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Remembering Felix Mestas

LA VETA — Felix Balois “Cowboy” Mestas Jr. was the son of Felix Mestas Sr. and Simolita Lovato. He was born on August 23, 1921.  His family lived in La Veta, Colorado.  Felix helped his father on their farm before being drafted into the US Army on November 13, 1942, in Pueblo, Colorado. He was married to Carmen Grayce Kronieczny.  Mestas had the rank of Private First Class. His military occupation or specialty was BAR Gunner.

Felix was a member of the 350th Infantry Regiment, part of the 88th Infantry Division.  He was initially in the thick of the fighting in North Africa, and was previously reported missing in action before a final message relayed that he was killed in action during the Battle of Monte Battaglia in Italy.  He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action that day.  He also received the Purple Heart. His citation reads in part:

“On September 27, 1944, Company G occupied Mount Battaglia with orders to hold this strategic height at all costs. Private Mestas, a BAR gunner, and his assistant dug a position on the forward slope of the hill. Within an hour, Mount Battaglia received the first of many severe counterattacks.
As the Germans crept up the hill, Private Mestas stood upright in his position and fired the BAR from his hip. His accurate fire dispersed the enemy and inflicted casualties upon them. The next day the Germans counterattacked three times but each time Private Mestas helped to repel the attacks.
On the afternoon on the third day, the enemy launched a particularly heavy counterattack, and due to the rain and fog, were able to approach close to their positions. With utter disregard for the withering hail of fire directed at him, Private Mestas again fired his BAR from a standing position in order to obtain a better field of fire.

When his weapon jammed, he calmly repaired it under the protecting rifle fire of his assistant gunner. Occasionally he paused to throw grenades, and after expending his meagre supply, resorted to the use of rocks.

As it became evident that their position soon be overrun, Private Mestas ordered his assistant gunner to run to the safety of the reverse slope of Mount Battaglia while he protected his withdrawal with his BAR.  The only soldier now on the forward slope of Mount Battaglia, Private Mestas calmly fired clip after clip from his BAR into the enemy ranks who were charging up the hill massed almost shoulder to shoulder. Private Mestas stopped two dozen enemy soldiers before he was killed.”

In 1949 the La Veta Peak in Colorado was renamed in honor of PFC Felix B. Mestas, Jr.  The Mt. Mestas Memorial Monument was commissioned in 1955 by the local VFW and erected of Colorado rose granite from the mountain named for PFC Mestas, and engraved with the names of 63 men of Huerfano County who died in World War II.  Decades later the monument was moved to the front entry of the Veterans Hospital, located on the highway outside of Walsenburg.
Felix Balois Mestas Jr. is buried and memorialized at La Veta Cemetery, La Veta, Huerfano County, Colorado.