Miguel Olivera was born in 1942 in Puerto Rico. He survived combat against the Viet Cong and the impact of Agent Orange while stationed in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
On Sept. 20, 2017, Olivera and his wife, Diana Aponte, took shelter inside their home in the heavy-hit mountain town of Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria’s 155-mph winds devastated much of the island. In the aftermath of the storm, Olivera and his wife were among the millions without power. A 10-story electricity tower fell next to the couple’s home. For Olivera, having no power for his refrigerator meant he was in danger of losing his last vial of insulin.
According to a report from CNN’s Bill Weir, when Olivera was asked how the destruction caused by Maria compared to what he experienced in Vietnam, the 75-year-old said, “the hurricane is worse.”
When Hurricane Maria hit the island, there were 1,687 homebound Veterans in Puerto Rico who required ongoing medical care such as dialysis, chemotherapy and insulin to survive. The San Juan VA Medical Center began dispatching teams of doctors, nurses and social workers to visit the homes of each one of these Veterans.
News reports of Olivera’s predicament caught the attention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Washington, who then asked the San Juan VA to check on him and provide him with his life-saving insulin.
While his health initially started to improve, there was still no power six weeks later, and he developed pneumonia and intestinal problems. Olivera died the day before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 22, 2017, which was also the day of his 50th wedding anniversary.
We honor his service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Ben Szalinski