Latino hero recognized at the 2004 NCLR Conference
By Sgt. Jimmie Perkins
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | June 29, 2004
“Today we recognize a young man who under the most stressful of circumstances, forgot about himself and worked simply for the welfare of his fellow Marines,” said Major General Christopher Cortez, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, who praised Lance Corporal Joseph Perez, the recipient of the 2004 Latino Heroes and Heritage Award.
The award presentation took place during the Tribute to Latino Heroes Luncheon on the final day of the 2004 National Council of La Raza Conference held here. More than 2,500 attendees gathered to honor the countless number of Hispanics who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces of the United States. During this event, Perez, a young Marine from Houston, Texas, received special recognition for his courageous actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Perez, a Marine from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division, was a member of the Marine forces pushing their way north towards Baghdad during the liberation of Iraq, on April 4th, 2003. On that fateful day, Lance Corporal Perez was walking on point as his platoon worked to clear Route 6, one of the main north-south roads through southern Iraq. Coming under intense fire as the most exposed Marine leading the advance, Perez continuously fired his M16A4 rifle and helped direct the accurate fire of his fellow Marines. He led a charge into an enemy trench and under tremendous fire, used a grenade to clear a trench that the enemy was occupying. Using an anti-tank rocket, Perez destroyed an enemy machine gun bunker enabling his fellow Marines to maneuver to the enemy position and seize it. Perez continued to fight, sustaining serious gunshot wounds to his torso and shoulder, yet still directed his squad’s fire to destroy the enemy. For his heroic actions, Perez received the naval service’s second highest award for heroism, the Navy Cross, in a ceremony held earlier this year at his home duty station, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Upon hearing of Perez’s heroic deeds that day, the audience at the luncheon rose to their feet in thunderous applause as one of their own, a true hero was honored. As Cortez presented Perez with the Heroes and Heritage Award, a large medal, Perez simply replied that he had only done his duty.
“It is strange how I remember that day. When it all started to happen, everything just sped up, and my training just kicked in, it was all automatic,” said the 23-year old Marine. “I do appreciate all of the recognition, but all this is so unexpected.”
This fall Perez will return to Iraq for the third time in two years, having rejoined his unit for his initial tour after recovering from his wounds.
“I am ready to go,” said Perez. “All of the events I have attended since returning have been great, but I will be happy to get back to my unit and back to training.”