Ortega still has vivid memories of the year he spent fighting in Korea, an environment he described as trench warfare.
At his home in Whittier, the 81-year-old Ortega reflects on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire.
"As the years go by, we understand now that that was the communists and that defeat of the communist for the first time," said Ortega.
Ortega proudly displays medals and photos of his time in Korea. The retired civil engineer says that what is often referred to as the forgotten war played a huge role in giving the people of South Korea a chance at freedom.
"If we had allowed North Korea to come in and take South Korea and make it all communists, then they could've taken Cambodia, Burma, Philippines, Japan. They could've just taken everything," said Ortega.
Ortega, who will be featured in an upcoming documentary on the Korean War, says he hopes Americans will continue to honor the more than 33,000 Americans who died in the war.