MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Staff Sgt. Ysidro Gonzalez Jr. was recently recognized for his heroic service while serving with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a Combat Distinguishing Device on Feb. 2 while aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The Bronze Star is the fourth highest combat award that the US can use to recognize its servicemembers. The Combat Distinguishing Device, a small “V” for valor that rests on the ribbon of the medal is granted for acts of heroism in combat.
“I had a job to do. As Marines we learn about guys like Jimmie Howard and Dan Daly that show us that the job doesn’t stop when we get hurt,” said Gonzalez, who recently returned from the deployment with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. “That day I got hurt and it’s unfortunate but it happens and I still had a job to do. I had to take care of my Marines and there was a fight to be done.”
The day that Gonzalez is talking about was Dec. 20, 2010 when he led a section of the 81-millimeter Mortar Platoon on a covert ambush. After capturing six enemy fighters, Gonzalez and his Marines came under attack by a large group of insurgents. In the chaos Gonzalez was shot in the shoulder by an enemy rifle. Refusing to leave his Marines he continued to supervise defensive actions, inspiring Marines with his guidance and dedication while they held out against the enemy for four hours before they were evacuated.
“Staff Sgt. Gonzalez was a great platoon sergeant, especially in combat,” said Cpl. Shaun Clarkson, who had served with Gonzalez as one of his team leaders during the deployment and had experienced several firefights at his side. “During my first firefight he was fearless and hearing his quick commands helped keep my mind where it needed to be. I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to deploy with him.”
Clarkson explained that in combat there was no hesitation in Gonzalez’s actions and even when they weren’t in combat he would take the time to be with his Marines and talk about life and what being a leader of Marines meant. Clarkson described Gonzalez as the inspiration that held the platoon steadfastly through toughest parts of their deployment.
“The toughest days of the deployment were when we lost Marines like Greene and Ortiz,” said Gonzalez. “When we had to take these young guys and put them on a plane and send them back to the United States and their families. This award isn’t about anything I did; it’s on behalf of all the Marines that we lost, the ones that are in the fight now and the ones that are going to go there.”
Gonzalez is currently applying for orders to the Marine Corps Staff Academy where he hopes to help make leaders from Marines of all the different military occupations. He pointed out that it’s not just the infantry that lead Marines but all staff noncommissioned officers and he says that by being able to play a part in training those Marines that will lead others, he can help influence Marines everywhere to continue doing the work that needs to be done.
“I’m extremely humbled to receive this award,” said Gonzalez. “It’s always an honor to be recognized by your command and your higher ups, but as far as I’m concerned any Marine over there now, no matter what their job is, if they’re in direct contact with bad guys they all deserve to be recognized.”