It had been raining for days the summer of 1950 as the area where young Dora Pena Isaac grew up reaffirmed its claim as "El Barrio de Canta Ranas" (the neighborhood of Singing Frogs). A chorus of frogs could be heard performing their discordant tunes, seemingly praising the rain for the mud and wetness the heavy downpour had produced. Young Dora, along with many residents of "Canta Ranas" had been confined to their homes for several days. The tropical depression that hit the Coastal Bend reminded "Canta Ranas" residents that when heaven cries, it is deep and profound.
For Dora, this day would be a day she would never forget, becoming more and more significant as she grew older. Sixty-seven years later, at the ripe age of 85 years, Dora can still remember this day as if it were yesterday, for on this day her older brother, PFC Albino Suares Pena, a U.S. Marine, was to leave for duty in Korea as a member of the 1st Marine Division. Making this day more important, several months earlier, PFC Pena and Dora experienced a misunderstanding that had not been personally resolved or forgiven. Albino Pena was so concerned by this falling-out that he sought the counsel of Monsignor Dunne, Pastor of St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Robstown, Texas. Monsignor Dunne's advice to Albino was that despite who bore the fault for the discord, Albino had an obligation to apologize to his younger sister, Dora. This counsel, weighing heavy in Albino's heart, had to be carried out before he headed off to war.
As fate would have it, saying good-bye and personally asking for forgiveness from his sister never came to pass. The warm embrace that loved ones give each other when they sense they will not see each other for a long time eluded Albino and his young sister. Throughout the last day PFC Pena spend in Robstown, he mightily tried to cross the water swollen streets of "Canta Ranas" but entry into the barrio where Dora was would be delayed. By the time Albino finally made it, young Dora had been relocated by boat to higher ground, in drier, safer surroundings. One can only guess the anguish PFC Pena felt when he left Robstown unable to "Despedirse" (say "Farewell") from his beloved younger sister, Dora.
Several months later the Pena family received notification that PFC Albino Pena had been killed in action (the battle of In Chon) in defense of our country and the values it stands for. The "values this country stands for" is what drove PFC Pena to volunteer while a student in Robstown High School. What can be said of a young man who leaves the comfort of home, an education, and for all intents and purposes, a bright future, to join the U.S. Marines to defend our country. We owe all men and women who have worn our country's uniform--be they U.S. Marines, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, or U.S. Coast Guard--a debt that can never be fully paid.
PFC Albino S. Pena has never been forgotten by his younger sister, Mrs. Dora Pena Isaac, and she made sure all her children, 3 boys and 4 girls, always honored her brother's sacrifice and memory. This past Friday, May 26, 2017, at the request of Dora Pena Isaac, the Robstown Independent School District, for the first time in its history posthumously awarded an Honorary High School Diploma to PFC Albino S. Pena, Class of 1949.
While this may seem like a kindly gesture to the family of PFC Pena, its meaning is deeper than words can describe. How incredibly touching it was when the next day, Dora Pena Isaac, visited her brother's grave with diploma in hand and said, "Be happy Albino, you are now a high school graduate." This compassionate act signifies that our community will always honor the sacrifice of our veterans and will continue to do for them, even in death.