FROM THE OFFICE OF SENATOR PETE V. DOMENICI
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2004
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today offered his deep appreciation for two Las Cruces-area veterans—one from World War II and the other from Vietnam—who today received long-awaited military service medals they earned in serving their country.
Domenici helped secure the medals, including a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and POW Medal, for:
* David O. Tellez of Las Cruces, a World War II veteran is a survivor of the Bataan Death March and was a POW for nearly three years from 1942 to 1945. He received the Bronze Star and POW Medal.
* Steven R. Stewart of Fairacres, a Vietnam veteran, served six years in the United States Army and served his last tour of duty in 1968. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medals. Stewart was given documents of award for the Combat Infantrymen’s Badge, Combat Air Assault Medal, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart but due to the intense fighting at the time he was never given the actual medals.
“Now more than ever our country is sensitive to the service and sacrifice of our military men and women. I am so honored to have lent a hand in finally presenting these two American heroes with the physical symbol of our country’s appreciation for the valor of David Tellez and Steven Stewart,” Domenici said.
“It is good and right for the youngest in this new generation to see the depth of our gratitude after so many years. Our gratefulness has not diminished and it is never too late to say thank you to our service men and women for what they have done for our country,” he said.
The veterans were presented with their awards Wednesday at a ceremony at Domenici’s Las Cruces field office. The medals were presented by retired Brigadier General Jerry Laws, while the New Mexico State University Air Force Color Guard presented the colors.
In March 1941, Tellez volunteered for the Army and was sent to the Bataan peninsula where he fought until April 9, 1942. After General King surrendered his troops to the Japanese, Tellez was forced to march for four and a half days and nights as part of the horrendous Bataan Death March. Tellez continues to suffer from bone injuries he received while working slave labor in the prison camps following the march.
Tellez was a Prisoner of War for nearly three years. After spending six months as a POW in the Philippines plus one month at sea in one of the infamous “hell ships”, he then spent the remainder of his POW status in Mukden, Manchuria. He was finally returned to San Francisco in October 1945. Following his return to the United States he served three years in the Reserves.
Stewart served with the 1st Cavalry Division, one of the first combat units sent to Vietnam. He was wounded during the Tet Offensive while defending his base camp at Quan Loi in May 1968. After his bunker was attacked he heroically helped save a severely wounded fellow soldier before being thrust out of his bunker position by incoming rocket fire. He sustained shrapnel injuries to his lower back and legs from the blast.