His grandchildren believe he’s intelligent and caring enough to be a doctor, but Saragosa Salinas only received his high school diploma last week– the same week as his 90th birthday.
Born on the Jarachinas Ranch, Salinas was drafted into World War II in 1945. He was a junior in high school at the time, but in the Army, Salinas was assigned to the 121st Evacuation Hospital in Korea as a medical technician.
Then, during a bout of appendicitis, Salinas was operated on by a doctor with two fingers. As Salinas was recuperating, he began helping the doctor. The Army kept him there, and Salinas eventually helped in surgeries.
While serving, Salinas earned several honors, including, the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Ribbon, the Occupational Ribbon and the Japan Victory Ribbon.
Then, he came home to La Joya and got to work as a farmer and rancher. He met his wife, Eva Vela, in 1955 and had six children. He never talked about his time in the war with his children, and he now has 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
It wasn’t until Salinas had grandchildren that he began to talk about his time overseas, and one of his grandsons began researching whether Salinas still could get his diploma.
“My dad has always been able to talk to them and always instilled in them that you need to get your degree, and you’ll be better off,” Elma Garcia said of her father’s relationship with his grandchildren.
Salinas believed so much in education that he served on the La Joya Independent School District’s Board of Trustees in the 1960s.
When Garcia’s son found out Salinas could be granted his diploma nearly 70 years after he was drafted, Garcia called the Texas Education Agency and set everything up. La Joya ISD Superintendent Alda Benavides presented Salinas with his diploma Saturday.
Salinas has always been a hero for his granddaughter, Belinda Garcia, who works for the school district. She’s the first one to graduate from college in her family and her brother will be the second one with a college degree.
Belinda Garcia described her grandfather as a no non-sense kind of guy who’s addicted to the news.
“Weather-wise, he knows everything, even before the forecasters say it on the news,” Belinda Garcia said.
“He’s the greatest human being ever,” she said. “He always says the right thing. He’s always pushing his grandchildren to do the right thing and get our education.”