Vietnam Veteran Felix Padilla has largely lived his life with his eponym, his cousin U.S. Army Private Felix Martinez Yanez, on his mind. He never got the chance to meet the man he was named after, as Private Yanez was killed in action in July 1950 while fighting in the Korean War.
He was just 19 years old when he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
And though he never got to meet Yanez, Padilla has held his memory close his entire life.
“The picture I have of my cousin, my mom gave me,” Padilla said. “I always kept it.”
It was all Padilla had of his namesake, for Private Yanez’s body was not immediately recovered due to the ongoing military conflict. And when remains were claimed by the U.S. military, Private Yanez could not be identified.
He was buried as an “Unknown” at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea before being transferred to the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
In July 2022, 72 years after his death, Private Felix Yanez was finally given back his name and his loved ones the closure they needed when his remains were identified by the Defense POW / MIA Accounting agency using DNA analysis.
This Arizona hero will be laid to rest in Tucson, near where his younger cousin, Felix Padilla, calls home.
Padilla feels a connection with a cousin he’s never met. “Honestly I think my cousin was there protecting me all this time during the Vietnam War,” the Vietnam Veteran told KPHO.
“Now we know he’s safe, now we know he can rest in peace and be with the family itself,” he said.