Ruben Acosta is back from the Southern New Mexico Honor Flight to Washington D.C. in early October. The decorated Korean War veteran joined a group of veterans of the armed forces to tour the national war memorials in our nation’s capital.
Acosta, 86, was aboard an Air Force Sea rescue helicopter and flew over 85 rescue missions behind enemy lines during the Southeast Asian conflict. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and several distinguished medals and ribbons for his military service from 1950-‘54.
Twenty-seven World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans made the trip at no cost to them.
This flight marked the 10th anniversary and so many of you helped make it the best. Donations of time, talent, and in-kind products contributed greatly to the success of Mission 10.. Veterans had full sponsorship for the trip.
“I am deeply honored to have served my country and to have provided the freedoms we now have,” a choked-up Acosta told the Headlight prior to his trip. “I don’t consider myself a hero. I just done my job, and that’s it.”
Acosta said he knew he would be drafted in 1950, so he enlisted in the United States Air Force. The Korean War erupted when North Korea invaded South Korea and China joined in the fight by backing the North, with help from the then-Soviet Union.
In the final two years, the conflict became a war of attrition as the battle line was drawn at the 38th parallel, separating the North from the South. Much the tail end of the war was fought from above with bombing raids and dogfights.
While rescuing downed pilots, the wounded and pinned down soldiers, Acosta’s crew flew into harm’s way and received constant anti-aircraft fire.
Acosta spoke to fifth-grade classes at Bataan Elementary School for their College and Career Readiness program. Students from Gina Simms, Adriana Huff and Kim Perea’s classrooms were honored to meet and learn all about Acosta’s service to our country.
He has also been selected to give the keynote speech during the American Legion, Bataan Post 4, annual Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Veterans’ Park, 301 S. Silver St.
Born and raised in Deming, Acosta graduated from Deming High School in 1950. He joined the National Guard out of high school and trained at Fort Bliss. “My captain came to me and told me I was no longer needed in the National Guard and told me I needed to go home and take care of my father,” Acosta recalled. “I was so angry that I enlisted in the Air Force.”
Acosta had a successful career after the war as a Deming businessman. He worked at Brem Chevrolet for 14 years and for Ben Meeks at the Luna Motor Co. He saved enough money to purchase three liquor establishments and owned the Susi Belle Lounge, the Central Bar and the Pine St. Liquor Store. He also ran two liquor stores in the Midwest.
Cold climates in the Midwest drove Acosta back home to Deming. “This is where I belong,” he said. “I’m supposed to die in the desert.”
Acosta’s wife, Barbara, passed away on Aug. 29, 2013 and his son died at age 43. He has a daughter who lives in Bryant. TX.
Bill Armendariz can be reached at 575-546-2611 (ext. 2606) or [email protected].
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