Tag Archives: Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga

Remembering A Veteran

My dad...in flight training

My dad…in flight training

Today is Veterans Day.  From the time I woke up this morning to just a few minutes ago, every other social media post today has been about Veterans and remembering their contributions to our country.  It has been a welcome diversion from the recent election and with the divisiveness of what has transpired, it really got me thinking about my dad and his brothers and their sacrifice as Mexican-Americans to our great country.

I don’t actually know a lot about what my dad and his brothers went through when they each joined the service but I do know about the time period when they enlisted and served.  I also know what my dad experienced when he was growing up in Carlsbad, New Mexico through letters I received from several of his classmates/football teammates after he passed away in 2001.  I’ll share those remembrances in another post.  But suffice it to say, it wasn’t all fun and acceptance back then.  My dad didn’t talk much about it, choosing to just tell certain stories without any reference to discrimination or unfairness.  I think that was his way of just working hard and getting ahead.  I admire that in him because later in life, it served me well as I grew up overseas and in Puerto Rico during my formative years.

Dad's Air Force pins an his pilot log books.

Dad’s Air Force pins an his pilot log books.

I wish I knew more about dad’s time in service to our country.  I regret that I didn’t talk to him about this but then again, there is no guarantee that he would have shared anything about this time either.  I’ve heard that sentiment from a number of people who I know.  These are memories that have remained locked away to some of those who served.

I love looking in my dad's pilot log books and seeing his handwriting as he documented his training...

I love looking in my dad’s pilot log books and seeing his handwriting as he documented his training…

What I do have are photos, dad’s pilot logs and a few other artifacts from those years.  I also have two yearbooks from his pilot training in Texas.  One in particular is very touching because dad had placed check marks beside the photos of his friends who didn’t make it back during the war.  I didn’t know what these check marks were until my mother shared that with me several years ago.

One of dad's training yearbooks....

One of dad’s training yearbooks….

So as today closes out, I am grateful for the sacrifices of my dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, his brothers – Felix and Lorenzo Zuniga – and all the faces in the two yearbooks made for our country.  Some paid the ultimate sacrifice and that is humbling to see in my dad’s yearbook, the faces of those brave young men who did this for our freedom.

On this Veterans Day, God Bless the brave men and women who have served this great nation of ours…

 

 

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The Fabulous Zuniga Men

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers - Lorenzo and Felix - from my Day of the Dead altar.

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers – Lorenzo and Felix – from my Day of the Dead altar.

Today is Veterans Day.

It’s a work holiday for my office.  I decided to stay at home today and take down my Day of the Dead altars.   While I was dismantling and gathering all the photos, I put aside the ones of my dad and his brothers in their military uniforms.

The Zuniga Brothers…Praxedis, Lorenzo and Felix….

All the Zuniga men were Veterans.  All so handsome.  All so ready to serve in some capacity.  Today I reflected on these photos and those that my extended Zuniga family posted on social media.  Today I took some time to reflect upon their sacrifice for our freedom.

Thank you dad, Uncle Lencho and Uncle Felix…so proud of you all.

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My dad…Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga

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Uncle Lorenzo Zuniga

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Uncle Felix Zuniga

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Uncle Lencho and my dad – Praxedis Zuniga

 

Feliz Cumpleaños, Dad… (Part 1)

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Every year I take a new Virgen de Guadalupe candle to the memorial garden where my dad rests…

This will be a three-part story about my 2001 visit to New Mexico.

My dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, died on June 1, 2001.  He was 79 years old.  An accomplished man, he was a husband, father, friend, army pilot, civil engineer, and spoke several languages, with Spanish being his first.

After his death, I had this urge to travel to Carlsbad, New Mexico – where he was born and raised – to visit and explore.  I talked to my youngest sister Kanista about this and she told me she had been having the same urge.  So, we decided to make the trip to Carlsbad together.    We were so excited!  We made our flight plans and were set to fly out September 14, 2001 – the week of 9/11.  Of course, our plans changed with the events of that week and aftermath.  I still have my sister’s email to me that morning that said simply…”what is happening???”

We regrouped and decided to fly out on October 25th – our dad’s birthday.  Meanwhile, our youngest first cousin on the Zuniga side, Lisa Ramirez – who lives in Colorado, contacted me and asked if she could come along.  Kanista and I were ecstatic!  Lisa grew up in Carlsbad and it was the icing on our dad’s birthday cake to have her join us in this journey.  She is the youngest daughter of my dad’s younger brother – Felix and his wife Manuela (Aunt Mela).  Another plus is that we flew into Albuquerque where Lisa’s oldest sister, Nelinda (nicknamed Danda) lives and we were invited to stay with her before our road trip to Carlsbad!

I arrived first.  While waiting for Kanista, I started writing in my travel journal.  It was good to have a little bit of time before she got there to reflect and collect my thoughts.  Dad has suffered a series of stokes in his later years and shortly before he passed, he was unable to speak.  There were so many things I wanted to ask him too and I missed my chance to hear them in his own words, with his own voice.  This trip was pulling me and I know Dad was behind it, setting the stage for me and Kanista.

Kanista arrived and we headed to the rental car place and got the last car!  We drove through Albuquerque and decided to find our cousin Cecilia and visit with her before heading to Danda’s house where Cecilia joined us later.  Cecilia is the daughter of my dad’s baby sister, Gloria, who was still living in Carlsbad at the time with her husband, Armando (Uncle Mando).

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The outside of my cousin Danda’s house. I love her style!

Arriving at Danda’s we were excited to meet Bobby Fernandez, a cousin on our grandfather’s side (Tata Polo)!  He and Danda seemed more like brother and sister as we watched their exchanges throughout that night.  We both loved Bobby from the start  He was in charge of making our drinks that night – micheladas!  And tequila, of course!  When Lisa arrived,  we settled into a fabulous meal that Danda has prepared for us…carne asado, tortillas, enchiladas…goodness!  The food from my cousin is always incredible and you find yourself going back for seconds and thirds!  No shame here!  I remember the night as being full of laughter…we laughed so hard at Danda’s stories and listening to her explain all the family nicknames like Googs, Boogie, Lala, etc.   (I’ll have to share all that in a later post.)  When we finally went to bed we realized it was morning – 2:30 a.m.

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Cousin Lisa arrived from Denver with her video camera. She captured so much of our trip this way…

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Kanista and cousin Cecilia fill their plates at my cousin Danda’s house…we couldn’t get enough!

This first day of our trip was incredible.  It was the best way I can think of to celebrate my dad’s birthday – with family – in New Mexico and sharing stories about our fathers – Felix and Praxedis .  So many similarities.  So much connection.  Our bellies were full that night and so were our hearts.

Stay tuned for Part Two…our road trip continues…

Meanwhile…Happy birthday, Dad…miss you…

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