Juan Eric Cantu was born in Kinston, North Carolina. He volunteered for the US Army in 1965. After completing basic training, he was sent to Vietnam where he served with the 228TH Aviation Battalion, 1st Cav. Division at An Khe, South Vietnam.
He is the designer and builder of the Lenoir County Vietnam KIA Memorial. The Memorial was relocated in 2019 to Neuseway Nature Center. He is also the designer for the 911 Emergency Services Memorial in Pearson Park. He was chosen as the 2008 inductee into the Walk of Honor Veterans Hall of Fame and was chosen that same year as the Legionnaire of the Year for American Legion Post 43.