Coast Guard remembers former crewman's actions, 31 years later

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on November 28, 2011 at 8:00 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 28 at 11:01 PM

BENBROOK — It's a picture frozen in time; a reminder of a lost son.

"Every day, every day, every day, you know we think about him," said Julia Flores. "Every time we see his picture, or we get together, we miss him."

It's been 31 years since Julia and Robert Flores learned that their son, William "Billy" Flores, a U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Apprentice, made the ultimate sacrifice. He was 18 years old.

"That was the kind of boy he was," Robert Flores said. "He was always ready to help his friends."

He died saving them.

In January of 1980, Flores was on a Coast Guard cutter when it collided with a tanker near Tampa Bay, Florida. While some of the crew abandoned ship, Flores stayed behind. He helped trapped and injured shipmates.

Twenty-three men died that day, but 27 survived. Many of those can credit Billy Flores.

"Our family, we don't want them to forget him," Robert Flores said.

The Coast Guard didn't forget either.

It is naming its new Sentinel-class boats after its heroes. This week, it plans to honor Flores with the launch of its third fast response cutter.

"We really appreciate that," Robert Flores said. "There's no words that can express our feelings."

The ship will be tested in the next several months and is expected to be commissioned at a later date. It's an honor the Flores family hopes to witness.

It's a ship designed for missions — from security to search and rescue — that will carry the name of their son and his legacy.

"That's a real hero, when I see that picture," Robert Flores said. "That's a real hero."

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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