The best way to keep a beloved deceased family member’s memory alive includes observances of meaningful days, such as birthdays and the anniversary of death. Del Torres, of Talpa, knows this action all too well, as he and his family plan to honor his late brother’s memory Feb. 18 in the Ranchos de Taos/Talpa area.
“My brother, Manuel Antonio Torres, was killed in Vietnam Feb. 26, 1967, nearly 50 years ago. We felt that it was a significant anniversary, and we wanted to honor our brother, someone that we knew all our lives, who was a part of us and who gave his life for his country to help many others,” said Torres during an interview at his home.
According to Del (Delfino) Torres, Manuel was born May 5, 1948, in Talpa to parents Anselmo and Cecilia Torrez. Here, the brother explains that, at some time, the letters of the surname changed back and forth (Torres with an “s” and Torrez with a “z”). The grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Selso Torres and Mrs. Victoriana Duran.
Manuel Torres grew up in Talpa and graduated (along with his brother) from Taos High School in 1965. He joined the Army following graduation. A member of the 25th Infantry Division, Manuel Torres served as an airborne scout. “He was the first one to hit action and check the safety print. We were made aware through reports from his commander how Manuel saved others,” said Del Torres of his brother.
The 19-year-old specialist fourth class was stationed in "War Zone C." His pride and joy was the love of action when he jumped out of planes. The report of his death stated that Manuel Torres died of hostile action when he stepped on a land mine. "He died of a metal wound,” said Del Torres. The sibling most influential in Torres' life, Manuel Torres earned a Purple Heart, a bronze medal and the Vietnam Merit Medal. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park in Angel Fire exhibited a remembrance to the deceased veteran along with others who gave their lives. Family records include a personal letter of condolence to Manuel Torres' parents from former U.S. Army Gen. W.C. Westmoreland.
Those who knew the late Manuel Torres as a local citizen no doubt recall his abilities as a basketball player. Many also remember his nickname — Zorro — and his husky frame. Because the deceased was born and raised in Talpa, his family chose to bury him in his home community with full military honors instead of at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
“My brother was so important to me that my wife [Mercy] and I named our son Manuel in honor of my sibling. Now, we even have a grandson who bears the name,” said Torres, smiling.
Torres’ 50th anniversary commemoration will occur Feb. 18 at the St. Francis de Asís Church in Ranchos de Taos. Mass and an honor guard presentation will begin at 1 p.m. The family plans a meal at the Talpa Community Center after the ceremony.
Del Torres in the military
After graduation, Manuel Torres joined the Army. Del Torres followed these actions several months later – in October 1965. Del Torres' assignment stations included Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and, finally, Fort Carson, Colorado. The last assignment occurred after Manuel Torres' death to enable Del Torres to remain in close proximity to his parents.
After three years of active duty, Torres changed his status and joined the National Guard. He spent 22 1/2 years on active military duty and retired as a sergeant major, the highest rank for an enlisted member to obtain. His active National Guard service includes Taos, Springer, Santa Fe, Belen and retirement from the brigade in Albuquerque.
Torres recalled some memories of his military career. “Mercy found out what being a military wife was all about,” he said. “I went to electrician school in Huntsville, Alabama, and she went with me. We also lived in Belen during my time in the service. I commuted to Albuquerque in the end. When I retired, we sold our home in Belen and moved back to Taos. I took a year off to help my son add on to his house and to babysit my great-granddaughter,” Torres said.
The retiree returned to the workforce at the molybdenum mine near Questa. He then decided to attend New Mexico Highlands University, where he majored in social work and minored in sociology. He served as a Taos County planner and then at Tri-County Community Services for a year as a case worker and drug-alcohol abuse counselor.
When a position opened up for the director of income support in Taos for the state, Torres applied for and received the job. After seven years, he retired. “I think I used to see the world through rose-colored glasses,” said Torres. “I didn’t realize how many homeless people there are in Taos. Much help is needed in this community." To assist the community, Torres serves on the El Valle de los Ranchos Water & Sanitation District board and other water-related organizations.
To Torres, retirement means time to do what he enjoys. He prefers time in the mountains hunting and fishing. He owns a Harley-Davidson and uses it to cruise around with Mercy. The family enjoys boating on the waters of Eagle Nest and Abiquiú.
The Torres family consists of siblings Teddie (Larry) Vaught, a retired military member residing in Florida; and Annette Torres, a motorcycle enthusiast who lives in Albuquerque.
Torres and his wife plan to celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary this November. Their son, Manuel, and his wife, Theresa, raised four children. The Torres grandchildren are as follows: Tanya (Danny) Tylutki, of Tucson; Julie (Adrian) Fernandez; Manuel Torres; Jeremy Torres; and Mariah Voight. Four great-grandchildren include Andrea Fernandez, A.J. Fernandez, Luca Tylutki and Ezara Delfino Tylutki.
“I feel it’s important to remember my brother," Torres said. "We grew up together, graduated together – and he was killed at a young age. It’s traumatic to lose someone you knew all your life. Our family is close, especially its many ties to the military, including my sisters. We’re also proud of our brother and want to honor his memory. We’ve been a long time without him, but we still remember. On behalf of the family, I’d like to invite the residents to join us in honoring Manuel’s memory this Saturday."