HOLTVILLE — Lifelong Holtville resident and U.S. Army and Korean War veteran Jose “Jimmy” Castro died on Jan. 8 at the age of 91.
Castro and his seven brothers, all of whom also served in the Army, were well-known veterans in the community and recognized for their 172 combined years of service.
Castro’s death was due to complications from COVID-19, his younger brother, Basilio Castro, said.
“All his brothers will miss him quite a bit,” Basilio Castro said. “He was a good man.”
The elder Castro was born on Feb. 10, 1929, and grew up near Calexico before moving with his growing family to Holtville, where his parents Carlos Martinez Castro and Julia Valdez Montoya secured property on Haven Road.
Jimmy, as he was affectionately known, and his siblings worked as youngsters in the local produce fields and in Central California and raised farm animals to auction off in the Valley.
He was drafted by the U.S. Army in December 1950. After basic training at Camp Roberts in Central California, Castro was deployed to Korea in June 1951, with the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry Regiment, Basilio Castro said.
While in Korea, Jimmy Castro was a squad leader and was wounded multiple times on Oct. 1, 1951. Initially, he sustained a gunshot wound in his left shoulder from an enemy’s rifle and hours later was injured by shrapnel from a mortar, which left him immobile, said Basilio Castro.
“One of his very close friends (Manuel Hernandez) crawled through the gunfire to rescue him,” Basilio said.
Once rescued, Jimmy Castro was evacuated to Japan by air and subsequently received a Purple Heart for his combat-related injuries. After his recovery, he returned briefly to Korea and then returned stateside in March 1952, his brother said.
Although Jimmy Castro had quit school at a relatively young age to help provide for the large family, he returned to Holtville High School to earn his diploma after being discharged from the Army, Basilio said. While there, he attracted the attention of his classmates, who were a few years younger than him.
“He used to get a kick out of that,” Basilio said.
Jimmy Castro also joined the National Guard after he was discharged from the Army and worked for the Holtville Unified School District as a bus driver and assistant mechanic for more than 25 years, family said.
The elder Castro was a longtime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans organizations and was an avid parishioner of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Holtville. He is survived by his wife, Lidia; their four children, Lidia, Dora, Mark, and James; as well as several of his siblings and their extended families.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Abundio, Erasmo and Carlos, and sister Urbana Vasquez.
Jimmy Castro and his seven brothers, Abundio, Carlos, Juan, Erasmo, Julio, Basilio and Arturo, were recognized on April 25, 2005, by former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, for their combined 172 years of service to the armed forces.
On that date, Hunter had read into the Congressional Record a proclamation honoring the Castro brothers and singling out Jimmy and Abundio for the injuries they received in combat. Abundio was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who was wounded a total of five times, the proclamation stated.
“The Castro brothers, like those on guard today, have made the bold and courageous decision to dedicate a part of their lives to making our nation and the world a safer place for all,” Hunter stated in his proclamation.
Mass and funeral services in honor of Jimmy Castro are planned but will be held privately, Basilio Castro said.