World War II, Korean War veteran honored in ceremony at San Juan College

Florentino Pacheco was paratrooper in 101st Airborne Division

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Melynda Brenton, right, the chapter registrar of the Desert Gold Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, reads a citation honoring 97-year-old World War II veteran Florentino Pacheco during a March 15 ceremony in the Zia Conference Center at San Juan College in Farmington while Pacheco's daughter Mary Frances Leupold listens.

FARMINGTON — A 97-year-old lifelong New Mexico resident who served in the U.S. Army during World War II was recognized for his service during a short ceremony March 15 in Farmington.

Florentino Pacheco, who is from Deming but lives in Farmington with his daughter Mary Frances Leupold, was honored by members of the Desert Gold Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution during the ceremony at the Zia Conference Center on the San Juan College campus.

Pacheco received a certificate commemorating his service and had an American flag emblem pinned to his shirt by Melynda Brenton, the registrar for the Desert Gold Chapter. Also in attendance were chapter regent Charlotte Hebert and former New Mexico state regent Diane Halvorson.

Pacheco was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division during the war. After beginning his Army training in Mineral Wells, Texas, he was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, and then to Whittier and Anchorage, Alaska. Pacheco had trained with a glider unit that was designed to fly materials and soldiers into the war zone.

World War II veteran Florentino Pacheco has an American flag emblem pinned to his shirt by Melynda Brenton, registrar of the Desert Gold Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, during a March 15 ceremony in the Zia Conference Center on the San Juan College campus in Farmington.

According to information provided by his family, he was on a ship ready to head into the war zone when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

Pacheco's service earned him the Asiatic Pacific Theater, Good Conduct and Victory medals. As a member of the New Mexico National Guard from 1946 to 1952, he also served during the Korean War.

Military service is a tradition in the Pacheco family. His older brother Alberto served in the Philippines during World War II and was a two-time Purple Heart recipient. He was a prisoner of war for four years and was one of only 11 survivors to escape the Palawan Massacre in the Philippines in December 1944. Florentino Pacheco's younger brother, Sammy, served in Korea and was a two-time Bronze Star recipient and two-time Purple Heart recipient.

The family's history in New Mexico goes back even further, all the way to 1734 when the state was under Spanish rule. The Pacheco brothers' great-grandfather, Yrineo Pacheco, raised the American flag in Las Cruces after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848 and the Rio Grande Valley became American territory.

Friends, family members and members of the Desert Gold Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution gather in the Zia Conference Room at San Juan College on March 15 for a ceremony honoring World War II veteran Florentino Pacheco, in wheelchair.

Brenton noted the family's lineage during the March 15 ceremony.

"We have a very historic family here in our presence," she said.

Mary Frances Leupold joined her father at the podium during the presentation of the certificate.

"I'm just proud of my dad and my uncles," she told the crowd of friends, family members and DAR members.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.