesus Baltazar earned this honor as then SGT Baltazar fighting alongside the American and Filipino forces during World War II. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Mulderick)
“We surrendered the ninth of April; my unit
was the 71st Division, Company B,” Baltazar said. “That was
the headquarters company; we weren't in the front, but the
Japanese started bombing every place. Our headquarters was
bombed. I got hit in the left leg.”
fall of the Philippines, Baltazar became one of an estimated
80,000 Filipino and American service members to start the
infamous Bataan Death March. On the third day of the march,
he escaped his Japanese captors thanks to the help of
Following World War II, his
service records went missing starting the 70-year Purple
Heart Medal delay. But according to Baltazar, who also
participated in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, his greatest
moment as a service member occurred last month when he was
pinned with the heart-shaped medal adorned with the likeness
of George Washington.
Following the ceremony,
Baltazar has been busy fulfilling media interview requests –
including one from a Manila newspaper. He also had many
people to thank, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who
fought for Baltazar to receive the Purple Heart. He also
said he is in debt to today's Army leadership who attended
his medal ceremony.
“It was unforgettable,” Baltazar
said of the JBM-HH ceremony which was attended by Army Chief
of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S.
Buchanan, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region
and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington commanding
general. “This [ceremony] comes once in a lifetime. I was
lucky. The ceremony was very impressive. I'm very grateful
to Gen. Odierno for sponsoring the festivities.”
Participating in the ceremony were units of the 3rd U.S.
Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), which included The U.S.
Army Band, “Pershing's Own,” and The Old Guard Fife and Drum
Corps. Odierno spoke to The Old Guard and Baltazar's friends
and family that day about Baltazar's everlasting legacy.
“It's my distinct privilege to be here today to honor
Sgt. Jesse Baltazar, who after over 70 years, is being
awarded the Purple Heart, one of the most recognized,
respected, and oldest military awards,” the Army chief of
staff said. “Few choose to raise their right hand[s] and
serve in uniform and even fewer choose to lead a life of
service like Maj. Baltazar. As an Army and as a nation, we
stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Maj.
Baltazar, we stand on your shoulders and your legacy of
By Jim Dresbach, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
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