Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Silver Star for illegal immigrant

On Flag Day, a story about an illegal immigrant who won the Silver Star while serving his new country.

The Orange County Register:
Camp Pendleton Marine receives Silver Star
On day he receives medal, former Marine speaks of fallen comrade.

The Orange County Register

CAMP PENDLETON – The armor-piercing round ripped through the right shoulder of then-Lance Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez, leaving a fist-sized hole.

Maybe it was the adrenaline, but the stocky, young Marine felt no pain during the April 2004 firefight.

One floor below him, as Iraqi insurgents fired relentlessly, Gomez-Perez could hear his fellow Marines shouting.

The El Cajon resident propped up his M-16 and pulled the trigger despite his bloodied chest, his thick, wide frame keeping his shoulder intact. He lobbed a grenade with his good arm.

Beside him, Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin, 21, wounded by gunfire, was losing his fight for life. Below him, the shouting continued.

"All I heard was screaming and screaming," Gomez-Perez said.

Gomez-Perez decided he would die before he would be taken prisoner and made a bold move to lead his fellow Marines, several wounded, against their attackers.

His actions that day would earn him the Silver Star for heroism in battle, awarded at a ceremony Wednesday.

Gomez-Perez was challenged in life at an early age.

When he was 9, he ran across the I-805 Freeway in San Diego County with his mother and two sisters in tow, crossing illegally into the country – a journey that started in Mexico City. By 12 he started working to earn money for the family.

His mother, Blanca Gomez, a custodian, said that on their journey north the family waded across a channel filled with water using plastic trash bags to stay dry.

"That was a very sad day because we were uncertain of what would happen," she said.

That was 15 years ago.

On Wednesday, Gomez watched a formation of Marines pay honor to her son, a fire team leader for Company E with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and listened to a general describe how a country is thankful for her boy.

"We have a true hero here," Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski told Blanca Gomez – now a legal resident – and the rest of his family. Gomez-Perez became a U.S. citizen in 2004. [After he returned to the US from Iraq.]

Now, discharged from the Marines, he says his shoulder still hurts and finding work is difficult.

At the ceremony Wednesday at the seaside base, Gomez-Perez wore a Texas flag in his coat pocket, a tribute to Austin, who died that day from his wounds despite being revived twice, Gomez-Perez said.

"It runs through my head every day," said Gomez-Perez, who is indifferent about receiving the award. "I really don't know what it means."

Instead, he remembers the day, the fighting, the wounded and his actions.

"What could I have done differently?" he said he asks himself. "Austin - he's the one who died because I couldn't save him."
Another view of his story: Paying it back in blood: Mexican-Born Marine Earns Citizenship But Not Always Respect.

This story doesn't have a moral, unless you think the Marine Corps should have checked his background more carefully and sent him back to Mexico instead of to boot camp and then to Iraq. I just thought, in the current atmosphere over immigration, that it was inspirational and might provide some food for thought. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave him amnesty and his citizenship. Any problems with that?


At 9:40 AM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Quibble: Aaaahhhhhhhnold did NOT "give him his citizenship;" this hero EARNED his citizenship.

BTW, Aaaahhhhhhhnold was an illegal, too--having lied on his visa application.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Other Side said...

But the Mexican-born woman who (admittedly lied to come here) has an American- born husband, an American-born child, speaks fluent English and has lived and worked here for twenty years should not receive the same treatment has Arnold?

Or maybe we should ... send him back to Austria.


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