b. 30/06/1944 Alburquerque, New Mexico. d. 18/02/1966 Vietnam.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 18/02/1966 Vietnam.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 30, 1944, Fernández grew up in nearby Los Lunas. He had two younger brothers, Peter and James.
Fernández joined the Army from Albuquerque in 1962 and by 1966 was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam. During that deployment, he served as a specialist four in Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), 25th Infantry Division. On February 18, 1966, in C Chi, Hu Ngha province, his 16-man patrol was ambushed by a Viet Cong rifle company and forced to fall back. Fernández and two others volunteered to follow a sergeant back to the ambush site and rescue a wounded soldier who had been left behind. After reaching the injured man, the sergeant was shot in the knee and Fernández took over command of the patrol. All five men were pinned down by heavy fire when a rifle grenade landed in their midst. In the scramble to get away from the device, Fernández accidentally kicked it closer to the rest of the group. He then shouted "move out", jumped over the immobile sergeant, and threw himself on the grenade. He was killed in the resulting explosion, but successfully saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.
For this action, Fernández was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in November 1966. He was the first of nine Mexican Americans to receive the medal in Vietnam.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Fernández demonstrated indomitable courage when the 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 had been wounded in the Viet Cong attack. Sp4c. Fernández, a sergeant and 2 other volunteers immediately fought their way through devastating fire and exploding grenades to reach the fallen soldier. Upon reaching their fallen comrade the sergeant was struck in the knee by machine gun fire and immobilized. Sp4c. Fernández took charge, rallied the left flank of his patrol and began to assist in the recovery of the wounded sergeant. While first aid was being administered to the wounded man, a sudden increase in the accuracy and intensity of enemy fire forced the volunteer group to take cover. As they did, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the group, although some men did not see it. Realizing there was no time for the wounded sergeant or the other men to protect themselves from the grenade blast, Sp4c. Fernández vaulted over the wounded sergeant and threw himself on the grenade as it exploded, saving the lives of his 4 comrades at the sacrifice of his life.
BURIAL LOCATION: SANTA FE NATIONAL CEMETERY, SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO.
Section S Grave 246