Congresswoman Anna Eshoo recently had presented a congratulatory birthday letter and a Congressional Certificate of Appreciation to former POW Ray Orozco on his 87th birthday, which was celebrated at the VA Palo Alto hospital.
A WWII hero, Orozco's 24-year military career, during which he was awarded 18 medals, including the Bronze Star, began in the Army Air Corps manning a machine gun turret in the plexiglass dome on the nose of a four-engine Liberator.
During combat, he was stationed in Italy, from which he flew 18 successful missions on a new B-24. "The 19th mission, they got a loaner plane, and it had some problems," said Orozco's son Rock, who spent 27 years in the Army himself and was quoted in a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News. "The indicator light said the bomb bay doors were open, so they dropped the bombs, but the doors were shut." That ripped two holes in the plane, which went into a spin, and Ray Orozco squeezed through one of them and bailed out.
After he was captured by the Germans, he was sent to a prison in Yugoslavia. "They threatened me a lot," Orozco said, recalling his Nazi jailers. One of the threats was that he was to be stood up against a wall and shot for trying to escape. "They put me in solitary confinement, and said, 'Tomorrow you will be shot,'" he said. "I didn't sleep that night at all."
Orozco's story goes on to include working for Lockheed for 24 years doing top secret work. Doctors say most of his problems are the result of exposure to Agent Orange. He was exposed in Vietnam after he re-enlisted in his 40s and volunteered to go there.
For his birthday, his daughter Debra Orozco pulled together the largest party that Unit 2A had ever seen. More than 100 people came from across the country to congratulate Orozco and to share lifetimes of stories together.
After seeing the story in the Mercury News about the party, Congresswoman Eshoo was "so touched that she felt compelled to send her personal thanks to this amazing American," said Roderick Bersamina, a staffer in her office who presented the certificate and letter.