The enemy had already begun infiltrating the camp. Del Rio veteran Ventura Mancha and six other men of his unit were the only protection for some generals and other high-ranking officials. Their British allies had left.
Mancha called for help because the enemy started firing rounds at the gate.
“I thought that was it,” Mancha said. “I thought that I was not coming back.”
Two ally tanks finally showed up and came to the defense of Mancha and his unit, saving their lives.
Mancha served in the Iraq War during Operation Iraqi Freedom, fighting the Republican Guard, an elite force protecting the then-dictator Saddam Hussein from 2004-2005.
In that war, Sgt. Mancha was proud he was able to bring home 283 men but disheartened that he had lost four. It was too much for him to handle. After surviving the war, he decided to retire and go home.
Mancha, now the post commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8552 of Del Rio, is one of many other courageous Del Rio veterans worth recognition on Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11.
Mancha served in the Army for 22 years and gave his life to protecting the country he loves.
Veteran James Powell was in the Navy for 21 years. Powell said what he loved most about serving was the camaraderie he built with peers – people that proudly served America.
“There’s individuals out there that enjoy going to war to defend their country,” Powell said. “They’re not doing it because they’re told do it. They’re doing it because they volunteered to do it.”
Seven-year Army veteran Adrian Bitela is one of those individuals. Bitela, who did two tours in Afghanistan, said he loves going to war because there is no greater feeling than defending his country, adding it makes him feel purposeful. He misses it he said.
Celos Barrientos, who served for 16 years, said he misses and loves the Marine Corps, but does not miss being away from his wife and family. Barrientos said he spent five years and seven months away from his wife while serving. His love for the corps will never trump time with his family he said.
Mancha said he would be away from his wife and family 8-10 months. The former sergeant said it was difficult. The military is difficult he added.
For that reason, everyone should honor veterans every day – not just Veteran’s Day he said. Mancha said America is precious and means a lot to him. And he is willing to give his life for it.
“A lot of people say it’s foolish, but I would die for the American flag,” Mancha said. “I’ll protect freedom. And that’s what I did.”