MEMORIES OF EL MONTE
By Richard Cortez
A Soldier’s Story
May 25, 2011-I would like to use my column to tell you the story of one man who served his country. He was born in Los Angeles, California on October 13, 1921. He was the youngest in his family. He had a mother, brother and sister; their father had abandoned them early on. In 1929 at the age of 8 the great depression started and his family was broke. His mother cleaned houses and washed laundry to support her family. He left school in his teens to join the CCC corps to help support his family. At the age of 20 he received a letter from Uncle Sam, “Greetings!”
Just like many Americans he didn’t want to go but, off they went to fight for God and country. During his time in the Army he had a lot of firsts. First time on a train, first time on a boat, first time on an airplane and first time from California. Prior to his draft he got married and while in boot camp his wife gave birth to a daughter. After boot camp he was given leave to see his newborn daughter then he was shipped to the west coast to be shipped to Africa then onto Italy.
He was in a mortar company and they fought their way in the mountains of Italy. At one point they were ordered to halt. Most of their heavy artillery was shipped to England for D-Day. He spoke of the cold, the rain and the lack of food. Interesting thing though he would never speak of casualties but, I am sure there were many men who passed during their tour. While on a break in a small village the men found bottles of wine and how would you say “had a few,” this led to his first encounter with a General. The men were drinking and a jeep pulls up to where they were and it was Lt. General Mark C. Clark, CG who stopped and asked “What are you men doing?” “Drinking Sir!” they replied. The General looked around and said “Carry on Men.”
One day while on patrol he was wounded in the lower back. He would say “I was in a small fox hole and my butt was sticking up to high.” He was shipped to England and then flown to the United States to return home. Arriving at Fort Mac Arthur California he was honorably discharge on September 25, 1945. He returned to Los Angeles to his mother’s home and his wife and daughter to settle down. One day at the LA Coliseum he attended a celebration in honor of our service men returning home and during the national anthem above their heads flew four military planes which made every service man to duck and cover, which given the fact they had all just returned from war was a normal thing to do.
While he was adjusting to civilian life, six months later tragedy struck, his wife suddenly died of tuberculosis. A few years later he met and married his second wife. They had three boys and lived not too far from his mother who insisted on raising his daughter. With his boys he would make them stand in formation and salute him. His wife would talk about how he would have nightmares of the war and would wake up screaming. His second wife died after 32 years of marriage and again he was lost.
He did marry again and at the age of 79 he had a stroke and lived for five more years. Even though he could not talk he would still have recurring nightmares of the war.
To me he was a proud American. His name is Alfred P. Cortez, Sergeant in the United States Army 91st Division the 362nd Infantry Regiment. To my brothers, sister and me he was “Pop.” On this Memorial Day Dad, I am standing tall and saluting you.