Hispanic war veteran honored
By Sgt. Matt Griffin
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | July 23, 2003
AUSTIN, Texas --
Less than four months ago, Staff Sgt. Eric Alva nearly died. On March 21, while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines in Iraq, Alva stepped on a landmine. He broke his right arm and his right leg was damaged so badly it needed to be amputated.
However, his sufferings haven't dampened his mind and spirit. This was obvious to all who saw Alva accept the Heroes and Heritage Award July 13, at the National Council of La Raza during a special salute to Hispanics military presentation.
Major General Christopher Cortez, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Quantico, Va., was on stage and presented Alva with his award.
"SSgt. Alva is a credit to the Corps," said Maj. Gen. Christopher Cortez. "We are grateful for his faithful service and proud to honor him today."
The NCLR honored several other Hispanic war veterans during the two-hour presentation. The Military Order of the Purple Heart Foundation (MOPHF) and Four Brown Hats Entertainment (FBHE) entertained participants with excerpts from their stage play, "Veteranos: A Legacy of Valor." The play is an educational theatrical tribute to the 39 Latino Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. In addition, President Jose Maria Aznar of Spain presented a speech to a captive audience that concluded his visit to the United States.
Alva's mother and father both had tears in their eyes as Alva spoke to the crowd about his experiences in Iraq.
"It was our worst nightmare," said Alva's mother, Lois.
Alva is currently in rehabilitation in his hometown of San Antonio, and his parents have been there for his recovery and are not altogether surprised at his amazing progress.
"I knew that once he was out of the pain, he'd work very hard," his mother said.
"He makes me proud of all the members of the Armed Forces serving in uniform," said Alva's father, Fidelis, who served in the Army in Vietnam.
Talking to Alva, he seemed overwhelmed by it all, saying that the past few months seem like they happened to someone else.
When asked about his injuries, his eyes clouded over as he tried to remember the day his life changed forever.
"The first thing that went was my hearing, it was like fireworks," Alva said. "My hearing got this loud ringing, as I fell to the ground I didn't know the extent of my injuries. People were cutting off my suit to see what happened. It seems like tons of tourniquets were being applied, I couldn't feel the bottom half of my legs. When I woke up during recovery, I saw that the lower right half of my leg was gone below the knee."
Thirteen days later, while at Bethesda Medical Center, his knee was removed because there was not enough muscle tissue to allow for the proper use of prosthesis. Meanwhile Alva remains steadfast and optimistic.
"It seems like a long road, but it's only been almost four months, and I've already been walking for three weeks," Alva said. "It's hard to believe that if someone had told me while I was lying in Iraq that I'd be walking in three months, I'd never have believed them. I can never begin to tell what enormous pain I've gone through."
He added, "I went through countless nights of agony and tears but there was never any doubt, I kept faith that I could recover, and I'm still recovering."
When asked about his goals for the future, Alva says he wants to run the Marine Corps Marathon again, which he ran several times in the 90's.