Family and close friends of a long-time Commerce resident already know him as a dedicated family man, a kind soul, a hard worker and a hard-rock enthusiast, but last week he officially gained the distinction of being a hero—a recognition his loved-ones say was long over due but something they already knew.
Lorenzo Cardoza Jr., an 82-year-old Commerce great-grandfather, on March 17 received the Purple Heart for bravery despite his wounds received in a battle 61 years ago at Satae-Ri, Korea in 1952. The Purple Heart medal is an award reserved only for service members who are wounded or killed by enemy fire.
Just 20 years old, Cardoza, a resident of East Los Angeles at the time, enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 224th Infantry, Company A.
On Dec. 14, 1952, Private First Class Cardoza Jr. was in the trenches with his unit engaged in heavy combat with North Korean soldiers when shrapnel from the explosion of a mortar shell so powerful that it left him temporarily blind wounded him. A bullet from enemy fire grazed his neck before striking and killing a fellow solider.
Despite his injuries, Cardoza continued firing his weapon, holding off enemy forces until reinforcements arrived, thus saving lives, said City of Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca Del Rio, who presented a commendation to Cardoza at a ceremony at Bandini Park celebrating the awarding of the long overdue medal.
Cardoza has also received the Marksmanship Medal, according to Del Rio, who called Cardoza a model soldier, a leader and model resident of “The Model City,” a reference to the city’s motto.
Howard Hernandez, California State Commander of the American GI Forum, presented Cardoza with the Purple Heart — the oldest military award still given to members of the U.S. Military. He explained the medal is not an easy one to get, nor do all soldiers want it since it requires the spilling of blood.
Tears welled up in Cordoza’s eyes as applause broke out and one of his daughters cheered “Way to go Dad!”
“It feels great, I’m very emotional,” Cardoza told EGP following the ceremony.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: El Héroe de Guerra de la Casa Al Lado es Honrado Por Fin 
Representatives for Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (58th District) and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (40th District) also presented commendations to the father of seven, grandfather of 15, and great-grandfather of eight who has resided in Commerce with his wife, Horalia, “Mona,” since before its incorporation in 1960.
According to family members, Cardoza’s nephew Fernando Galarze nine years ago began efforts to locate his uncle’s military and medical records that had been destroyed in a fire. Galarze’s mother, Cardoza’s late sister, encouraged him to pursue the medal.
“Today’s reality came from a wish from Amanda Galarze, she always knew you were a hero whether you were in the army or not… She made this request for me because as a Vietnam Veteran, I was visiting and seeing clinics within the system. After several years, we are fortunate to get to this date March 17, 2013,” said Fernando in a statement read by his adult son, Ronnie Galarze.
The elder Galarze, who did much of the research for the award and orchestrated the recent ceremony, was unable to attend the event because he is still hospitalized following an unexpected quintuple heart by-pass surgery, according to the family. His son presented Cardoza a shadow box containing the Purple Heart recipient’s military decorations as a gift from his father.
Family members describe Cardoza as a great father, and a humble, generous person who does not judge people, and who came out of retirement in his 60s to work as a welder until his health declined.
Victor Cardoza, who traveled from Indiana to be present at the ceremony, said his father used to take him to clean offices at night and they also saved aluminum cans.
“He set the standard for me… he was a hard worker, he taught me how it was to be an adult, and have responsibilities. ‘Make it happen’, ‘be strong’, ‘don’t burn anyone,’” those were the lessons he taught us, Victor recalled.
Ana Cardoza said she never saw her father drink, she never heard her parents argue and she believes they are as in love now as they were during her childhood.
Horalia “Mona” Cardoza said her children and grandchildren adore her husband and used to beg him to dress in his fatigues and share stories from his time as a soldier.
“I’m very proud of him and I think it was long over due,” said Elsie Cardoza, Cardoza Jr.’s niece and goddaughter.
“He’s not just a war hero, he’s our hero,” his grandson Adrian Herrera said.
A band, including Cardoza’s sons, played Rock music during the luncheon, Cardoza is a fan of AC/DC& Val Halen, and also enjoys reggae music, his granddaughter Ashley Underwood said.
The Commerce City Council will also honor Cardoza Jr. at an upcoming council meeting in April, which will be broadcast on the City’s cable channel, according to Del Rio.