Project Hero: PFC Joseph Perez, Navy Cross Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, February 18, 2006
Consider the fact that as a PFC, Joseph Perez was a pretty low man on the chain-of-command when this action occurred. And at 23, one of the young men and women who joined the military after 9/11 knowing precisely what he was going to be asked to do. And, when asked, he responded in such a way that the United States Marine Corps proudly awarded him the nation's second highest award for valor: the Navy Cross.
Pfc. Joseph B. Perez, 23, a Houston native, received the Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism" while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 3/5, on April 4, 2003.
First Platoon came under "intense" enemy fire near Route 6 during the advance into Baghdad, Perez's award citation read.
Perez, the point man for the lead squad — and therefore the most exposed member of the platoon — faced the brunt of the enemy fire, he citation read.
But he didn't back down.
He continually fired his M16A4 rifle to destroy the enemy while calmly directing accurate fires for his squad, the citation said.
He led the charge down an enemy trench and — amid "tremendous" enemy fire — threw a grenade into the trench, the citation said.
But the enemy wasn't done — and neither was Perez.
With a "heavy volume of fire" still directed toward the Marines, Perez fired an AT-4 rocket into a machine-gun bunker, completely destroying it and killing four enemy personnel, the citation said.
His actions enabled the squad to maneuver safely to the enemy position and seize it, the citation read.
But the job wasn't finished.
Attempting to link up with 3rd Platoon on his platoon's left flank, Perez continued to destroy enemy combatants with his rifle. As he worked his way to the left, he was hit by enemy fire, sustaining gunshot wounds to his torso and shoulder.
Although seriously injured, Perez directed the squad to take cover and gave accurate fire direction that enabled the squad to reorganize and destroy the enemy, the citation said.
"It is unreal. It is not what I expected. It is unbelievable," Perez said about receiving the award.
"This is real weird for me, because, I am not big on special events."
I confess to getting a laugh out of his confession that he's "not big on special events". And I continue to ask myself proudly, "where do we get such men?" Training, dedication, initiative, leadership, will and pride all combine to produce them in abundance in the finest military in the world. PFC Perez is one of the best examples of them.
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.
Considering that a significant portion of such awards are posthumous, the fact that Pfc Perez could make any comment at all should be cause for celebration. That his comment was as humble as, "This is real weird for me, because, I am not big on special events" is — as McQ notes — awesome.
I hope he can get used to special events, ’cause he’s in one every time he steps into a room.
As to the question of "where do we get such men?" — we get them from all around us. They are neighbors, cousins, kith and kin. You could be driving next to one on the freeway and never know it.
The question of "how do we get such men?", however, is extremely pertinent to our times. A significant part of the answer is that we acknowledge these heroes and let their deeds be known. Since the networks aren’t doing this, it is fitting that others stand up to make this happen, and your Project Hero posts are immensely appreciated for this.