This is a tribute to my father, his five brothers, an uncle, four cousins and I, who all served our county. Written by Thomas Noriega (United States Coast Guard, 1984-1988)
Less than a year before my grandfather became a citizen, the United States entered World War II, and so did the Noriega family. Three of the brothers, an uncle and four cousins all volunteered to serve.
Brothers Willie and Bobby served in World War II in the Navy. Brother Art served in the Army Air Corps and was on the Pacific island of Tinian when the first atomic bomb was delivered to be dropped on Japan.
Though my grandfather did not serve in the armed forces, he contributed to the war effort working for the Willys-Overland company, building jeeps during WWII. My grandmother was proud that she had three stars hanging in the window and every night she prayed for her sons to return home safely, and they did. My grandfather died of a heart attack during WWII and the family credits the Red Cross for helping the family during that time. The Red Cross flew the brothers home from the Pacific for the funeral.
Later, my uncle Rudy joined the Army during the Korean War, and was stationed in Nome, Alaska. My father, Bert Noriega, volunteered for the draft and went into the Army in 1954. My dad's brothers George and Bobby also joined the Army. I served in the United States Coast Guard from 1984-1988, making me one of 11 members of the Noriega family to have served in the military between WWII and 1988.
My father Bert was trained as a mechanic/gunner on an anti-aircraft cannon which was one of seven artillery pieces guarding the skies over the strategic Panama Canal. He lived in a tent in the jungle for 18 months with his 15-man gun crew. He remembers when the Army Corps of Engineers showed up and blew a hole in the ground for a latrine, and remembers playing with monkeys and iguanas for fun. One day he killed a 9-foot boa constrictor that was coiled up under a tarp on a pedestal of his anti-aircraft gun.