Monday, September 29, 2008

Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez, US Marine Corps
Sergeant Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez (also known as Alfredo Gonzalez and Freddy Gonzalez) (born May 23, 1946 in Edinburg, Texas; died February 4, 1968 in Hue City, Vietnam), United States Marine Corps Sergeant who posthumously received the
Medal of Honor for service in the Vietnam War during the Battle of Hue.

Early life
Freddy Gonzalez was the child of Andrés Cantu and Dolia Gonzalez. He was raised by his mother in Edinburg, where he played on the Edinburg High School football team and graduated in 1965. On June 3 of that same year, Gonzalez travelled to San Antonio, Texas, to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. A little more than a month later, on July 6, he enlisted in the regular Marines Corps. Pvt. Gonzalez went through recruit training in September and individual combat training in October before being transferred to
Vietnam in January 1966. That same month, Pvt. Gonzalez was promoted to a Private First Class.

First Tour: January 1966 to January 1967
PFC Gonzalez served as a rifleman and squad leader during his first tour in Vietnam. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in October and to Corporal in December.

Cpl. Gonzalez returned to the United States in January 1967. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to prepare recruits for guerrilla warfare; he ultimately wanted to be transferred to the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Here he would be 150 miles (approximately a two hours' drive) away from Edinburg, where his mother, girlfriend (Delia Becerra) , and other friends lived. Cpl. Gonzalez's plan was to spend the rest of his time in Corpus Christi, then return home to Edinburg when his time with the Marines was over.

However, several months after Cpl. Gonzalez returned to the United States, he learned of an entire platoon that was ambushed and killed. Cpl. Gonzalez felt responsible for the deaths of some of these men as some of them had served under him while he was in Vietnam. Cpl. Gonzalez then volunteered for a second tour.

Second Tour: July 1967 to February 1968
Cpl. Gonzalez was transferred to Camp Pendleton in California in May 1967 in preparation of sending him back to Vietnam. He was promoted to Sergeant on July 1 and shipped out later that month.

On January 31, 1968, Sgt. Gonzalez was the platoon sergeant of a platoon of marines that was bringing relief to Hue City, Vietnam via a truck convoy. As the truck convoy neared the village of Lang Van Lrong, Viet Cong soldiers, dressed as civilians, attacked. Gonzalez and his troops counter-attacked and drove the enemy soldiers away. One Marine who was atop a tank was hit and fell off the tank. Sgt. Gonzalez was wounded when he ran through heavy fire to retrieve the wounded Marine. Several days later, on February 3, he was wounded again, but refused medical treatment, ordering the medics to take care of the other Marines.

On February 4, Sgt. Gonzalez and his platoon engaged the Viet Cong, who were holed up in St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Hue City, firing at the Americans with rockets and automatic weapons. Almost single-handedly, Sgt. Gonzalez neutralized the enemy with a barrage of LAW rockets. When it became quiet, it was thought that all of the Viet Cong inside the church had been killed. However, one had survived, and he shot and killed Sgt. Gonzalez.

Military Awards and other honors
Sgt. Gonzalez is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Edinburg. The Hidalgo County Historical Museum, also in Edinburg, has his uniform and medals on display.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sgt. Gonzalez also received the following military medals:
Purple Heart
Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars
Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm
Vietnam Military Merit Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Texas Legislative Medal of Honor

The USS Gonzalez, a destroyer commissioned for the United States Navy, is named in his honor. He became the first Mexican American to receive that honor. Sgt. Gonzalez's sacrifice has also been honored by the following:
Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez American Legion Post in Edinburg, Texas
Alfredo Gonzalez Athletic Award at Edinburg High School in Edinburg
Alfredo Gonzalez Boulevard at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina
Alfredo Gonzalez Dining Hall at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas
Freddy Gonzalez Drive in Edinburg
Freddy Gonzalez Elementary School in Edinburg
Alfredo Gonzalez Veterans Home, McAllen, Tx
Alfredo Gonzalez Hall, Instructor Training Battalion Headquarters Building, The Basic School, Quantico, VA

Sgt. Gonzalez's name can be found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is located on panel 37E, row 021.

Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Near Thua Thien, Republic of Vietnam, February 4, 1968. Entered service at: San Antonio, Tex. Born: May 23, 1946, Edinburg Tex.
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 January 31, 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 February 3, he steadfastly refused medical treatment and continued to supervise his men and lead the attack. On February 4, 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.