By Julia Deng
BIG SPRING - Nora Hernandez and her family gathered around her father's grave at Mt. Olive Cemetery Saturday to mark the eighth anniversary of his passing.
"We do this every year to honor him and the other veterans buried here," Hernandez said. "Some of them fought in World War II with him and went through the same things he did to serve our country."
Esequiel Hernandez was born in Sanderson, Texas, and worked on the railroads in Big Spring before leaving home to enlist in the army at age 15.
He served in the United States Army for four years before returning to Texas, settling down in Big Spring and getting married.
His daughter, Nora, grew up hearing stories about D-Day.
"He said it looked like the Fourth of July [with] all those [explosions] and hearing all those firearms," she said.
She broke down in tears when she described how scared her father was when they had to take cover.
"I'm kind of amazed - and thank God - that he came back alive," Nora said.
Nora's son, daughter and grandchildren call Esequiel their "biggest hero" and a source of inspiration for three generations and counting.
"Ever since I was four years old, I wanted to be just like him," Valentina Garcia, Nora's daughter, said.
She went on to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and encouraged her nephews - 17-year-old Edward Gamez and 15-year-old Steve Gamez to join the Junior ROTC program in San Antonio.
"It makes me darn proud when I see those boys in their uniforms," Garcia. said
The family's annual tradition of visiting Mt. Olive is also their way of supporting troops who are overseas, fighting for our country right now.
"It's so hard, what they're going through over there," Hernandez said. "It's kind of like being back in World War Two."