MASON CITY | Albert Chavez of Mason City was a handsome young man, a good athlete and a patriot.
He led an exciting life that ended way too soon "somewhere in Korea" -- "somewhere" because no one knows quite where.
After graduating from Pasadena College in Pasadena, California, where he played football, Chavez went into the Army and was a weapons and ammunitions specialist in World War II.
He was a cannoneer on a 155mm howitzer, helped maintain guns and handled ammunition.
After the war, he returned to the states but re-enlisted to serve his country in Korea, said his nephew, Philip Sanchez of Mason City.
"I am told he loved to travel and this was his way of seeing the world," Sanchez said.
On Jan. 20, 1951, while serving on patrol with the 3rd platoon of L Company, 17th R.C.T., enemy forces engaged his platoon in a fierce firefight that lasted eight hours.
Many soldiers were killed. Fourteen were captured. Chavez was one of them. So was Master Sgt. Woodrow Haines, who wrote to Chavez's parents on March 19, 1951.
"We were marched back to their corp for questioning, some 40 miles north," he wrote. "After 15 days, four other men and myself were released because of wounds and frostbite, and guided back to our own lines.
"Albert and the others were taken further north, I believe, to attend a school on communism, before being released. Albert was not wounded and in good health.
"We received no brutal treatment and were fed twice a day. I hope this brings you some comfort about Albert."
That was the only communication the family received about Chavez for years. Since they had not heard from him personally, their only hope was that he was still alive in captivity.
But it was not to be. On Feb. 5, 1954, nearly three years since Master Sgt. Haines had sent them the letter, the Army informed them in a letter that Corp. Albert Chavez had died of malnutrition.
His date of death was believed to be in May of 1951. It had taken that long to confirm the death and notify the next of kin. He was 29.
He had served his country and died for it -- "somewhere" in Korea.