Martin C. Evans

69th Infantry Regiment honors one of its 7 Medal of Honor Recipients

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2010 at 12:59 am

Alejandro Ruiz, with his blue-ribboned Medal of Honor. (Photo: LA Times)

One desperate day in the final months of World War II, a soldier affiliated with the “Fighting 69th” twice charged an array of enemy pillboxes in an Okinawa battle, earning him the nation’s highest military honor.

Now, members of the New York National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment are honoring the solder, Alejandro R. Ruiz, who died of congestive heart failure Nov. 23 in Napa, California. A Washington Post obituary appears here.

Ruiz’s Medal of Honor is one of seven held by members of 69th Infantry Regiment, a storied unit once dubbed “The Irish Brigade” that has served in every major U.S. conflict dating back to the Civil War.

Lieutenant Colonel John Andonie, from Clifton Park, N.Y., and his senior enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Vasquez from Jackson Heights, N.Y. will travel to Calif. this weekend to meet with the Ruiz family and present honors at Ruiz’ grave, according to a National Guard release.

The ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Veterans Home at Yountville, California, a Napa Valley facility where Ruiz lived his final years.

Ruiz, the son of a Mexican immigrant, joined the army in 1944 after being accused of stealing a cow in his native New Mexico. A judge offered the choice of jail or the Army.

Ruiz chose the Army. He was assigned to the 165th Infantry Regiment, the wartime designation of the 69th Infantry.

On April 28, 1945, Pfc. Ruiz was with a patrol seeking remnants of a Japanese battalion hiding in fortified emplacements on steep ridges near the Okinawan  village of Gasukuma.

During an ambush that killed all but himself and his squad leader, Ruiz charged at a row of pillboxes that had his squad pinned down, eventually reaching the bunkers and silencing their gunfire.

He stayed in the Army after the war, retiring as a Master Sergeant in 1964.

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