Four-time Purple Heart recipient has heart of gold

As one of two surviving members of his Marine Corps battalion, Kyle resident Max Vasquez’ life has been shaped by hardships, including the brutality of war.

Max Vasquez shares a memory of his late grandson, with whom he shared a love of Star Wars.

It hasn’t stopped Vasquez from giving back to his community in any way he can, sacrificing his body, time and resources for others, a philosophy rooted in his blood from his days in the service.

For Vasquez, his motto is simple. “I help others because I am still alive,” the four-time Purple Heart recipient said. “I don’t question God as to why I am still standing, but I am, and that’s enough to keep me going.”

Known as the neighborhood handyman, Vasquez’ blue-collar skills as a former marine, structural engineer, Vietnam war veteran and hotel security specialist have all come in handy for the residents of Spring Branch in Kyle. 

To his neighbors, he’s the watchdog of the community. To his fellow bikers and servicemen, he’s a man of compassion and love, putting the needs of others over himself.

But his gift was molded through experience. Vasquez was injured in combat four times in Vietnam. He also lost his grandson at a young age, a sad reality that follows him everywhere he goes.

Vasquez’ home is reminiscent of his memories, including photographs and accolades from his Marine days, and a noticeable love for Star Wars, his grandson’s favorite movies, which decorate all corners of the home.

But Vasquez’ life is full of accomplishment too, including one of his most cherished memories of carrying the Olympic torch at the 1996 Atlanta games.

“I had tears in my eyes as I ran with that torch and I could hear the crowd yelling ‘USA, USA, USA,’” Vasquez said. “I joined the Marines to fight for my country, not sit at a desk. And now, all I want to do is pay it forward. My purpose is to serve others.”

Vasquez is known in his neighborhood for fixing fences, A/C units, garage doors and a plethora of other maintenance duties. The Vietnam veteran said the manual labor keeps him active and busy during his retirement while assisting his neighbors at any cost.

Glenn Webb, a resident of Spring Branch, said Vasquez is a center point for community conversation.

“Mr. Vasquez is the perfect neighbor in the community of Spring Branch. He helps out those not able by doing yard work (along with his wife Maria), handyman tasks and just talking to folks along Fall Creek Dr.,” Webb said. “He even lends his Mazda truck out to neighbors who need to run errands and do not have a working vehicle.”

Flattered by his Kyle Citizen of the Year nomination, Vasquez couldn’t help but laugh. He said the work isn’t done for recognition, but was happy his neighbors viewed him as someone to rely on.

As Vasquez starts his Harley Davidson for a cruise, he straps on his leather vest, covered in patches of accolades. But one patch, in particular, is special and is shared with all of his fellow bikers.

The patch reads “Jedi Max II,” after his grandson, a memento and a reminder that his grandson lives with him every day, giving Vasquez the strength to carry on the will of the lost through his gratitude to his community.

Max Vasquez was one of our Citizen of the Year nominees for 2018. Read the Hays Free Press for profiles on other nominees.

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