After growing up in the Rio Grande towns of Dixon and Espanola, N. M., Phil Valdez enlisted is the U.S. Navy at age 19 , training as a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War. On Jan. 29, 1967, Valdez was killed during a helicopter airlift when he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to rescue two wounded Marines. Credited with saving their lives, Valdez was awarded the Navy Cross. On July 27,1974, the U.S. Navy honored him by naming an antisubmarine destroyer escort the U.S.S. Valdez.