9 January 2008
EDINBURG, January 9, 2008 - Gov. Rick Perry will posthumously honor Freddy Gonzalez with the state’s highest award at a ceremony in Edinburg on the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam war hero’s death, state Rep. Aaron Peña has announced.
Peña made the announcement to great applause at an Edinburg City Council meeting on Tuesday evening. His remarks were broadcast live on the Edinburg Cable TV Network.
“I just got off the phone with the governor's office,” Peña said. “They said he will definitely be here to bestow the medal.”
The award for Gonzalez was signed into law by Perry at the end of last year’s 80th Legislature, following legislation from Peña and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Edinburg city leaders have been eagerly looking forward to holding a ceremony to present the medal to Gonzalez’s mother, Dolia Gonzalez, ever since the legislation was passed. There had been concern that Perry’s busy schedule would mean he could not be present at the ceremony.
Peña said the ceremony would likely held be at the Cats Stadium, starting at 2 p.m., on Feb. 4.
“The citizens of Edinburg are appreciative of Governor Perry's gesture to pay honor to the city's most recognized son,” Peña said. “These were the wishes of Freddy's mother, Dolia Gonzalez, and we certainly appreciate the governor honoring her request. It was her wish that it be held on the anniversary date of her son's passing forty years ago.’
Born in Edinburg, Texas, May 23, 1946, Freddy Gonzalez was the only child born to Dolia Gonzalez, a waitress and a farm worker. Gonzalez also worked in the fields as a child and was quarterback in his high school’s football team. He joined the Marine Corps the summer of 1965.
The Home of Heroes Web site documents Gonzalez’s heroism in the Viet Nam war:
During Operation Hue City, Sergeant Gonzalez' unit was deployed to relieve pressure on the beleaguered city. While moving by convoy along Route No. 1 the Marines received a heavy volume of enemy fire. Sergeant Gonzalez maneuvered his platoon and directed their fire until the area was cleared of snipers.
After crossing a river south of Hue, the column was again hit and one of the Marines on top of a tank was wounded and fell to the ground. Sergeant Gonzalez ran through the fire-swept area, lifted him up and though receiving fragmentation wounds during the rescue, carried the wounded Marine to a covered position for treatment.
When the company was halted by an enemy bunker, Sergeant Gonzalez exposed himself to enemy fire and moved his men to a dike across from the bunker. He then moved to the fire-swept road and destroyed the hostile position.
Seriously wounded again three days later, he refused medical treatment and continued to supervise his unit. The following day the enemy again pinned down the company, inflicting heavy casualties.
Sergeant Gonzalez, utilizing a number of light antitank assault weapons, fearlessly moved from position to position firing numerous rounds at the heavily fortified enemy emplacements before falling mortally wounded.
Gonzalez was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously in Oct. 1969 by then Vice President Spiro Agnew, on behalf of President Richard Nixon. At the time of his death, Gonzalez was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam.
As well as the Congressional Medal of Honor, Gonzalez won a Purple Heart, the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Vietnam Military Merit Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Gonzalez has an elementary school, a road, and an American Legion post named after him in Edinburg. In 1995, Dolia Gonzalez was present when the Navy commissioned the guided-missile destroyer, USS Alfredo Gonzalez, at Corpus Christi.
“The Valley has given up many sons and daughters to the service of our country, and Freddy Gonzalez is one of the best examples,” said Peña, addressing the city council.
“Having heard the stories of his life and service, he exemplifies all the brave Americans who went to war in their youth, had a life full of promise (and) then lost it too soon. But they loved their communities, and this community does not forget their sons and daughters.”
Council member Gus Garcia asked the audience to give Peña a round of applause.
Peña said he had spoken to Dolia Gonzalez about Perry’s attendance at the ceremony and that she was pleased and relieved. “She told me, 'I think I am ready. Freddy's ready. Let’s do this',” Peña said.
Peña said Dolia Gonzalez was also pleased the ceremony will take place in the stadium where her son had some of his happiest moments.
Edinburg Mayor-Pro Tem Alma Garza chaired the city council meeting in the absence of Mayor Joe Ochoa.
“You can't even imagine the pride we felt at our city council meeting tonight when Rep. Peña told us the news. What an honor,” Garza told the Guardian.
“I'm so happy the Governor will honor Dolia Gonzalez’s son's memory in this way. If you’ve ever interviewed Dolia or ever seen her while she talked about her son, Freddy, you would experience, first hand, the exploding pride a mother has in a son. Don’t get me wrong, she's not boastful. She’s very genuine… and for good reason. We all love Ms. Gonzalez and are so appreciative that her son gave his life for us.”
Peña agreed, predicting the entire city would turnout on Feb. 4, not just for Freddy Gonzalez but also his mother. Now 78, Dolia Gonzalez still holds down two jobs, as a waitress at Edinburg’s Echo Hotel, and as a shop assistant for H-E-B.
“This ceremony will give us the opportunity to recognize the service of a mother who has shown us all the highest example of motherly love and service to community,” he said.
From the Rio Grande Guardian, www.riograndeguardian.com, Melinda Barrera, Publisher. All rights reserved.