Since 1981, Dolia Gonzalez continues to work part-time as a waitress at the Echo Hotel’s restaurant. Her only son, Freddy Gonzalez, posthumously received the Medal of Honor 41 years ago.
This month, she will take a few days of vacation from the sub-tropical climate of South Texas.
The captain of the warship USS Gonzalez, Commander Brian Fort, invited her to attend a change-of-command ceremony on board the 505-foot vessel on Aug. 14. This happens to be her 80th birthday.
Few Marines in history have earned having ships named for them. The Navy names most of them. But the Marines cherish their heroes, and Freddy Gonzalez from Edinburg deserved that rare honor.
The ceremonies on Aug. 14 will honor a newspaperman, John Flores, who spent 15 years gathering information about Gonzalez, then writing a book that proved how much he deserved receiving not only the Medal of Honor, but having a ship named after him.
After Flores and his wife were invited to attend the change-of-command ceremonies at the Navy Base in Norfolk, Va., Flores received a phone call from the Marine Corps Headquarters notifiying that he would be receiving the U.S. Marine Corps Meritorious Service Award.
“I was stunned to get that call. I served four years in the U.S. Coast Guard and only received a Good Conduct Medal for that,” Flores said. “I never dreamed the Marine Corps would honor me with a civilian medal.
“A lot of the credit to goes to my wife, who has helped me tremendously over the years on research and helping me finish the book, I also want to say that Dolia Gonzalez and Freddy’s old buddies all helped me to write his life story, and I think it’s a decent portrayal of Freddy.
“A second-printing may soon take place by Texas Tech University Press.
They are interested in the story. They will make it into a top-notch book,” he added.
Flores still has a few copies of that first book, which has been read chiefly by Lower Rio Grande Valley residents and U.S. Marines.
He may be awarded the Marine Corps medal during the change of command ceremony Aug.14. He served on active-duty at a search-and-rescue unit in New Orleans, but his long, painstaking research about Freddy Gonzales earned him this exceptional honor.
“I really don’t know when they’re going to give me the medal. It may be on board the ship, or they may want me to pick it up at Marine HQ. They may even just mail it to me. I really don’t care, it’s just a great honor for a civilian writer to be recognized by the Marine Corps” Flores said.
A noted PBS documentary filmmaker, Hector Galan, has plans to attend the ceremonies on board the USS Gonzalez.
“Hector wants to film that ceremony to include in his upcoming two-hour documentary for PBS about Hispanic veterans from the U.S. Armed Forces,” Flores said. “He asked me to work as a consultant on the film, especially the section about Vietnam and the Tet Offensive, when Freddy Gonzalez fought overwhelming forces and was killed defending his platoon.”