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Rocco's name will now ring
in the old field where he romped
By Kate Nelson
Richard Rocco remembers playing little-boy baseball on a patch of barren dirt in the South Valley.
A lumber company provided uniforms and mitts - but only for the kids who were good enough to make the team.
"I was never good enough to make the team," he says.
But he became good enough at something far more important - important enough to have that park now bear his name.
During a ceremony today at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a committee of Vietnam veterans will announce the Richard Rocco Medal of Honor Park.
Rocco, who has terminal cancer in his lungs and spine, was planning to travel from his San Antonio, Texas, home to attend today's ceremony with his wife, Maria.
The park sits next to the Westside Community Center at 1250 Isleta Blvd. S.W. The committee has arranged to have a large stone monument engraved with a passage from Rocco's Medal of Honor citation.
Farmington artist Steven Meyers is creating a bust of Rocco to be placed in the old Armijo School that Rocco once attended.
Rocco is the only New Mexican to receive the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam while living. It is the military's highest honor, one that requires even generals to salute those who wear it.
The committee hopes to raise about $12,000 to pay for the monument, the bust and a Richard Rocco scholarship. If all goes well, a ceremony dedicating the park will be held in November.
And if all goes even better, Rocco will still be beating the cancer and attend that ceremony as well. Not to honor himself, but to honor all veterans.
Lanny Tonning, a member of the park committee, noted that New Mexico unfailingly answers the nation's call.
"We're always beating ourselves up about being number 49 in everything," he said. "But we're in the top five for military service.
"We want kids who go to this park to understand that there is a history of people who've served their country. Richard Rocco's town needs to know about Richard Rocco."
© 2002, by Albuquerque Tribune News
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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