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Purple Heart honored to grandson of Ybor City founder now part of museum

Just in time for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, a ceremony was held to announce the medal's addition to Ybor City Museum.

TAMPA, Fla. — You may know about Ybor City's founding father, Vicente Martinez Ybor. But not about his grandson, Salvador Martinez Ybor, Jr. 

"His name belongs with the names of other heroes here in Tampa," Councilman Luis Viera said.

Ybor Jr. died serving for the U.S. during World War II. Enlisting after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ybor Jr. was awarded a Purple Heart for his sacrifice.

Just in time for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, a ceremony was held to announce the addition of the medal to Ybor City Museum.

Gold Star families and Purple Heart recipients including State Sen. Jay Collins (R-14) stressed the importance of never forgetting the sacrifices made by those like Ybor Jr. 

"If we don't do that, as veterans, as members of our community, as elected officials, and truly tell the history of where people came from and what they've done, then we're failing in our mission," Collins said.

Credit: Luis Viera

Councilman Viera stumbled upon this part of history by accident. 

Viera said he connected with Ybor Jr.'s nephew Ignacio Martinez Ybor, who lives in Miami. He gifted it to the museum so that his service wouldn't be forgotten. He wasn't able to attend due to his health, Viera said. 

Viera said Ybor Jr. was a son of wealth and left a life of affluence in Cuba in order to serve. Nicknamed "Salvin," he signed up at the age of 32 standing 5-feet, 6-inches tall and weighing 112 pounds, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

"What he lacked in physical stature, he made up with a thousand times more with an amazing heart," Viera said. "A heart that wanted to have a reckoning for the evil acts of this day 81 years ago."

He grew up in Ybor City and later lived in south Tampa's Hyde Park Avenue.

After being rejected by the U.S. Army Air Corps, he signed up for the U.S. Army and joined the 43rd Infantry Division, Viera said.

He would die during the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines on Jan. 6, 1945. Ybor Jr. was fatally wounded during the landing when he was hit in the back with shrapnel, the commission states.

He was buried at sea near San Fabian in the Philippines.

Viera said his mother mourned his loss so much she would wear black the rest of her life.

Years later, during the Cuban Communist revolution, Viera said his family left pretty much everything behind but managed to keep the Purple Heart.

Credit: Luis Viera

Speakers at the ceremony said his story and those others who were hurt or died should always be remembered. 

"We should never ever, ever forget that sacrifice," Viera said.

Purple Heart recipients like Timothy Reed said he feels connected with Ybor Jr. because of their services for the U.S.

"It's a good day because we're able to say his name," Reed said.

Purple Heart recipients like retired Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Johnson said it's important the public be better aware of those who have served.

"We're very thankful that we're here to honor a man who made the ultimate sacrifice," Johnson said.

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