Reporter John Flores was so deeply affected by Dolia Gonzalez’s story about her only son that he researched Marine Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez and wrote a series of articles and two books about the Medal of Honor recipient from South Texas.Sgt. Alfredo “Freddy” Gonzalez died during his second tour of Vietnam. Wounded again and again in battles related to the Tet Offensive, Gonzalez refused to leave his platoon even when ordered to take a medical evacuation during a battle in Hue City. He was killed by enemy fire Feb. 8, 1968, while leading his platoon against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. His last acts included single-handedly attacking and knocking out an enemy rocket position to give his platoon a chance to reach safety, according to a citation issued by President Richard Nixon.Flores, born in Dallas and raised on a ranch near Alvarado, spent four years in the Coast Guard. He attended Hill Junior College and the University of Texas before launching a journalism career that started in Burleson, swooped through Edinburg and eventually landed in Albuquerque.He said he first interviewed Dolia Gonzalez at her home in Edinburg after she had been invited to attend the christening of a destroyer escort that would bear her son’s name. During the interview, Flores learned that the U.S. government not only had stopped sending death benefits checks to her but was also demanding $8,000 in reimbursement for overpayment.“I was a new reporter in 1994, covering Edinburg and Hidalgo County,” Flores said. “I interviewed her first and that’s how I found out about her son.”The first series of articles Flores wrote resulted in the Albertsons grocery chain covering the overpayment costs, Flores said. The reporter was recognized by the Texas Senate for his efforts to achieve justice for the woman.But as Flores got to know Dolia Gonzalez and read letters her son had sent from Vietnam, he realized there was a greater story to be told. In 2006, he wrote When the River Dreams. He followed up with a biography titled Marine Sergeant Freddy Gonzalez, Vietnam War Hero that was published in January. The second book is available from such online retailers as barnesandnoble.com.Flores’ work didn’t go unnoticed by the Marine Corps, said Col. Dave Lapan, a public affairs officer with the commandant of the Marine Corps.“The 34th commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, recognized Mr. Flores with a Department of the Navy Meritorious Public Service Award for his dedication and efforts in providing public awareness through his authorship of articles and a book about Sgt. Freddy Gonzales, one of our own fallen heroes,” Lapan said.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans