A year after it was slated to be closed in a government cost-cutting measure, the post office at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville was renamed Wednesday in honor of World War II hero Sgt. Alejandro R. Ruiz (1923-2009).
Ruiz is one of only five residents in the 128-year history of the Yountville Veterans Home to have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor a military member can attain.
Ruiz accepted the medal from Harry Truman after extraordinary acts of bravery during the Okinawa campaign in April, 1945, when his unit came under fire from camouflaged Japanese troops.
"His entire unit was pinned down," said U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) in a speech during Wednesday's renaming ceremony at the post office.
"But he was the one that got up with complete disregard for his own safety and he charged the enemy," Thompson continued.
When Ruiz's gun jammed and wouldn't fire, he went back and got another one.
"He put himself to the side and he charged forward to help his fellow soldiers, above and beyond the call of duty," said Thompson, who initiated legislation to keep the Yountville post office open and rename it for Ruiz.
Ruiz's son and daughter attended the ceremony Wednesday, hosted by Yountville postmaster Arthur Clary with speeches by other United States Postal Service executives as well as Veterans Home Undersecretary Robin Umberg, Yountville Mayor John Dunbar, Thompson and Ruiz's daughter Celia.
Her father "loved Yountville" and is buried at the Veterans Home, but never talked about his military service, Celia Ruiz said.
When she read an article about his bravery and asked him about it, Ruiz responded simply "Somebody had to do something," his daughter recalled.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, which he accepted from Harry Truman, Ruiz was also the recipient of the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bromze Star, Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal, according to Veterans Home officials.
Ruiz served in the Korean War in the 1950s and was prepared to serve in Vietnam as well, but a civilian injury prevented him from going, his daughter said.
The Veterans Home post office serves the home's 1,000 residents and a roughly equal number of employees as well as civilians from off-campus.
About 25 percent of its customers come from Napa, Clary said.
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