NORTHGLENN, Colo. — Time is running out to pay tribute to some of our nation’s great heroes. Sometimes, we miss the opportunity by just days.
We were set to interview Roberto Chavez, 84, of Northglenn just days ago. He’d been nominated by his brother-in-law to be the FOX31 Problem Solvers Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month for his service in the Army. Chavez spent time in Germany, Korea and Vietnam and was wounded in the line of duty.
But days before our scheduled interview, we got a phone call.
“He fell twice and they finally decided to send him back to North Suburban (Medical Center), and that’s when they found the blood disease,” his wife, Marie Chavez, told FOX31.
Roberto had been hospitalized, and the end was near. They sent him home for hospice care.
“We had him home for three hours — three and a half hours — and I had just called our deacon from my church to come and bless him, and he barely sprinkled holy water on him. And (Roberto) pulled off his mask and just then, he took his last breath,” his widow said.
His death illustrates how important it is to hear the stories of our heroes while we still can, and not wait a single day to honor them.
Chavez served in the Army in Germany alongside Elvis Presley 61 years ago. Then, he was wounded.
“He got shot in the shoulder and they took out his clavicle,” Marie Chavez said.
But it didn’t keep him from service in both Korea and Vietnam.
“He survived it all, had many injuries which he overcame and dealt with all his life,” his brother-in-law, Daniel Candelaria, told FOX31.
For his service, Chavez is the first-ever posthumous recipient of our Hero of the Month honors. His family received a plaque, and a $750 Visa gift card courtesy of our Serving Those Who Serve sponsors, Rocky Mountain Honda Dealers, the Leo Hill Charitable Trust and the Colorado Veteran’s Project.
“Thank you so much. He would’ve loved it. I wish he could’ve been here,” his widow told FOX31’s Jeremy Hubbard.
America just lost another hero. The Denver Broncos also just lost one of their biggest fans.
But at his service at Fort Logan National Cemetery just days ago, instead of wearing black, his family decided to dress the way Roberto would’ve wanted: the stoic military service was graced with orange-and-blue Broncos jerseys. It was the perfect way to remember their hero.
“He even told me he would’ve wanted that,” Candelaria said.
To nominate a veteran, active duty service member, volunteer or family member for our Hero of the Month honors, submit a nomination online.