SAN ANTONIO – Before he was an American hero, he was a basketball all star -- a state champion with a scholarship offer to play at Oklahoma. Then, war.
Tony Rivera, 92, graduated from Lanier High School in 1945 before serving his country during World War II.
On Friday, Rivera donated his war medals to his beloved Lanier High School. He hopes his donations, which included a two purple hearts, a bronze medal for valor and one for merit, will inspire younger generations.
"He was in the Normandy Invasion, six days after the actual invasion," Raul Salas, Rivera's cousin said. "I recall him saying there were dead bodies all over, and he couldn't imagine how it was on the first day."
Rivera was wounded during his service, but would get to return home. Some of the Lanier classmates he served alongside would not.
"He always thought about those he served with and those that didn't come back," Salas said. "It was always ingrained in his mind."
Rivera hopes his accolades will serve as a reminder to students of the sacrifice and dedication of those who came before them.
"He wanted to leave his legacy to the school here -- the kids that would pass by the halls and see what was done by those people who went to war back at that time," Salas said.
Rivera's war medals will be on display alongside the trophies he earned playing basketball at Lanier High School.