A few months before I was born, a young man from Edinburg, Texas earned the Medal of Honor while serving in my father's company in Vietnam. According to my father, Sgt. Alfredo "Freddie" Gonzalez was "no boast, no brag, but all fight." To those of you who have earned the title, you know there is no greater compliment for a Marine.
Sgt. Gonzalez was conspicuous for the whole last week of his life, performing two separate acts of heroism that were worthy of recommending him for the Medal of Honor. After some minor deliberation, it was decided to give him one Medal of Honor for the whole week.
Freddie Gonzalez joined the Marine Corps in 1965. After serving one tour as a rifleman in Vietnam, he became an instructor at Camp Lejeune, teaching guerrilla warfare skills to new boots. He expected to serve out the remainder of the war in that billet. But, like the stuff in the movies, he felt compelled to return to Vietnam when he heard that almost a whole platoon, many of whom had served under him, were killed in an ambush. He returned to Vietnam, and was sent to Alpha 1/1.
During the Tet Offensive, Alpha 1/1 was ordered to relieve the MACV compound in Hue City. Locating some trucks, the Marines of Alpha Company headed up Highway 1, and were stopped by ambush. Gonzalez fought his way up to the ambushers and the convoy proceeded on. They had to fight their way in to Hue, and Gonzalez was slightly wounded while carrying a wounded Marine to safety. The company became heavily engaged as soon as they arrived in Hue, and Gonzalez was seriously wounded, but refused evacuation. The next day, Gonzalez fought ferociously, using anti-tank weapons (LAAWs) to destroy an enemy rocket position. The last rocket fired from that position mortally wounded Gonzalez.
This was a man who had several chances to not be where he was, and went anyway. He gave his life in a cause that more affluent Americans, like Bill Clinton, couldn't fathom. Bill Clinton likes to tell the story of growing up poor, but Freddie Gonzalez was the real deal, and yet he could believe in a cause that was greater than himself. I hope that in the future, the Freddie Gonzalez's of America will be more fondly remembered than the Bill Clinton's.
Citation:For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as platoon commander, 3d Platoon, Company A. On 31 January 1968, during the initial phase of Operation Hue City, Sgt. Gonzalez' unit was formed as a reaction force and deployed to Hue to relieve the pressure on the beleaguered city. While moving by truck convoy along Route No. 1, near the village of Lang Van Lrong, the marines received a heavy volume of enemy fire. Sgt. Gonzalez aggressively maneuvered the marines in his platoon, and directed their fire until the area was cleared of snipers. Immediately after crossing a river south of Hue, the column was again hit by intense enemy fire. One of the marines on top of a tank was wounded and fell to the ground in an exposed position. With complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Gonzalez ran through the fire-swept area to the assistance of his injured comrade. He lifted him up and though receiving fragmentation wounds during the rescue, he carried the wounded marine to a covered position for treatment. Due to the increased volume and accuracy of enemy fire from a fortified machine gun bunker on the side of the road, the company was temporarily halted. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sgt. Gonzalez exposed himself to the enemy fire and moved his platoon along the east side of a bordering rice paddy to a dike directly across from the bunker. Though fully aware of the danger involved, he moved to the fire-swept road and destroyed the hostile position with hand grenades. Although seriously wounded again on 3 February, he steadfastly refused medical treatment and continued to supervise his men and lead the attack. On 4 February, the enemy had again pinned the company down, inflicting heavy casualties with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Sgt. Gonzalez, utilizing a number of light antitank assault weapons, fearlessly moved from position to position firing numerous rounds at the heavily fortified enemy emplacements. He successfully knocked out a rocket position and suppressed much of the enemy fire before falling mortally wounded. The heroism, courage, and dynamic leadership displayed by Sgt. Gonzalez reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps, and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
In 1996, the United States Navy named a guided missile cruiser after Gonzalez. His mother has adopted the ship, and God bless those sailors, they have adopted her. His hometown of Edinburg, Texas has named an elementary school and a major road in his honor. And in Quantico, Virginia, at the school where Marine Corps officers are taught the history and traditions of our great Corps, there is an Alfredo Gonzalez Hall.
Sgt Gonzalez is on the left, and Lt. Allen Courtney is in the middle. My youngest brother is named in honor of Al Courtney, who was killed by a landmine.
Marine legend E-Tool Smith comforts Alfredo Gonzalez's mother Dolia at the dedication of Gonzalez Hall.