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Valley war hero dies of COVID-19

Posted at 6:46 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-02 00:15:16-04

PHOENIX — One of the latest victims of the COVID-19 virus in the Valley was a Vietnam war veteran and a pillar of strength and leader in the south Phoenix community, Juan Antonio Tercero.

The 71-year old man who lived in a nursing home in the Sun City West community was hospitalized from complications caused by the virus, and placed on a ventilator earlier this week.

It all happened so fast for his family, now left mourning the loss of a father and grandfather.

"I hope that my dad knew how many people he inspired and how many lives he touched. He would be very proud of that," said daughter, Cindy Tercero-Sandoval.

Juan Antonio Tercero was lovingly known as "Tony" by friends. His family tells ABC15 he always lived a life of service, even after he received an honorable discharge from the Army.

"He always worked to elevate the Latino community. He always wanted to work with young people and did a lot of work with at risk youth," said Tercero-Sandoval.

Her dad did not talk about his service much. It was only later in life that Cindy learned her father was a war hero who saved many lives, up until the very last day of his service in Vietnam.

She tells ABC15 her father was a proud veteran. The family is devastated because they were not able to say their goodbye's to Tercero in person.

Due to hospitals not allowing family members inside the COVID-19 floors, the final farewell had to be said over video chat.

"Although he was sedated, I knew that he could hear me and just, it's just really sad that we couldn't be there and hold his hand and be with him during that time. That's really hard," said Tercero-Sandoval.

She described her dad as living a colorful life. From selling tamales out of a wagon with his brother as a child, to becoming a tough soldier who was loyal to his mission and his country Tercero-Sandoval says her father always lived with integrity.

After coming home from war, she said her father's life took a dark turn for a while, as he fell in with the wrong crowd and started dealing drugs.

"That was something he did, but it never defined who he was. I always just thought that you know, just focus on the type of man he was," said Tercero-Sandoval.

Her father was able to turn his life around. He went on to work at ASU Gammage, Univision, and even served as a board member for the Phoenix Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but his real passion was helping the youth.

"He just wanted to have young people, particularly Latino youth know that they could have a better life and they could have better opportunities," said Tercero-Sandoval.

Now this daughter's goal in life is to fight to get her dad the medal of honor she says he should have received a long time ago.

"That's my new goal. I'm going to make sure that this happens for him," said Tercero Sandoval.

Final arrangements for a memorial and funeral services are still underway. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the service will be a small one. ABC15 will keep you posted once the family has finalized arrangements.