July 27 was Korean Armistice Day. On that day in 1953, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Harrison and North Korean General Nam Il, signed the armistice ending operations in a stalemate.

The fighting was hard, and the weather even harder. Conditions like these often bring out the best in service members. One of America’s best is Marine Veteran and San Antonio resident, Fidel Gomez. The young Gomez, 17, who in his service photo could pass for 15, was inspired by the Halls of Montezuma and the Mexican American War and joined the Marine Corps in 1949.

Fidel Gomez receives care at the South Texas VA and is a member of Fox Company 2/7, but most importantly, he is a rare member of the Frozen Chosin. The latter title refers to the group of Marines from Fox Company who were given the near-impossible order of holding off an overwhelming Chinese Army and defending a narrow passage out of the Chosin Reservoir for a United Nations force of 8,000 saving them from possible slaughter.IMAGE: A Korean War Veteran holds up a coin that states, Korean War Veteran Fidel Gomez holds up the coin given to him by South Texas VA Fisher House Program Manager Erik Zielinski. Zielinski himself a Marine, visited with Gomez several times and exchanged stories of their service.

Gomez was greeted by fellow infantry Marine, and South Texas VA Fisher House program manager Erik Zielinski. It didn’t take long to begin telling stories of Marine life, despite their service being five decades apart. The instant bond lends credence to the motto, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

“The Marine Corps is one branch of the service that sticks together,” Gomez said. “Sure, our captains are a little tough and have no soul, but you know, you get to love them,” the 86-year old said with a grin.

Gomez’s smile and spirit grew as Zielinski brought back Marine Corps vernacular Fidel has not heard in some time. Everything was covered, from beanies and weenies, to what was the best beer you’ve had which transitioned to a request for a cold one right there in the room.

Then the topic turned to something that transcends through time and every battle Marines have fought in…taking care of your feet. Gomez knows a thing or two about taking care of feet, seeing many of his fellow Marine’s fall to frostbite, losing toes, limbs and even their lives. “Our unit started with 300 men and some got frostbite even before the fighting started,” Fidel said. “I was from South Texas, but even I knew I had to change my socks.”

He explained one of the difficult things is that his unit was fitted with boots more suited for hunting.

Image of Fidel Gomez holding a picture of himself in uniformAnother long-held tradition the two Marines shared was the military coin. Zielinski presented Gomez with a Marine coin that had “once a Marine, always a Marine” etched on it.

It made an impact on the elder Marine, clutching it tightly and refusing to hand it over to family members that wanted to add it to the makeshift Marine Corps display in his room.

To reciprocate, he presented Zielinski with a Korean flag they took off a disabled vehicle. Over several Fox Company reunions, members of the illustrious group signed it with messages. The plan for the special flag is to have it mounted in a Veteran’s museum in Texas.

As Zielinski read out names, it jogged the memory and brought with it, a whirlwind of emotions.

One of those names was David Goodrich who Fidel went to high school with and who also joined the Marines at 17. David was severely injured in the fighting. “When I saw him, I thought he was dead, his head was wounded badly, so I picked him up anyway,” Fidel managed to say with a voice even more reserved.

Fast forward three decades during an engagement party in 1980 for his daughter Linda. The future groom’s cousin, Michael was talking about being in the Marines. Once Michael began talking about the exploits of his father and Fox 2/7, Fidel realized it was the same man he had pulled off the snow that November day in Korea.

“Here walks in uncle David, and these two gentlemen had not seen each other,” Linda said. “My dad thought he had been killed and he turned white after seeing him.”

In true straight-forward Marine Corps fashion, Fidel described the reunion. “I visited him, he’s worse off than I am,” Fidel said. “If I’d known he was going to wed my girls, I’d left him there,” he said laughing before he could finish the sentence.

With consummate humility, Gomez reflected about his fortune, knowing that everyone wasn’t so lucky. “They flew me home because I was hurt,” he exclaimed. “They said I was a prisoner of war, but I made it home, I made it home.”

Gomez said that 98 Marines out of the 300 in his unit made it back home.

He did make it home and by any account, made the most of it by marrying and having three wonderful daughters. They have been staying by his side in the Community Living Center and at the South Texas VA Fisher House.

After his return, he also began working for the Defense Department and continued to serve his country and fellow Veterans by moving up the ranks and worked many years with Veterans service organizations.

So for all you have done for this country Mr. Gomez, Thank you and Semper Fi.

Fidel Gomez receives care at the South Texas VA and is a #KoreanWar Veteran of @marines Fox Company 2/7. He is also a rare member of the Frozen Chosin, the group of Marines from Fox Company who were given the near-impossible order of holding off an overwhelming Chinese Army and defending a narrow passage out of the Chosin Reservoir for a United Nations force of 8,000 saving them from possible slaughter. Recently, Gomez was greeted by fellow infantry Marines. It didn’t take long for the group to begin telling stories of Marine life, despite their service being five decades apart. The instant bond lends credence to the motto, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Thank you, Fidel, for your service. #HonoringVets

A post shared by Department of Veterans Affairs (@deptvetaffairs) on

About the author: Steve Goetsch is a public affairs specialist with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

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Published on Aug. 1, 2017

Estimated reading time is 5.2 min.

Views to date: 369


  1. Eric Schlatter August 25, 2017 at 10:40 am

    NAVY Veteran here. I would like to read the book. Nice article.

  2. Matthew Hedgecock August 14, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Amazing story!

  3. THOMAS MILLAN August 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    PBS did a 2 hour show on its American Experience series on the Frozen Chosin. It was very well done and gave the viewer wow much these Marines sacrificed in this battle. Additionally I recommend the book called ” The Coldest Winter” probably the best comprehensive book on the Korean War, I have nothing but heartfelt gratitude for these men during this battle. Thanks for sharing this story..

  4. Juan Antonio Martinez August 5, 2017 at 1:35 am

    Hello Feliz! Remembered you from my stay at the VA in San Antonio TX back about a year ago if memory serves me well. We were in the same room together too. Anyway, we didn’t talk much (too busy watching TV) but I know you were kinda quiet and I was in my own little world then. Am here in Long Beach CA now and I go to the VA out here in Long beach. Glad to know you’re still around and doing well I hope. God bless and take care Tony Martinez U.S. Air Force Vet class of 1962.

  5. James Steward August 4, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    This is an interesting story I remember being in the navy and stationed on a ship named USS Lewis B Puller FFG23 which was stationed out of San Diego Ca it was commissioned in 1981 in Long Beach, Ca at the time I hadn’t heard of a marine Officer named “Chesty Puller” but by the time I served in that ship for a few years I knew all about the exploits of that marine
    who was there in Korea when that heavy fighting broke out I read his book and it talked about how they were surrounded by the enemy and he famously stated “men we got em right were we want them” and continued to fight despite overwhelming odds that just goes to show the strength of the Marines I’m proud to have served on a ship named after a famous Marine
    I now understand what what “Semper Fi” truly means signed a Swabby

  6. Dave Craft August 4, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    It wasn’t a Marine Corp battle only. The US Army’s Task Force Faith was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation in 1999.

  7. Roy F. Wilson August 4, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I have not heard them refer to themselves as “Frozen Chosin,” rather, ” the Chosin few,” a more apt title considering the overwhelming force they faced.

    • Kevin August 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Same here. As soon as I read the title I knew what it was obviously. But had only ever hear the Chosin Few. I have had the extreme honor of speaking with one of these finest examples of what it means to a marine when told to hold the line. Was an incredible man. I only wish I realized the story I was being told at the time. 25+ years ago. I come from a long line of grunts, airmen, soldiers, (luckily no squids). And their stories have always just rocked my spine. Rarely left witbout goosebumps. I served in the Army and while I dont have the stories they do I was certainly proud to uphold the foundation they and these gentleman laid.

  8. Elsa A Villalpando August 4, 2017 at 11:27 am

    This was such a heart warming story. I can attest to how much these Marines suffered, as I am a very proud daughter of a Marine Sgt who fought in the Chosin Reservoir. My Father was also wounded and received a Purple heart. We fought hard and long with the VA system until my father was finally diagnosed with 100% disability service connected Peripheral Neuropathy due to frost bite to his feet and hands. He suffered many years with this pain and many former Marines have as well.
    I can tell you in the final years of my father’s life, he was treated by the best physicians at the VA Hospital here in San Antonio. They were compassionate and knew exactly how to take care of my father. In his later years of life, he was seen by the home health nurses of the VA system, along with his physician who would visit him at home on a quarterly basis and sooner if needed.
    My father was very proud of being a Marine, and remained very close friends to many of his comrades. They were his brothers. If anyone interested, my father Emilio “Ray” Aguirre was a member of the Frozen Few chapter here in San Antonio. My father was the designer of the Korean War Memorial which sits in front of the Tobin Performing Center @ the Veterans Memorial site along with the Vietnam Memorial. My father was also an author of the book called “We will be home for Christmas” which depicts the Korean War at the Chosin Reservoir.
    Kuddos to the author of the article above, and Semper Fi Mr. Gomez and thank you for your service.

  9. Roberto Chaidez August 4, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I served with Alpha 1st Bn/1st Mar as a Grunt. But understanding of the Marines that stand out and accomplish the task of HOLDING THE LINE is something that every Marine knows has to get done! I cry thinking about these Marines and the utter courage and camaraderie to do this is overwhelming! As Marines we follow orders, period! No matter how ridiculous the odds! You probably couldn’t drag a single Marine out of their hole to fall back even if you put a gun to their head. God Bless you guys and SEMPER FI!

    • Robert G Frangenberg August 4, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Roberto Chaidez, nicely stated, your buddies the Squids, lol.

  10. Frank G Van Sant August 4, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I have read “The Last Stand of Fox Company” and agree with G Schewei. My Speech teacher in high school was there Robert Gaines and is mentioned in the book as is Fidel Gomez who is also in the book.
    FG Van Sant CWO3 USN Ret.

    • Woodrow Wilson August 5, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      You are so right. If they would have listened to McArthur back in 1945 in the East, & Paton in the West none if this would
      have happened!

  11. Walter Duda August 4, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Nice to see that we Korea vets get mentioned occasionally, they should have listened to McArthur, we wouldn’t be in the fix we are now with that madman.

  12. G SCHWEI, USMC August 3, 2017 at 1:02 am

    Kindly read, “The Last Stand of Fox Company,” to better understand what happened on Toktong hill, and the accompanying ridge-runners – Semper Fi

  13. John Fisher August 1, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Read: “The Last Stand of Fox Company” about these marines!

    Authors: Bob Drury & Tom Clavin

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