OCEANSIDE — Military veterans Fernando and Ida Acuna were recently recognized as Veteran of the Year for California’s 76th District. This is not the first time the couple has been honored for their service to fellow veterans.
Ida Acuna has volunteered for local nonprofits since she retired from work in 1997, and has been duly recognized with awards.
“I’ve volunteered for a very long time,” Ida Acuna said. “It’s what I love to do.”
Both are active volunteers for the American GI Forum, which is a congressionally chartered Hispanic veterans and civil rights organization. The nonprofit focuses on veterans’ issues, education and civil rights.
Ida Acuna has served as Oceanside chapter commander, ladies auxiliary chair and state and national ladies auxiliary chair.
Fernando Acuna served as the American GI Forum state commander, vice commander and representative to veterans’ outreach.
“The Marine Corp became a way of life,” Fernando Acuna said. “God blessed my choice and brought me many blessings. We now give back to God, and to our community all that we can, of that which we have received.”
The couple’s volunteer efforts for the American GI Forum have helped raise scholarship funds for promising Hispanic students, which is one of the nonprofit’s primary missions.
“They’ve been around (volunteering for the American GI Forum) for 50 years, that shows you the dedication,” Manny Astorga, American GI Forum Oceanside chapter commander, said.
Astorga said the couple, who are in their 80s, put in about 10 hours a week to promote American GI Forum fundraisers that provide scholarship money. They take on everything from having flyers made, to selling event tickets and cleaning up after the fundraiser.
Astorga added the pair goes the extra mile to help any veteran in need.
“If somebody needs a walker or crutches, they locate it for them,” Astorga said.
Another way Ida Acuna has helped fellow veterans was by actively recruiting veterans for jobs at North County Transit District, while an employee of the company. She was recognized for her outstanding work with several awards.
“They deserve to get a good job,” Ida Acuna said. “I’ve been honored to work with veterans on several occasions. I really believe they give back.”
The awards ceremony for the recent District recognition was held in Sacramento. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, 76th District, nominated the pair to receive the award.
Chavez learned about the Acunas’ service when he attended their 60th wedding anniversary party.
“He saw the military pictures and decided that night to nominate us,” Ida Acuna said. “I’m truly honored Rocky Chavez honored us.”
The long-wed couple met while serving in the military.
Ida Acuna joined the Marine Corps after her brother lost his life serving in the Korean War.
“It was important to me to do something to honor his name,” Ida Acuna said. “My choice was a good one. I was proud to be a Marine, I achieved the rank of corporal.”
Ida Acuna served for three years, before becoming a mother to five children. Military norms at the time led her to retire from service after she had kids. She continued to work at civilian jobs while she raised her brood.
“Instead of being short of cash I found a job,” Ida Acuna said. “Life is what you make it.”
Fernando Acuna had a long military career in the Navy and Marine Corps. He attained the rank of gunnery sergeant and was awarded numerous military medals of honor. He also worked at civilian jobs following his retirement, and now puts in time as a volunteer.
The couple received the official proclamation that honors them as Veteran of the Year for the 76th District in the mail last week. Ida Acuna said she has the perfect spot to hang it in her living room next to other cherished awards.