San Diego

Navy Veteran Remembers Apollo 11 Retrieval Mission 50 Years Later

"He was always so humble about it and never really talked about, aside from just in passing. It just seems like it is a part of him," his daughter said.

A San Diego U.S. Navy veteran recalls the small role he played in the Apollo 11 moon landing, 50 years after the historic space mission.

“You know I think that is me in the helicopter,” said Abram Dominguez as he looked through scrapbooks and military memorabilia Wednesday.

The 83 year old helped to retrieve the three American astronauts from the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.

“I was right there, I was working the hoist,” said Dominguez as he pointed to a picture of him flying inside helicopter 66 with the Black Knights HS-4 Squadron. That squadron is now called HSC-4. “You’re kind of proud, taking part in that.”

Dominguez was a Navy Chief, but before he earned that rank he was selected to fly out to several Apollo missions to retrieve the astronauts after they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, including Apollo 11’s crew.

Dominguez now lives in Rancho San Diego, but has been staying at a physical rehab facility in National City, called Friendship Manor, for the last two months after suffering a small stroke.

Dominguez admits he was worried he might forget some of the history after the stroke that affected his speech.

“It did not affect my long range (memory),” said Dominguez.

His daughter has kept everything together from dad’s naval career.

“My mom saved it all, I just put it together here,” said Celeste Shenas. She even had one of his Navy jackets.

Shenas was only 6-years-old at the time but she still remembers Apollo 11, and it helped that her dad was a part of it.

“I remember the excitement and the teachers telling the first graders or kindergarteners about it,” said Shenas.

She even saved the stamped letters he wrote to her while he was serving on Apollo missions.

“’Dear Lovey,’ that’s what he called me,” she laughed as she started to read one out loud. “’… Only about two more weeks before I see you all again. Remember to take care of mamma and the rest of the kids and Patsy. Take care. Love always, Papa.”

She has several letters saved in their original envelopes inside her father’s scrapbook of pictures and documents including his assignment orders for the Apollo 11 mission that cite her father and all the other names who were included in the order.

She said he did not boast about his time working on the Apollo missions. When the 50-year Apollo 11 anniversary came up last weekend, July 20, Shenas wanted to share with her friends how involved her father was in that mission, and share how proud she is of him.

“Because he was always so humble about it and never really talked about, aside from just in passing. It just seems like it is a part of him. I feel like it is his story and our country’s story,” she said.

As far as more moon exploration, Dominguez would like to see the U.S. soar a little deeper into space.

“I would like to see travel to Mars,” said Dominguez. “I think that is the next frontier, too much moon already, we are mooned out.”

Dominguez also helped retrieve astronauts from Apollo, 8, 10, 12, and 13.

Contact Us