Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez
Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez
Second Battalion, First Marine Regiment (2/1), First
Echo Company: WARHAMMER
(From MICHAEL CORONADO of The Orange County
CAMP PENDLETON Ca - The armor-piercing round ripped through the
right shoulder of then-Lance Cpl. Carlos Gomez-Perez, leaving a
Maybe it was the adrenaline, but the stocky, young Marine felt
no pain during the April 2004 firefight.
One floor below him, as Iraqi insurgents fired relentlessly,
Gomez-Perez could hear his fellow Marines shouting.
The El Cajon resident propped up his M-16 and pulled the trigger
despite his bloodied chest, his thick, wide frame keeping his
shoulder intact. He lobbed a grenade with his good arm.
Beside him, Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Austin, 21, wounded by
gunfire, was losing his fight for life. Below him, the shouting
"All I heard was screaming and screaming," Gomez-Perez said.
Gomez-Perez decided he would die before he would be taken
prisoner and made a bold move to lead his fellow Marines, several
wounded, against their attackers.
His actions that day would earn him the Silver Star for heroism
in battle, awarded at a ceremony Wednesday.
Gomez-Perez was challenged in life at an early age.
When he was 9, he ran across the I-805 Freeway in San Diego
County with his mother and two sisters in tow, crossing illegally
into the country - a journey that started in Mexico City. By 12 he
started working to earn money for the family.
His mother, Blanca Gomez, a custodian, said that on their
journey north the family waded across a channel filled with water
using plastic trash bags to stay dry.
"That was a very sad day because we were uncertain of what would
happen," she said.
That was 15 years ago.
On Wednesday, Gomez watched a formation of Marines pay honor to
her son, a fire team leader for Company E with the 2nd Battalion,
1st Marine Regiment, and listened to a general describe how a
country is thankful for her boy.
"We have a true hero here," Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski told
Blanca Gomez - now a legal resident - and the rest of his family.
Gomez-Perez became a U.S. citizen in 2004.
Now, discharged from the Marines, he says his shoulder still
hurts and finding work is difficult.
At the ceremony Wednesday at the seaside base, Gomez-Perez wore
a Texas flag in his coat pocket, a tribute to Austin, who died that
day from his wounds despite being revived twice, Gomez-Perez
"It runs through my head every day," said Gomez-Perez, who is
indifferent about receiving the award. "I really don't know what it
Instead, he remembers the day, the fighting, the wounded and his
"What could I have done differently?" he said he asks himself.
"Austin - he's the one who died because I couldn't save him."