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Juanita Rivera Laush stands by sculpture of Medal of Honor Recipient Raymond Murphy at dedication in Albuquerque, N.M.

On June 7, 2008, I attended the rededication ceremony of the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M. It was named in honor of Medal of Honor Recipient Marine Corps Captain Raymond G. Murphy, for his heroism in the Korean War. As a 23-year-old lieutenant, he rescued wounded fellow Marines in spite of the injuries he received from enemy fire. For 31 years he worked for the Veterans Benefits Administration in Albuquerque then volunteered at the center for eight years.

His bravery and years of devotion to the service of veterans were honored by four Medal of Honor recipients, two U.S. senators, two congressmen, a congresswoman, the governor of the Zia Pueblo, the mayor of Albuquerque and many veterans of many wars.

Murphy's valor in combat is immortalized in a monumental bronze sculpture by my brother, Reynaldo Rivera. His sculptures honor pioneers in a wagon train at the end of the Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe, the courageous fire fighters of 9/11 in Broomfield, Colo., historical figures throughout New Mexico. The White River Valley Museum in Auburn, Wash., has several of his sculptures on permanent exhibit.

The dedication and unveiling ceremony was an emotional experience for our family that includes honored veterans, our father (World War I), my husband (World War II), my son (post-war Korea), my brother (peace-time Navy). I was especially touched by Ross Perot's tribute who noted that Marine veteran Murphy requested not to be buried in his uniform but in the green volunteer jacket he wore in his eight years of service.

As I watched, young and elderly veteran patients filed past the sculpture in wheelchairs, on crutches, some walking by. They paused to read the bronze replica of the presidential citation given to Murphy by President Dwight Eisenhower and to look at the bas-relief of the presidential presentation. Many were in tears. One, wearing a Marine Corps baseball cap, tearfully shook my brother's hand, thanked him and pinned a tiny flag on his jacket.

In 1942, I began serving as a volunteer Red Cross nurse's aide at Mare Island Naval Shipyard near San Francisco. The wards were filled with young veterans of World War II battles in the Pacific, faces aged by painful memories, wounded bodies scarred, minds and dreams disrupted in relived battles. Many were destined to live out their lives in veterans' hospitals. The only thing that gave comfort was that the world believed this was the war to end all wars, 66 years and many wars ago.

Juanita Rivera Laush is a resident Lake Oswego.

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