(Miami-Dade County, FL) --
A 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. These were only a few family members who represented the 20 servicemen and women whose names were read aloud before the regularly scheduled Miami-Dade Commission meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2011. These individuals, all local residents, were posthumously honored during the County’s second Medal of Valor Ceremony, an annual service in which the family members of fallen U.S. soldiers accept the highest award Miami-Dade Commissioners can bestow on behalf of their loved one.
The Medal of Valor is awarded once a year to the families of servicemen and women from Miami-Dade County who died the previous calendar year in the line of duty, although this year Miami-Dade recognized those who have passed since the beginning of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The ceremony was hosted by Chairman Joe A. Martinez with assistance from the County’s military liaison, Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz. The master of ceremony at the event was NBC 6 Anchor Willard Shepard.
In addition to the County Commission, the local military community also took part in the ceremony, providing support to the families in attendance. As each soldier’s name was read, surviving family members were given a medal in recognition for the sacrifice their loved ones 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 local resident Louis Maxwell, Jr., who served as a United Nations Close Protection Officer. Maxwell died in 2009 protecting 34 U.N. employees whose hotel was raided by Taliban militants in Kabul, Afghanistan. Commissioner Jordan attended the funeral of Louis 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 a result, the Medal of Valor Ceremony began as a way to honor residents like Maxwell who died in the line of duty.
“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,” said Commissioner Jordan. “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.”
“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,” said Chairman Martinez. “They took upon themselves a responsibility that few would accept in the name of freedom.”
“I’m grateful to our local military members, who have really come together to ensure that these families are not only honored, but taken care of as best as possible in the aftermath of their tremendous loss,” said Commissioner Diaz. “These twenty soldiers should always be remembered as heroes.”
The following servicemen and women were honored at the 2011 Medal of Valor Ceremony:
• Pfc. Jeremy R. Ewing - U.S. Army
• S/Sgt. Jude R. Jonaus - U.S. Army
• Sgt. Edmond L. Randle - U.S. Army
• Spc. Jorge E. Villacis - U.S. Army
• Pfc. Roger A. Suarez-Gonzalez - U.S. Army
• Spc. Sergio S. Abad - U.S. Army
• Sgt. Amaru Aguilar-Borgen - U.S. Army
• S/Sgt. Lillian Clamens - U.S. Army
• Capt. Christopher J. Kenny - U.S. Army
• Spec. Roland E. Calderon-Ascencio - U.S. Army
• Sgt. Joe Polo - U.S. Army
• Gunnery Sgt. Marcelo R. Velasco - U.S. Marines
• Lance Cpl. Rene Martinez - U.S. Marines
• Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga - U.S. Army
• Cpl. Armando Ariel Gonzalez - U.S. Marines
• S/Sgt. Juan L. Rivadeneira - U.S. Army
• E01 Luis A. Souffront - U.S. Navy
• Pfc. Alfred H. Jairala - U.S. Army
• Maj. Mark E. Rosenberg - U.S. Army
• Pfc. Charles Sims - U.S. Army