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Northcom Chief Hosts Mexican WWII Vets Who Fought Alongside U.S. Troops

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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MEXICO CITY, Nov. 14, 2015 — A top U.S. commander met here yesterday with Mexican air force veterans who fought alongside the United States in World War II.

Navy Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said it was his honor to meet the members of Mexico's 201st Squadron, known as the Aztec Eagles.

"Thanks for all that you do to keep the tradition alive," he said at a ceremony after a lunch he hosted for the veterans at the American Legion.

Exchange of Mementos

Gortney presented the men with coins and a plaque of the NORAD-Northcom headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They gave him mementos and a certificate of appreciation.

"It is just a privilege to be with wonderful veterans," the admiral said. He told the group it was especially meaningful to meet them, because he is the son of a naval aviator who was a World War II veteran.

The veterans said they were proud and honored to be guests at the lunch.

"Today was a very special day," retired Capt. Fernando Nava y Musa said.

Retired 1st Lt. Heriberto Canete Lopez expressed his pleasure with the afternoon events.

"I'm very happy to [be] sitting here in this place with the best friends from the United States of America. Mexico is grateful to the United States," he said.

The Aztec Eagles were attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces 5th Air Force's 58th Fighter Group during the liberation of the main Philippine island of Luzon in the summer of 1945. The pilots flew P-47D Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft, carrying out tactical air support missions.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)