Spotlight on the Brown: L.A. Chicano Veterano Fred Corral
Medal of Valor winner from the Veteran's of Foreign Wars and the National Latino Peace Officers Association
Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
With all the hoopla and awards going on by this or that organization lately, none really honor a person for the real accomplishment of living and surviving life, while making a serious dent in the community without having anything to sell or market except a good example for our young and each other, of a true life hero...until now...
Published on LatinoLA: October 8, 2009
Recently, a friend contacted me to invite me to a function that would be honoring a man with the Medal of Valor from the Veteran's of Foreign Wars and the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
A proud Chicano from the East Side. A proud former MARINE, and a retired veteran Law Enforcement Officer who still punches a clock everyday, while living life despite having more than a couple of brushes with death...this guy has definitely earned some respect!
Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I couldn't attend, but the story of this man told to me by friend captured my attention.
My friend, Ms. Gina Robles, herself an accomplished and respected person in the community, isn't given to praising just any or everybody on the block...so I was compelled to reach out and talk to this guy, based on her endorsement.
Frederick Aguilera Corral is one of those guys who knew from an early age that he was going to be somebody, just because of the upbringing he had.
"Growing up in the mean streets of East L.A. and Pico Rivera was no easy ride, but I was lucky to have a responsible, disciplined father as a role model", Fred, known as "Likito" to his family and friends, says.
"My father was a decorated WW II Army veteran, who fought and was wounded in the battle for Okinawa. Everybody respected him, and I wanted to be like him. He was a disciplined man who always taught us to be proud of who we are as Chicanos, to be responsible, and to stand up and be counted when it mattered the most."
Despite having a chance to attend one of the more exclusive Catholic boy's school in Montebello at the time, Fred chose to attend El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera because the Marine Corps had an ROTC class there, and he wanted to be part of it. "I wanted to be a Marine since I was a young kid," he says."Serving in the U.S. Military is a proud family tradition...and I wanted to serve a a Marine."
"I graduated High School at mid-term in 1971, and had to have my father sign for me to join the Marine Corps because I was only 17. A few months later, I found myself in Viet Nam, where I would eventually celebrate my 18th birthday in Da Nang. During my time in Viet Nam and other countries in Asia, I saw first-hand how lawlessness and public disorder can adversely affect a community, and make people, especially young people, victimized and exploited, and I started thinking about becoming a police officer. Many months later, while in the Phillipine Islands, I saw how the Phillipine National Guard Police, a crack professional law enforcement unit, quickly brought order in the streets just by the way they carried themselves and had the respect of the people, and that sealed it. I was going to be a cop when I came home from Viet Nam."
The last few years of his active duty career, and during the 26 years of his Marine Corps Reserve career saw Fred serving as a Military Police, Criminal Investigator, Military Instructor, and he was eventually selected to attend the FBI's Law Enforcement Specialist Course at Quantico, Virginia, where he passed with flying colors.
"Being a Marine, I was always taught to be the best...and as a Chicano, I had NO doubt that I was...put two and two together, and I was one proud serving Mexican~American military man. I retired as a First Sergeant".
After mustering out of active duty from the Marine Corps, Fred attended the Rio Hondo College Reserve Police Academy and Basic Police Recruit School before joining the Baldwin Park Police Department.
"I was a street cop, but I wasn't one of those arrogant, cocky bullies who exercised power with a badge. As a Chicano, I used to earnestly approach the young guys, who were taught to fear and mistrust the law, and I really made an effort to talk to those guys about life and the real world. That was one of he most satisfying parts of the job, and I know I made a difference. Some of them even became cops or joined the Marine Corps themselves."
Continuing his education, Fred completed the San Bernardino Sheriff's Academy shortly before joining the San Bernardino Sherrif's Department, where he became one of the youngest members of the S.W.A.T. team.
"We were involved in many dangerous but successful missions, we saved more than a few lives, and were involved in some very life threatening situations. I was trained and designated as a sniper. As one of only two Chicanos on the team, and of course being a Marine, it was important to carry myself as one of the best, and that's just what I did."
In 1981, Fred's unit was called in to assist in apprehending two armed robbery and murder suspects in the city of Barstow, California. Fred and his comrades were flown in especially for this mission, and while he and his team were setting up a position, one of the Barstow detectives mistook Fred for a suspect and shot him twice. The report was filed as "accidental friendly fire" and Fred was quietly "retired" against his wishes after undergoing several surgeries.
"I wasn't ready to quit, and I didn't want to retire from the Sheriff's Department, but that's what they did, no recognition, no nothing, not even a thanks.... Because of my duty-related injuries, I was also forced to retire from the Marine Corp Reserve against my wishes. I wanted to serve 30 years, but they wouldn't let me. I knew I wasn't done with life, and I was going to prove it".
Undaunted and determined, Fred went to work for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Department as an investigator, where over the past 25 years he has been involved in some very high profile cases including the Night Stalker Task Force, the Cerritos Jet Plane Crash, the Los Angeles Riots, the Northridge Earthquake, the O.J. Simpson murder case, and helped develop specialized teams and procedures immediately after 9/11, serving at ground zero in New York City immediately after the attack.
In 1991, he was promoted to Lieutenant Supervising Coroner Investigator, a feat he says was not easy as he has become quite vocal over the years regarding what he say are inequities and unfairness in the department and the community. "That's probably why I haven't promoted any farther up the chain after 25 years," Fred laughs. "But that's OK...I've been blessed with a good life, a good family, and good friends...I have respect at my job, and as a Chicano, I'm still one of the best at what I do, and I have many teaching credentials to prove it...and I'm still not ready to quit!"
In 2004, while working a Coroner's Office Disaster case in a rural area, Fred was injured again when he slipped on an unstable hillside, breaking both his knees and injuring his back. Despite these injuries, Fred has recovered, and is back on the job everyday...and is still considered one of the best at what he does.
Earlier this year, 28 years after the life-changing event that almost took his life, the National Latino Peace Officer's Association presented Fred Corral with the VFW POST 8737 Law Enforcement Medal of Valor....something nobody that knows Fred can deny he has earned, and was long overdue.
"Young people today need a role model as good as I had...and if I can be one to just a few people, then I have accomplished a great goal in life...I passed on what my father taught me!"
His message to young people today: "Focus yourself on your future...believe that YOU DO have a future...don't ever let ANYBODY tell you can't do anything or be anybody you want, because YOU CAN! ...and most of all, be proud of who you are...be proud to be CHICANO !"
And with that... LatinoLA proudly welcomes another Chicano warrior home to the Land of 1000 Dances that is Aztlan.
SEMPER FI, MARINE!
Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone & the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul heard daily on Internet Radio
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