During Hispanic Heritage Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Orlando Llenza, who achieved the rank of major general.
Born in 1930, Orlando Llenza grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and graduated from high school in 1947. After high school, he went to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He spent four years there pursuing a bachelor’s degree in architecture while also participating in Georgia Tech’s Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.
Llenza graduated in 1951, earning the commission of second lieutenant. After graduation, he went to Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas. During the course of his service, he attended pilot training, Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College.
Llenza served as a pilot for the 9th Air Refueling Squadron during the Korean War. As part of strategic air command, he served at various Air Force bases. In 1955, he ended his service on active duty after serving abroad in Morocco at Ben Guerir Air Base.
After leaving active duty, Llenza joined the Air National Guard. He fulfilled many roles within the 156th Tactical Fighter Group including flight leader, squadron commander and group deputy commander for operations. In 1965, Llenza was part of the U.S. action in the Dominican Republic at the start of the Dominican Civil War.
In 1971, Llenza started his work in the office of the adjutant general as the director of operations for Puerto Rico’s National Guard. He became the adjutant general of Puerto Rico’s National Guard in 1977. This leadership role made Llenza the commander of Puerto Rico’s National Guard and gave him vast responsibility as a senior military advisor to Puerto Rico’s governor. Llenza finished serving in this role in 1983 when he retired from the National Guard. Llenza is Puerto Rico’s second service member to achieve the rank of major general. Throughout his service, Llenza flew a variety of aircraft including a F-104 Starfighter and KC-97 Stratofreighter, flying over 4,000 hours.
After retiring from the National Guard, Llenza worked for the United States Agency for International Development as the mission director in Quito, Ecuador, for three years. While in Ecuador, he managed the aid sent from the U.S., working to make sure it was distributed and used in an effective manner.
During his career, Llenza also worked alongside his family as an architect at their shared firm, Llenza & Llenza. Throughout his service, he received many awards, two of them being the Distinguished Service Medal and the National Order of Merit-Ecuador.
Llenza passed away in March 2021 at the age of 90, leaving his legacy in the hands of his six children.
We honor his service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Kimberly Kassis
Editor: Katherine Berman and Annabelle Colton
Fact checker: Carl Wesseln
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley