"I'm a true American"
As with many of the seniors we serve, Alfred “Al” Torres is a proud United States veteran. He is also quick to proclaim, “I’m a true American” referring to his Native American heritage and the special picture of his mother and grandmother he holds dear.
Al’s commendations are numerous and displayed in his apartment where he moved to five years ago to be close to his daughter, Denise, when his advanced age presented difficulties. For his heroism, Al was awarded the Silver and Bronze Stars, Meritorious Unit Award, along with letters of appreciation and honors as a result of tours of duty in WW II, the Middle East, European, African and American Campaigns. All serve as poignant reminders of the time he honorably served his country in the Army, Air Force AND Marines.
Born in San Bernardino in 1924, Al left High School after one year to help his family financially as a local boxer. As he tells it, at one of the boxing matches he refused to “take the fall” in the third round. The manager paid him his money for the round and told him to never return. This was the impetus for he and several friends to enlist in the Army in 1943 and this grammar school graduate was quickly sent to Medford, Oregon for training to become a medic. During his enlistment he saw first-hand the horrors of war as he served at The Battle of the Bulge and was in a unit that liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Al continued with a military career, finding himself in Vietnam as a Captain, repairing helicopters and communication lines instead of people.
During his time in WWII he experienced life and faced death. As a medic, he was sought after by a villager requesting his assistance with the difficult birth of a baby. The village was occupied and Al had to do some fast talking to a young German soldier to enter the villager’s home. Life overcame their differences. A healthy baby was born and Al returned to his unit. Towards the end of the war, Al was taking shelter in a church when the building was hit by a 500 pound bomb. The roof and rafters came tumbling down on those inside. Al, who was buried beneath the rubble could hear his commanding officer declare that “Torres was gone.” Within moments Al yelled out, “Torres isn’t gone, I’m right here under the rafters.” Even after that brush with death, Al refused to go stateside and remained in the field after his recovery.
His life at home in San Bernardino was full. He refers to himself as a “ladies man”, driving his favorite car, a ’36 Ford with a radio! Al married his wife and had six children. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of 48 leaving Al to raise his children. His family grew over the decades which has led to an extended family including one great, great grandchild. He remains close, although they are scattered throughout California.
When Al’s health continued to deteriorate, Denise turned to Meals on Wheels for assistance. Al has shown marked health improvements and the visits from volunteers brightens each day as he shares his many stories. You cannot help but smile when you gaze upon his beaming face as he regales you with his life experiences. We are honored to now serve Al, and the many seniors like him that inspire us to enjoy every day.