Vela died on Oct. 29 after a 15-month battle with a rare and incurable cancer called appendiceal carcinoma. Vela was diagnosed with the cancer on June 25, 2009 after having his appendix removed.
Mourners who attended Vela’s funeral Mass crowded the Oblate Park and surrounding streets; nearly 35 Border Patrol vehicles were parked outside the church.
Last year the Progress Times featured Vela and his Faith, Family and Friends Foundation. Determined to live a normal life despite his illness, Vela said God gave him new purpose in his life.
“God shows you where you have been and where He wants you to go,” said Vela last year. “It’s like a blessing He gives saying, ‘You may not have many days left like most people, but with the time you have do what you can.’ That’s why we have started the foundation and hope to do more to help others in my situation.”
The foundation helps raise money for Rio Grande Valley residents diagnosed with certain types of stomach cancer as well as fellow Border Patrol agents battling cancer.
Vela lived the remainder of his life with a positive attitude.
“It’s a cancer that scares the crap out of everybody, even doctors,” said Vela. “Doctors look at me and say, ‘I can’t believe I’m looking at you.’ It’s just that rare.”
In his interview last year, Vela said he wanted others in his situation to realize that they have to keep moving forward.
“Life isn’t over,” Vela said. “But I want to know that I still did everything I hoped to do in life; that I gave my all. Live in the moment. Don’t take it for granted (because) unfortunately life isn’t guaranteed for anyone.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.