On 14 November 2009, at Hillcrest Cemetery in San Saba, Texas, there will be a memorial service for Seaman Second Class Augustine Martine Vasquez. He died, as many of his shipmates did, when the USS Barton (DD-599) sank in combat off Savo Island (just off Guadalcanal Island) on the night of 13 November, 1942.
He was declared missing in action for one year and then pronounced killed in action on 14 November, 1943 by the Navy Department. His father died, family lore indicated, of a broken heart from losing his youngest son and his mother, until her death in 1958, never gave up on him; she fully expected him to walk through the front door until the moment she died.
For reasons never explained nor questioned, his nine surviving brothers and sisters did not place a headstone in the family plot at Hillcrest Cemetery.
When his name or memory came up in family conversations, tears and looks of sadness marked the faces of his sisters and brothers. His nephews and nieces only had those memories of moms, dads, aunts or uncles in sad moments, his Purple Heart, a few photos of a young, smiling and handsome man and some yellowing obituary clippings. Nothing else of him remained as far as we knew.
His last surviving sisters and brother died earlier this decade. All of the others died years before. This lost and forgotten uncle had always bothered me. It belatedly occurred to me that there was no marker for him in the family plot. (I did find a memorial plaque with his name, rank, branch of service, service number and date of death on a Wall of the Missing at a U.S. Military Cemetery in Manila City, the Philippines. I do not believe that anyone in his immediate family was ever aware of it, much less have been in a financial position to go and see it.)
About three months ago, I contacted the funeral director of Howell Doren Funeral Home in San Saba, Texas, Kevin Keeney, who was a year behind me in high school, heard my story and submitted the needed paperwork to the VA. About a month ago, he contacted me that the military headstone for my uncle had arrived.
So, on November 14, 2009, sixty-six years and one day after his death, S2 Augustine M. Vasquez’s nieces and nephews and all of their children and grandchildren will gather in the late morning at Hillcrest Cemetery to see the headstone and to have a memorial service for him. Prayers will be said and followed by comments from family members and friends of the family. Our uncle will no longer be lost nor forgotten.
The memorial service is open to the public.
Submitted by Oscar Barrera
401 Indian Blanket St.
San Marcos, Texas 78666
Thank you for the privilege to serve you as TxDOT area engineer for San Saba, Mills, and Lampasas Counties since January 2001 and assistant area engineer since April 1990. My engineering career has been guided by the priorities of first people and their safety and then excellence in public service. The Lampasas engineering section was reestablished in October of 1987 at which time I joined. Thank you for your input these past 22 years into the transportation planning process for local projects both formally at public meetings and informally at your property, and during conversations at local restaurants, shops, the park, and various community events.
Through working cooperatively with cities, counties, utility owners, land owners adjacent to projects and the public 34 new bridge projects, 8 bridge widening projects, 2 restoration of suspension bridge projects, and 48 roadway improvement projects were designed and built. Six designed roadway projects are still waiting funding for construction. During these past 22 years the engineering section also oversaw maintenance of the roadways and bridges, promptly processed driveway and utility permits, and addressed concerns from the public for the three counties served.
The Brownwood District Engineer indicated in February 2008 to the engineering section employees the area office would be closed in the near future and four of the eleven engineering employees gradually left the well tuned team after that. In August the closing was imminent. Many of the engineering employees I supervised who endured the stress for 19 months of working while awaiting the closing have had that stress replaced by new stresses of jobs elsewhere.
I will always treasure the working relationships developed with you. Best of well-being to each of you and our communities.