Honoring Carlsbad Veterans
By Don Eskins
Real heroes are just that- Real
This past Memorial Day the Cavern City once again took time to pay homage to all those soldiers who have paid the ultimate price in defending our great nation with emphasis on those from Carlsbad, Eddy County and New Mexico.
Those young men and women, in the eyes of those who attended, were all heroes.
It’s important for each generation to teach the next just how important their roles were in preserving our way of life and what heroes really WCare.
Carlsbad continues to do an excellent job of this.
So how do we define a hero?
While our history books might find a few heroes whoose persona fits box office heroes like Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, they are in the minority. Cinema heroes are for the big screens. And while their characters may appear to be bigger than life, they’re not real.
Most heroes have proven to be just every day people, who when placed in harms way, stepped up to perform above and beyond the call of duty acts of heroism. They put their lives on the line in an effort to protect others.
I’d like to share a story about one of those soldiers. It’s a story about one of the many real heroes who hailed from Carlsbad during World War II. A soldier that proved, not only to be a real hero, but also to be very real.
That soldier, Carlsbad Medal of Honor recipient Alejandro Ruiz.
Carlsbad Medal of Honor recipient Alejandro Ruiz was awarded our nation’s highest military honor for an act of heroism he peformed on April 28, 1945 during World War II in Okinawa.
But what he did following this act, according to his good friend and long time Carlsbad resident Pete Jiminez, showed just how real this real hero proved to be.
After his squad found themselves pinned down by a Japanese pillbox on the island of Ryukyu in Okinawa Alejandro took his rifle and, under machinegun fire and grenade attack, cossed an open field and climbed to the top of a hill to reach the pillbox in an effort to silence the enemy’s fire.
But after reaching his destination his gun jammed. He then engaged a Japanese soldier in hand to hand combat beating him to the ground with his gun.
He then ran back under fire to his squad and picked up another rifle. With the heavy machinegun fire and grenade attack now concentrated on him he ran back across the open field and, in plain sight, climbed back up the hill to the top of the pillbox.
Once there he emptied his gun into the pillbox at several sites killing twelve Japanese soldiers to silence the enemy.
“Ruiz’s conduct, in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the lives of many comrades and eliminated an obsticle that would have checked his units advance,” said his citation.
So after all of this, his act of heroism, just what did Alejandro do?
“I wondered the same thing. So I asked him and I’ll never forget what he told me,” said his good friend Pete Jiminez. “He simply said, I sat down and cried.”
Just what goes through the minds of heroes when they perform such acts of heroism, as did Alejandro, is something only they know for sure.
One thing is certain though, when Alejandro grabbed his rifle and ran across an open field several times under heavy machinegun fire and grenade attacks he wasn’t thinking about himself.
He put his life on the line in an effort to protect others, performed an act of heroism above and beyond the call of duty and then he wept.
Carlsbad’s Alejandro Ruiz, born in Loving and the son of immigrants, was a real hero. A hero who proved to be very real.
Did you know
Just what Ruiz faced in Okinawa could very well be depicted in the recent movie, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’. The movie, which showed the horrors of World War II in the Pacific, was about Desmond T. Doss, a Conscientious Objector who served there valiantly as a medic.
For his efforts to save lives Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 12, 1945, just eight months before Ruiz received his on June 26, 1946.
Both men were presented their Medal of Honors by President Harry Truman.
Of the sixteen million Americans who served during World War II only 431 received the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
This July 4th will mark the 25th anniversary of the ‘Alejandro Ruiz Medal of Honor Park’ dedication, located in front of the Carlsbad Recreation Center.