U.S. ARMED FORCES
Rarely is there such a heroic story behind the creation of any establishment. In January of 1994, Eduardo Al Fernandez and his family opened a bar/restaurant called “Drop Zone.” The establishment and its significance began many years back during combat when Fernandez was rescued by a fellow soldier who risked his own life to save him.
In mid February 1951, Sergeant First Class Eduardo Fernandez, then 22 and Corporal Lou Jurado, then 20 were two American soldiers fighting in separate infantries, but in the same destination: Chipyong-ni, Korea. They met when Jurado went to visit Fernandez and his men to supply them with his ration of alcohol.
“I had just gone there to give them a bottle of liquor, as I did not drink. Eduardo greeted me and then asked that I go down the valley to the Drop Zone and get ammunition and supplies with him,” said Jurado.
On that night, the hesitant Jurado trusted the higher ranking Fernandez, especially because he had been there a few times that day already, and assumed they would be fine. When they reached their destination, they began loading up on ammunition, then suddenly Fernandez was hit several times. “I was wounded three times all together, really bad. If it would have been a direct hit, I would not be here," said Fernandez.
Jurado, who was smaller in size and stature, managed to drag and carry Fernandez a quarter of a mile uphill and out of the drop zone, to safety. When the paramedics came, Jurado insisted they give Fernandez an emergency blood transfusion instead of assisting to the shrapnel lodged in his own body. Jurado soon recovered and continued on the front line, meanwhile Fernandez received more than 70 surgeries and re-enlisted in non-combat duties.
After that fateful night, the two men parted ways and were destined to never see each other again. Unbeknownst to either one, they each attempted to locate the other and reconnect after such a traumatic incident. Both men continued living their own life, always wondering how the other one was doing.
Unsuccessfully searching him out, Fernandez opened “Drop Zone” in 1994 to honor and dedicate it to the humble man that saved his life and to the countless other war heroes who risked their lives for the freedoms we have today. “The atmosphere of the battlefield can be felt throughout every part of the room, with pictures of the heroes on all the walls. I wanted a place that showed respect and honor to the people who participated in and continue to participate in war,” said Fernandez.
Soon, the restaurant was able to attract more than just war veterans. In 1996, after only two years of having opened the restaurant, Jurado and Fernandez reconnected and their relationship picked up as if more than 40 years hadn’t passed.
Despite its history, the progress of the restaurant hasn’t been a complete smooth sailing. In 1999, the Fernandez family was forced to sell it, and it wasn’t until 2005 that they were able to buy it back. Fernandez and his family continue to keep the restaurant open, regardless of the fact that it brings in very little income. “The reason we keep this place open even though we are just breaking even and sometimes run in the red, is because we get to spend time with our friends and family. It is our contribution to our community and our attempt to give back,” said Fernandez.
Though the restaurant has had its share of economic woes, it remains a local favorite amongst the war veterans that frequent it. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Rascon, a renowned war veteran and Medal of Honor recipient is a regular, due to the restaurant’s laid-back vibe and familiarity of a common history shared by its visitors. “We have lots of history on our walls. Mostly Special Forces, Paratroopers, the General's of course, and Major General Alfred Valenzuela is a regular here,” said Fernandez. It’s the city’s unofficial American Legion and that’s exactly the atmosphere Fernandez wanted to create.
The restaurant serves as the Medal of Honor Jurado should have received for saving Fernandez’s life. After the rescue, Jurado continued in the military and received other rewards, but never one for saving Fernandez. “I know Ed’s wife is trying to get some kind of medal for me, although I never did it for any medal. It has shaped my life in a positive way and that is reward enough for me. I was the recipient of a Purple Heart from previous wounds, but nothing for the battle at Chipyong-ni, February 1951,” said Jurado.
Only time will tell if Lou Jurado will receive a Medal of Honor for heroically saving Fernandez’s life. One thing does remain certain: as long as the “Drop Zone” remains under the Fernandez family ownership, it will serve as a daily reminder to the world of what a true hero Jurado really is.
— By Jessica De La Cruz - Photography By: Alfredo Perez
© 2021 Honoring Forgottten Heroes - Hispanics In American Wars All Rights Reserved No portion of Honoring Forgottten Heroes - Hispanics In American Wars may be duplicated, or used in any form. By visiting this site and browsing our pages you agree to abide by Honoring Forgottten Heroes - Hispanics In American Wars copyrights. It is unlawful to copy or use any of our contributed articles and photography without permission.
CLICK HERE FOR TABLE OF CONTENTS