Esther LaPort with photos of her military family. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Esther LaPort with photos of her military family. Photo by Robert Eliason.

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With her father, her brother, her daughter, her husband, three grandchildren, three nephews, two sons-in-law, and three nephews in the military, either serving or retired, Esther LaPore is dedicated to honoring their service with her work at Hollister’s Veterans Auxiliary Post 9242 and the American Legion Auxiliary Post 69. 

LaPore’s daughter, Air Force Tech Sergeant Elisa Eclarin Perada, remembers her sending care packages to the ship where her husband, Second Lieutenant Ezra Eclarin, was serving on a record-breaking deployment.

“He was so proud just to have all of these boxes come in and be able to deliver them to the sailors,” said Perada. “It is hard to explain unless you are there and see what service members go through. But I can see its importance and the impact it has on the people around us.”

Esther LaPort with her father's Veteran of the Year medal. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Esther LaPort with her father’s Veteran of the Year medal. Photo by Robert Eliason.

LaPore, 65, was born and raised in Hollister. Her father, Corporal John Z. Hernandez, Sr.,  served four years in the Army, including two years of deployment to Korea.
“My dad was always bitter because they called it ‘the Korean Conflict’ when we all knew it was a war,” she said. “But he was a proud American citizen and a patriot. He was the first person in Hollister to be awarded the Veteran of the Year. They gave him a medal, and he was so proud of it that he never took it off.” 

John Z. Hernandez Park on Central Avenue is named after her father, in honor of his advocacy for Hollister’s Hispanic community. 

“He would advocate and fight for the Westside where we grew up,” she said. “He would go to City Council meetings and be a thorn in their sides. He helped a lot of migrants fill out their paperwork for housing, and he would also go to the courthouse as an interpreter.”

LaPore was introduced to her future husband, Marine Sergeant Brian LaPore, in 1987, when her brother, who served with Brian at Camp Pendleton, brought him to the family’s Thanksgiving. Brian served twice, from 1984-98 and 1990-93.

John Z Hernandez, Sr and his Veteran of the Year medal. Photo by Robert Eliason.
John Z Hernandez, Sr and his Veteran of the Year medal. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“They would go out on ship for six months,” she said, “and this time, they were back for a four-day weekend, so he brought him home with him. Then they went out on ship again until the next July.”

LaPore’s daughter, Elisa, now retired, currently works in a wound care clinic in Virginia after 20 years in the Air Force.

“I’m most proud of her because of what she accomplished and where she is now in life,” she said. “You wouldn’t have thought, back when she was going through high school and giving me problems, that the Air Force would have been the best thing for her. I miss her the best, the most.”

Following the death of her father, LaPore joined the American Legion Auxiliary in 2013 and the Veterans Auxiliary in 2015.

“I wish I would have joined while he was alive,” she said. “My dad never asked us to join, but after that, I got my mom, my daughters, and my granddaughters to all join up to help with all of the good things that we do.”

As part of her service, LaPore works with a spinal cord unit in Palo Alto, providing food and clothing for patients, as well as blankets and things to entertain them. The unit also offers services for visiting families.

“We provide supplies for Fisher’s house and the Defenders Lodge at the hospital,” she said. “It’s where if your husband was having an appointment in the morning, you could stay overnight in a room, and it doesn’t cost anything.”

She also works to support Blue Star Moms, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to families of service members, and G.I. Josie, which offers support for women in the service who suffer from PTSD.

“A motto we have says, ‘Remember your “Why?’”, she said. “‘Why are you doing all of these things?’ My why is my family, my kids and my grandkids who went into the service. Like my grandsons Lance and Ezra. We serve our veterans first and foremost and honor the sacrifices that veterans have made.”

Pointing out that 22 veterans nationally commit suicide every day, LaPore says there is a need for more volunteers at the auxiliaries and more attention paid to veterans’ issues. 

“I just finished on June 30 being the district president of the American Legion auxiliary,” she said, “On July 1, I became the district president of the VFW, so I feel like I’m doing double duty  because, in our small organization in Hollister, we need to step up and get new recruitment our small organizations in Hollister so that we can someone can follow me.”

LaPore said that she is concerned the organizations might be fading out, which would leave service members and veterans in need.

“If we die away, then who’s going to be there for our veterans when it comes time to take up for them?” she asked. We have to support our Legion Post and VFW Post in their endeavors. We’re right behind them and right with them doing what they do for veterans.”

Members of Esther LaPore’s military family

  • Parker Anderson, Sergeant, Marine Corps – son-in-law
  • Ezra Eclarin, Second Lieutenant, Marine Corps – grandson
  • Elisa Eclarin-Perada, Tech Sergeant, Air Force – daughter
  • Arthur Hernandez, Tech Sergeant, Air Force – nephew
  • Gabriel Hernandez, Lance Corporal, Marine Corps – grandson
  • John A. Hernandez, Sergeant, Marine Corps – nephew
  • John Z. Hernandez, Jr., Master Sergeant, Marine Corps -brother
  • John Z. Hernandez, Sr., Corporal, Army – father
  • Richard Hernandez, Staff Sergeant, Marine Corps – nephew
  • Derrick Jackson, Seaman, Navy – grandson
  • Brian LaPore, Sergeant, Marine Corps Airborne -husband
  • Jenner Pereda, Senior Chief, Navy – son-in-law 

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