Santa Ysabel: Augustine Quevas Family Closure

By Roy Cook

Auka. Saturday, February 6, 2010, 11:30 am Santa Ysabel Tribal member Karen Vigneault and her family had closure regarding Augustine Quevas. She never met her great-uncle. He died years before she was born. She had heard family and friends stories about his military service to his country and the tragic circumstances of his death as a prisoner of war. He was a prisoner in an enemy ship that was sunk by a US submarine.

“He was the only POW in our family,” said Karen, “He was the only one that never came home.” Recently seeking recognition for his sacrifice and when officials thwarted her, she continued to seek out overdue respect for her great-uncle, Augustine Quevas.

In DeLand, Fla., Stephen Blakeslee read of Karen Vigneault’s plight in an e-mail from the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. Blakeslee knew he had to act.

His late father, Robert Blakeslee, survived the sinking of the Shinyo Maru. Although he rarely talked about his experience as a POW and Bataan Death March survivor, the elder Blakeslee did claim the medals he earned, many of them the same as those Quevas would have received.

Ruth Blakeslee, Stephen’s mother and Robert’s wife, got some extra medals to put into shadow boxes for her grandchildren, a project that she didn’t finish before her death in 2005.

“I would be honored to give them to you,” Stephen Blakeslee, 69, told Vigneault.

Blakeslee said donating the medals is a way to keep alive the story of his father and Quevas, and others like them. (SD Union: Soto)

The reason all this could take place is due to Karen inviting Stephen Blakeslee to attend the event. He brought the metals to loan to the VMCC for the display/ event. There were speeches by the Santa Ysabel Tribal Vice-Chairperson: Brandie Taylor, also by John Hernandez, Tribal Chairman, VMCC representatives and historians. This long overdue recognition was accompanied by a dialog in Ipai between Santa Ysabel Tribal member Herman Osuna, Korea veteran and Santa Ysabel Tribal member Stan Rodriguez, Gulf War veteran and on this occasion, Stan sang a Tipai song with Turtle shell rattle accompaniment. Also attending were Santa Ysabel military Veterans Virgil Osuna and Andy Wilson and a fabulous representation of Santa Ysabel Tribal members, including Quevas niece Henrietta Edwards.

Augustine Quevas gave his life in Military service to defend this country.

This February 6, 2010 the Quevas family received overdue recognition and closure. Help and closure is due to the concern and kindness of a son, Stephen Blakeslee, of a fellow WWII POW, Robert Blakeslee, who survived the horror of the Bataan death march and donated his metals to the family.

It is long known by Veterans to be true that the reason why we serve and fight in the military is that individual standing next to us. In the foxhole, in the ships and planes, we look out for each other. Not for some political slogan or other metaphysical call. Veterans take care of veterans. And as veterans, we go into harms way with only our training, a weapon and a sense of honor. Once again, these events verify this truism: veterans helping veterans. Not politicians. Not government services or bureaucrats.

Saturday, February 6, 2010, 11:30 am, despite dark skies and wet roadways there is a overwhelming response attending the event at the Veterans Museum Culture Center, VMCC, from Santa Ysabel Tribal Members, Veteran Council officials, veteran motorcycle groups, American Indian Warriors Association Honor Color Guard and many other multi-ethnic representatives of veterans and their families.

Finally, there was a fine table of good American Indian reservation food prepared by Karen Vigneault and Brandie Taylor for all to enjoy and remember this event. Mehan!