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Hampton man honored for extensive military career

Photo by Jason A. Smith
Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Julio Diaz, Sr., received recognition Monday, for more than 35 years of military service. A display was placed in the Historical Military Museum at Heritage Park in McDonough, featuring some of his numerous medals and accolades.

Photo by Jason A. Smith Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Julio Diaz, Sr., received recognition Monday, for more than 35 years of military service. A display was placed in the Historical Military Museum at Heritage Park in McDonough, featuring some of his numerous medals and accolades.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A local woman is seeking recognition on behalf of her ailing husband, for more than three decades of military service to this country.

Brenda Diaz, of Hampton, said her husband, Julio Diaz, Sr., deserves to be put in the spotlight for his successful career in the U.S. Army, including a stint in the Vietnam War.

"He's the most highly decorated Vietnam veteran still living on the south side of town," said Brenda Diaz, 63.

She said she wanted her husband to receive recognition, while she is still able to enjoy it with him, and others who served with him. Julio Diaz, Sr., suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and is currently 80 percent brain-dead, his wife said.

In honor of his military service, he was recognized on Memorial Day, during a ceremony at the Veterans Wall of Honor at Heritage Park, in McDonough.

"Henry County Parks and Recreation had a wonderful reproduction made of my husband's complete uniform, remade and displayed with all of my husband's awards and stripes put on it, in behind glass in the military museum," Mrs. Diaz said.

Julio Diaz, Sr., 73, has five Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit award, five Meritorious Service Medals, a Bronze Star, and two Army Commendation Medals. He also earned two Army Achievement Awards, 10 Army Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, two Vietnam Service Medals, two Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, three Overseas Service Ribbons, two Tours to Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medals, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and a Vietnam Cross of Gallantry With Palms, according to his wife.

District II Commissioner Fred Auletta donated a concrete block to Heritage Park, to be displayed on the walkway to the Veterans Wall of Honor.

Diaz served in the Army for 35 years, six months and 21 days.

"The American Legion Post No. 258 donated my husband a plaque, with all of his awards on it, also," Brenda Diaz said.

"There are so many people that lose contact with the ones they spent time with in their military career," she said. "It's a good recognition, with people knowing there's soldiers still living who did all that for our country."

Commissioner Auletta said he began working to recognize Julio Diaz Sr., formally, after receiving an e-mail from Brenda Diaz. Auletta, a military veteran who served in the U.S. Marines in Vietnam, was touched by the story of Diaz, and the service he gave to the country. The commissioner said he was "honored" to be in a position to recognize Diaz.

"She had heard about the blocks we had at the Wall of Honor, and wanted her husband to be honored with one," said Auletta. "I told her, 'Consider it taken care of.' I'm a veteran. Anybody would have done it, I was just the person who got notified of it. Being a Vietnam vet, it hits me harder than most. When we came back from Vietnam, we were almost led to be ashamed that we were in a war, as opposed to being honored for serving our country."

Diaz earned his five Purple Hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star while serving in Vietnam, according to Jim Joyce, a facility coordinator for Henry County Parks and Recreation at the Historical Military Museum.

Joyce said Diaz is one of many area residents, who have served in the military during a difficult era.

"The Henry County community has a multitude of heroes," said Joyce. "It's a great honor to serve your country, and he served his country for 35 years. In that span, he was a survivor. He became a man of great responsibility and a person for young soldiers to emulate."