Forty five years ago, Mario Ybarra Sr. made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. On March 5, 1966, he was shot and killed in the Vietnam War.
Ybarra left a one-year-old son and a wife to face the rest of their lives without him. Ybarra earned a Purple Heart and now the Weslaco school district has named a school after him. The ceremony will take place on Memorial Day.
“It’s 40 years in the making, what I’ve done here,” Mario Ybarra Jr. said.
Ybarra, Jr. has come a long way since being a child growing up with out his father. He is a social worker for the state and over the last year he has put together all the proper documents and steps to solidify his father’s name by having an elementary school named after him.
“I started last year in March,” Ybarra Jr. said. “I was mowing my lawn and I got the idea to honor my father and what he represents.”
At first, Ybarra Jr. approached the city of Weslaco to have a street named after his father, but no streets were available. The city told him to go to the school district and see if there were openings for school namings and after putting all the proper documents together the school board was to vote on the decision.
“Ultimately, November came around and they were going to be voting,” Ybarra Jr. said. “There were three other submissions that were made at that point and time.”
All the representatives for the candidates were given five minutes to speak on behalf of their party. Ybarra Jr., who on that morning had been stung by the most venomous caterpillar in Texas, was the only one who had something to say.
“The caterpillar did me a favor,” Ybarra Jr. said. “I might have been extremely nervous, but I wasn’t because of the medication. It was standing room only, there were over 200 people in that room.”
The board voted in his father’s favor and the school was named after Mario Ybarra Sr. The school mascot will be the Purple Heart in honor of not only his father but those who have lost their lives so Americans can live free.
The idea for an event like this came to Ybarra Jr. when his mother almost died four years ago from colon cancer.
“Call it divine intervention or whatever, but I had an experience four years ago that I almost lost my mother to colon cancer,” Ybarra Jr. said.
His mother was dying, but after a successful operation she defeated cancer, and Ybarra Jr. felt there was something he needed to do to honor his family.
“I think something like that has to happen to a person so they can wake up,” Ybarra Jr. said. “A rude awakening to see what sense of purpose they have on this Earth. Because of that incident I think that’s what made me do this.
“Not only because of the fact that she has suffered her second battle with cancer but knowing that I might be losing her and knowing that my grandmother is still alive and I haven’t done anything to honor her son… All those types of things go through my mind and that’s when this happened.”
Ybarra Jr. can now rest assured his father’s name will go on as a hero’s name should exist. He may have not battled as hard as his father did during the Vietnam War, but his perseverance has made this endeavor a success.
“I never got to meet him; my mother was planning my first birthday party when she got the knock at the door,” Ybarra Jr. said. “You can pretty much understand what I’ve gone through these past 45 years.”