Vietnam veteran Felix Padilla has largely lived his life with his eponymous cousin, U.S. Army soldier Felix Martinez Yanez, on his mind. He never had the chance to meet the man whose name he bore, as Private Yanez was killed in action in July 1950 while fighting in the Korean War.
He was only 19 when he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
And although he never met Yanez, Padilla kept his memory close all his life.
“The photo I have of my cousin, my mother gave me,” Padilla said. “I always kept it.”
This was all Padilla had of his namesake, as Private Yanez’s body was not immediately found due to the ongoing military conflict. And when the remains were claimed by the US military, Private Yanez could not be identified.
He was buried as an “unknown” at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea before being moved to the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
In July 2022, 72 years after his death, Private Felix Yanez finally got his name and loved ones the closure they needed when his remains were identified by Defense POW/MIA Accounting using scans. DNA.
This Arizona hero will be buried in Tucson, near his young cousin, Felix Padilla.
Padilla feels connected to a cousin he has never met. “Honestly, I think my cousin was there to protect me all this time during the Vietnam War,” the Vietnam veteran told KPHO.
“Now we know he is safe, now we know he can rest in peace and be with the family themselves,” he said.