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Family of Korean War vet receives medals months after his death

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LAS CRUCES – Marcelino Gonzales’ passion was his family. He cared more about them than he did about himself.

So it was for them that Gonzales left a lasting legacy, and more than a dozen family members got their inheritance this week.

In Council Chambers at City Hall, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., presented Gonzales’ wife, Erlinda, with medals Gonzales earned during the Korean War but never received. Gonzales wanted to impress on his younger heirs the importance of serving their country.

With members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3242 looking on – where Gonzales had been a member for years – Udall read from a letter Gonzales, 83, sent to the senator shortly before his death on Jan. 1.

“I do not know how much time I have left,” said Udall, reading from Gonzales’ letter. “But I would like to get these medals.”

“He wanted them for you, his family,” Udall said. “His medals were his one last gift for you.”

With Gonzales’ wife standing quietly at attention, Udall draped four medals around her neck.

The family was presented with four medals: the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean War Service Medal, with one bronze star; the U.N. Service Medal; and the Combat Infantry Man Badge. Another medal, the city of Las Cruces Veterans Commendation Medal, was also given to Gonzales and the family by Mayor Ken Miyagishima.

“I feel very contented to have had the honor of receiving those medals for my husband,” Erlinda Gonzales said after the ceremony.

Udall explained that some Americans called the Korean War the forgotten war. However, those who fought in that war did so with a strong sense of loyalty, duty and patriotism for America.

“Marcelino Gonzales answered that call to protect our freedoms,” Udall said. “And, he did that with honor.”

“Some have said we have lived in an age without heroes,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true. We all wish he could be here today, but we do celebrate his life.”

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