Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez, distinguished Members of the Congress, Secretary Vance, Secretary Resor, General Abrams, General Johnson, ladies and gentlemen:
We have come here to the Rose Garden today to speak of a very brave young American who gave his life for us in Vietnam.
Specialist 4 Daniel Fernandez earned his country's highest military honor by a classic act of courage and self-sacrifice. He threw himself across a live grenade that had been fired among his comrades. By that act, he saved the lives of four other Americans. Two of them are here with us today.
Daniel Fernandez died before he was 22 years old. He was not yet born when other Americans crossed the Pacific in World War II. He was not yet in school when others went to fight for freedom in Korea. Yet today, and forever, he is joined to a legion of American heroes.
The land in Asia where he gave his young life is half a world away from his home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. Yet he did not see much of the world. He went to school in Albuquerque and Los Lunas. He enlisted in the Army after high school, took basic training in Louisiana, served in Hawaii for a time. Then he went to Vietnam, to a little deserted hamlet northwest of Saigon, and finally to his fatal encounter with a Vietcong grenade.
Daniel Fernandez died on February 18, 1966. He died less than 3 weeks after we, in our ceaseless search for peace, had made our longest pause in the bombing of the North.
The question that haunts me as we meet here today should really concern every American. It is this: Was that grenade on one of the trucks, or on one of the trains, or on one of the sampans that we let pass unmolested during that long 37-day pause?
If it was, then Daniel Fernandez died as more than a hero of battle. He died a martyr in our search for 'peace.
And those who today are urging an unconditional permanent cessation of bombing should ask themselves: "What are the consequences?" It is one thing to talk abstractly of peace and war. It is something quite different to think of a young man named Daniel Fernandez who will dream no more.
Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez, in the name of the Congress, I pass to you the Medal of Honor of the United States, won so deservedly by the hero who was your son.
I give you this, our country's greatest honor. It is 'poor compensation for your loss. But be assured that the death of your son will have meaning. For I give you also my solemn pledge that our country will persist--and will prevail--in the cause for which your boy died.
Mr. Stanley R. Resor, Secretary of the Army, will now read the citation.
[Secretary Resor read the citation, the text of which follows.]
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of The Congress the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to
SPECIALIST FOUR DANIEL FERNANDEZ, UNITED STATES ARMY
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Specialist Four Daniel Fernandez distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on February 18, 1966 while serving as a member of an eighteen-man patrol engaged in a vicious battle with the Viet Cong in the vicinity of Cu Chi, Hau Nghia Province, Republic of Vietnam.
Specialist Fernandez demonstrated indomitable courage when the small patrol was ambushed by a Viet Cong rifle company and driven back by the intense enemy automatic weapons fire before it could evacuate an American soldier who was struck down in the initial attack. Specialist Fernandez and three comrades immediately fought their way through devastating gun fire and exploding grenades to reach the fallen soldier. After the volunteers reached their fallen comrade and attempted to return to their defensive positions, a United States Army sergeant was struck in the knee by .50 caliber machine gun fire. Specialist Fernandez rallied the left flank of his patrol, went to assist in the recovery of the wounded sergeant and, while first aid was being administered to the wounded man, an enemy rifle grenade landed in the midst of their group. Realizing there was no time for the wounded sergeant or the other men to gain protection from the grenade blast, Specialist Fernandez threw himself on the grenade as it exploded, saving the lives of the four men at the sacrifice of his own.
Specialist Fernandez' profound concern for his fellow soldiers, his conspicuous gallantry, and his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the armed forces of his country.