If you spoke with Bernardino “Nino” Chavez you would not have guessed the longtime Cimarron resident earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart during World War II.
“He never really went into details,” his son Alfonso Chavez said. “He was quiet. He understood fully what he went through. He was not bragging about it.”
Chavez was part of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. He landed at Omaha Beach and participated in several battles in Europe. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned to Cimarron where he lived until his death on May 19 at age 89.
Inspired by his older brother Laudente Chavez, a member of the 200th Coast Guard Artillery, Nino Chavez enlisted in the Army at age 17 in 1943. Laudente was also in the Army during World War II and died during the Bataan Death March. Alfonso Chavez said his father rarely spoke about his Laudente.
After the war Chavez returned to Cimarron where he and his wife Antonia raised their 11 children. Chavez worked as a trucker and hauled lumber to Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana and other parts of the country.
His most important job was being a father.
“He was a dedicated family man,” Alfonso Chavez said. “The top of his priority list was his family and his kids.”
A native of the Heck Canyon area, Chavez liked the peace and quiet of Cimarron. He enjoyed going fishing, being active in the Immaculate Conception Church and going on family vacations to southern Colorado.
As the country marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion two weeks ago Nino Chavez probably would not have made a big deal of it. For Chavez, what he and his peers did that day was nothing extraordinary. In a time of crisis, landing on Omaha Beach was the least they could for their country. Though Chavez rarely spoke about his experiences and accolades they will always be remembered and appreciated in his beloved Cimarron.