iraqi_freedom_honor_web.jpgA mother said she knew her son’s legacy would continue through her grandson. An uncle recalled that his nephew had a strong sense of duty to protect his country.

They were among family members of 20 service men and service women whose names were read aloud before the regularly scheduled Miami-Dade Commission meeting on Nov. 15 to honor their sacrifice for their country.

The heroes, all local residents, were posthumously honored during the county’s second Medal of Valor Ceremony in which the family members of fallen U.S. soldiers accept the highest award the commission can bestow on behalf of their loved one.

The medal is awarded for soldiers who died in the previous calendar year in the line of duty. But this year those who have fallen since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom were also honored.

The ceremony was hosted by Commission Chairman Joe A. Martinez, with assistance from the county’s military liaison, Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz. The master of ceremonies was NBC 6 Anchor Willard Shepard.

Besides commissioners, the local military community also took part in the ceremony, providing support to the families in attendance. As each soldier’s name was read, family members were given a medal in recognition of the sacrifice their loved one made. Family members were also invited to speak about the fallen heroes and several took the opportunity to remember their relatives and thank the commission for acknowledging the soldiers’ service.

The Medal of Valor Ceremony was initiated by Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan after the death of Louis Maxwell Jr., who served as a United Nations Close Protection Officer.

Maxwell died in 2009 protecting 34 U.N. employees whose hotel was attacked by Taliban militants in Kabul, Afghanistan. Jordan attended the funeral of Maxwell, a resident of her district, only to discover that there was no formal recognition of his sacrifice by any state or federal agency.

“As much as I wish we did not have to hold this kind of ceremony every year, I know it means a lot to the families who are left with an irreplaceable loss,” Jordan said. “Miami-Dade residents should know and understand the sacrifices these soldiers and their families have had to make for the benefit of all of us.”

Martinez added, “As we can see from today, the enemy does not discriminate. We are honoring servicemen and women from all walks of life who had one common purpose of protecting our rights as Americans. They took upon themselves a responsibility that few would accept in the name of freedom.”

The soldiers honored at the Medal of Valor Ceremony included 16 members of the U.S. Army, three from the U.S. Marine Corps and one from the U.S. Navy.

Those from the Army were Spc. Sergio S. Abad, Sgt. Amaru Aguilar-Borgen, Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, Spec. Roland E. Calderon-Ascencio, S/Sgt. Lillian Clamens, Pfc. Jeremy R. Ewing, Pfc. Alfred H. Jairala, S/Sgt. Jude R. Jonaus, Capt. Christopher J. Kenny, Sgt. Joe Polo, Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, S/Sgt. Juan L. Rivadeneira, Maj. Mark E. Rosenberg, Pfc. Charles Sims, Pfc. Roger A. Suarez-Gonzalez and Spc. Jorge E. Villacis.

The Marines honored were Cpl. Armando Ariel Gonzalez, Lance Cpl. Rene Martinez and  Gunnery Sgt. Marcelo R. Velasco.

The Navy member was E01 Luis A. Souffront.


Unidentified family member of Army Staff Sgt. Jude R. Jonaus, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, were present to receive the Medal of Valor from the Miami-Dade County Commission on Nov. 15 at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami. With them are Commission Chairman Joe A. Martinez, left, Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan, fifth from left, and Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.