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Dining facility receives special guest

Leo Hrdlicka points to a flight photo as he recalls the names of Airmen he served with in the 1960s on Peterson Field. In the flight photo is Staff Sgt. Jose Aragon, who distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while engaged in ground support of Tactical Air Operations against an opposing armed force at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on May 16, 1965. (Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Hines)

Leo Hrdlicka points to a flight photo as he recalls the names of Airmen he served with in the 1960s on Peterson Field. In the flight photo is Staff Sgt. Jose Aragon, who distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while engaged in ground support of Tactical Air Operations against an opposing armed force at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on May 16, 1965. (Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Hines)

Leo and Bette Hrdlicka take time to look at the Staff Sgt. Jose Aragon dedication display in the Aragon Dining Hall, June 24. Sergeant Aragon distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while engaged in ground support of Tactical Air Operations against an opposing armed force at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on May 16, 1965. (Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Hines)

Leo and Bette Hrdlicka take time to look at the Staff Sgt. Jose Aragon dedication display in the Aragon Dining Hall, June 24. Sergeant Aragon distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while engaged in ground support of Tactical Air Operations against an opposing armed force at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on May 16, 1965. (Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jessica Hines)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A Colorado couple stopped by the Aragon Dining Facility to have lunch and pay respects to an old friend, Staff Sgt. Jose R. Aragon, the namesake for Peterson's dining facility.

Leo and Bette Hrdlicka of Littleton, Colo., were visiting the area June 24, and stopped by Peterson Air Force Base. Hrdlicka served four years in the Air Force in the 1960s and also served one tour in Vietnam. Along with Aragon, he became a crew chief working on Lockheed T-33s under the 4600th Air Base Wing at what was then known as Peterson Field.

During the visit to base, Hrdlicka noticed much had changed since his time in service here, noting the barracks were closer to the flightline but the hangars looked much the same. The staff of the Peterson Air and Space Museum organized their visit to base as well as a tour of the museum. A special stop was made at the Aragon Dining Facility to see the building which held the name of an old friend.

"Everybody liked him, there wasn't anybody that didn't like him, he was just a likable guy," Hrdlicka said about Aragon. "He was a quiet guy, very smart, knew what he was doing."

"He left for Vietnam before I did," he recalled.

Upon visiting the newly renovated dining facility, the couple stopped at the Aragon display just inside the doors and made sure to sign the guest book beneath the dedication display. After capturing a few pictures, Hrdlicka took time to reminisce as he pointed to a picture of Aragon's flight.

"All the faces are familiar, I don't remember everyone's name but I remember the faces," he said. 

Hrdlicka could recall at least half the names of the Airmen within the photo, some who he would see again and others who were killed in action during the Vietnam War. A wooden plaque that sits at the bottom of the display box was carved and made by Hrdlicka. The plaque and box are part of a display dedicated at the Aragon Dining Facility years ago.

Aragon distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while engaged in ground support of Tactical Air Operations against an opposing armed force at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on May 16, 1965.

Through the selfless actions of Aragon, many lives were spared. Several 500 pound bombs had exploded accidentally while four B-57 aircraft were preparing to take off on a mission. Despite the hazards in the area, Aragon remained and assisted in removing injured comrades and clearing the flightline of equipment that at any time could be enveloped in fire.

The dining facility was later dedicated to Aragon's heroic efforts and memory. Originally from Fountain, Colo., Aragon was the first casualty from the area during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions.

Airmen can view the dedication display during business hours at the dining facility and see pictures of Aragon with his flight while stationed at Peterson, as well as a picture of Aragon's name as it appears on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui