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PRIVATE FIRST CLASS TRINIDAD M. LOPEZ II
U.S. MARINE CORPS

Private First Class Trinidad M. Lopez was a U.S. Marine who received a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his bravery in the Korean War.

Lopez grew up in Dallas. He had two older half-brothers from his father’s previous marriage: Vicente and another sibling named Trinidad (nicknamed “Trini”). As is common in many Chicano families, their father gave identical names to two different sons.

On September 18, 1950 Lopez served as an Automatic Rifleman of Company A, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced). While acting as flank security advancing along the mountains of Seoul-Inchon Highway, Lopez spotted three armed enemies targeting his company.

As described by his brother Vicente Lopez, Private First Class Lopez saw the North Koreans “hiding with a fifty-caliber machine gun . . . waiting to ambush the Americans.” 

After delivering one round, Lopez’s weapon jammed. At that point, according to the Secretary of the Navy, Lopez “threw his gun at the enemy and engaged them in hand-to-hand-combat.” He successfully pounced on them, paving the way for their demise.

“I was scared; too scared to run,” Lopez told The Dallas Times-Herald in a 1951 interview. “I used a flying tackle–just like in the movies, and then started kicking their heads.”

Other members of Lopez’s squad rushed to his aid shortly thereafter, taking out the enemy combatants.

“Because of his efforts, the enemy was unable to man their weapon, which was about to ambush his company,” explains “Trini,” Lopez’s other half-brother. “I was very proud of him and still am today.”

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Lopez’s mother, Nora, was especially proud. “It’s not every soldier that wins the nation’s third-highest award,” she had pointed out to The Herald.

The U.S. military credited Lopez with “quick initiative and bold action,” and further honored Lopez for “his indomitable fighting spirit, personal courage and staunch devotion to duty in the face of great personal risk . . .”

“It would have been very easy to stay there hiding but he knew his buddies were in trouble,” says Trini. The courageous Private Lopez “had nothing else on his mind but trying to help his friends.”

In November 1950, Lopez sustained a mortar wound in his right arm as well as two frozen toes. He had been assigned to the Chosin Reservoir area two months after his initial heroic act.

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Trini calls his like-named sibling, “a brave man, with big huevos, as we call them.” He and Vicente add that their youngest sibling suffered physical wounds unrelated to that first incident, additionally earning him the Purple Heart.

When Lopez returned home from the war, remembers Vicente, the young man was fortunate enough to find a good job yet his memories and emotional wounds from the war “left a toll on his soul” that followed him for the rest of his life. Vicente regrets that this sadness haunted his half-brother, whom he lauds as “such a nice man with a big heart.”

Lopez died in 1983 at the age of 52 from liver complications. He was buried in his hometown of Dallas, memorialized by surviving family members in a private funeral ceremony with full military honors.

— Interview by: Alfredo Perez

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