What was that about being an American?
Honoring a Marine Who Braved the Line of Fire
Carlos Gomez-Perez is awarded a Silver Star for trying to save a wounded buddy despite being shot himself in a Fallouja firefight.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
April 13, 2006
CAMP PENDLETON — They were three young Marines far from home in a violent place: the immigrant from the Philippines, the sometimes wild kid from Texas and the new U.S. citizen from Mexico.
When bravery and up-from-the-ranks leadership were needed that day in Fallouja, they did not hesitate.
In a short ceremony Wednesday, the last of the three — Carlos Gomez-Perez — received the same honor as the others: the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest citation for bravery.
Gomez-Perez and other Marines were hunkered down in a bullet-riddled neighborhood of Fallouja when hundreds of insurgents attacked from three directions — one of the boldest assaults insurgents have mounted during three years of war. At one point, the two sides were about 20 yards apart, hurling grenades at each other.
Lance Cpl. Thomas Adametz, a native of the Philippines, grabbed a machine gun and began firing at the charging enemy, the weapon becoming so hot it etched his fingerprints into the metal.
Navy corpsman Jason Duty remembers Gomez-Perez's fury at having to be evacuated. "He was bleeding so bad, but he yelled at me: 'Get the … away from me, go see how Aaron is doing."
Last spring Adametz was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day, April 26, 2004. In the summer, Austin's posthumous medal was presented to his parents.
And on Wednesday, it was Gomez-Perez's turn.
He was a lance corporal in Fallouja and later promoted to corporal before being medically retired because of his wounds. Gomez-Perez, 24, has undergone repeated surgeries and months of arduous rehabilitation to repair the damage done by a round that tore a chunk from his shoulder the size of a soda can.
"He's the one who died because I couldn't save him," he said. "I think about him every day. What could I have done differently? I should have done more."
If Gomez-Perez feels he did not do enough that day, his superiors disagree.
"Gomez-Perez literally took a bullet to save his brothers," said Lt. Col. Gregg Olson, who was the battalion commander during the deployment. "He couldn't save them all, but he was determined to try."
Just days before deploying to Iraq in 2004 for the second time, Gomez-Perez had taken the oath of citizenship in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton.
posted by Steve @ 12:41:00 AM