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World War II hero recognized days before 102nd birthday

Valdemar DeHerrera's story is one of hope. He's one of the oldest remaining survivors of the Bataan Death March.

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A World War II hero was recognized on Wednesday just days before his 102nd birthday.

Valdemar DeHerrera was born in 1919 in Costilla, New Mexico.

"Still, he's very independent, uses a walker, but he loves being outdoors, indoors. He's just a wonderful inspiration to all of us," said his granddaughter, Pamela DeHerrera.

Part of that inspiration is DeHerrera’s story, it's one of hope, as he is the oldest survivor of the Bataan Death March in New Mexico's Taos County.

"He was captured and became a prisoner of war. He was there for almost four years before he was released," Pamela DeHerrera said.

During his time as a prisoner of war, he was nearly killed three times.

Each time he was saved by what he calls a guardian angel.

Once he was freed from a prison camp. He weighed 80 pounds.

"I think the biggest thing I hope people take away from his life is that he is a true hero and not just because of the war, but his everyday life," Pamela said.

And his heroism was recognized on Wednesday by the community of Taos, as he was honored by the city as an unsung hero.

"It's always such a great honor to him when anybody honors him for the things he has done, even the horrific things he had been through. But it makes us all very proud and makes him proud," Pamela said.

That pride extends to DeHerrea's whole family; his eight kids, 18 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

"His love of God and his faith has gotten him through all the adjustments from being back and always also the love of family, all of us, especially myself. You know, the love of our family that keeps us all close," Pamela said.

DeHerrera will officially turn 102 this Friday, his family plans to have a celebration for him.