March 5 2010 - Dr. Luis Fernandez Awarded Americanism Medal

News Release Courtesy of DAR
March 5, 2010

DR. LUIS FERNANDEZ OF TMF AWARDED THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AMERICANISM MEDAL

TYLER, TX – The Mary Tyler Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution nominee for the DAR Americanism Medal, Dr. Luis Fernandez III, Chairman of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler and Brigadier General of the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade has been selected by the Texas Society DAR as the Texas State Winner.

The Award Presentation Ceremony will be held Saturday evening, March 13, 2010, at the General Conference Banquet at the DAR Texas State Conference to be held at the Houston Marriott Westchase, in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Fernandez was selected as the Texas state winner from applications submitted by DAR chapters from across the state. Dr. Fernandez was selected on his qualities of leadership, trustworthiness, patriotism and service. The DAR Americanism Medal is the highest award given by the Daughters of the American Revolution to a naturalized citizen. One thousand people are expected to attend the ceremony.

In the words of a recent newspaper article, “Dr. Fernandez is the epitome of the American dream.” At the age of seven he fled with his family from political persecution and firing squads in Cuba in the 1960's. He has accomplished much in life and this most patriotic American has continued his family’s tradition of service to others, making it his mission to give as much back as possible to his beloved country, the United States of America. Brigadier General Fernandez stated, “When you see an obstacle, you go around it, above it or through it. Only you can stop you.”

As a youth in Cuba, Dr. Fernandez remembers that his father, also a physician, spoke out against injustices, including dictators General Fulgencio Batista and later Fidel Castro’s regime. When Castro adopted communistic ideals, Fernandez’s father denounced his regime and it almost cost him his life.

The young Fernandez accompanied his father when he traveled to care for the sick and for Castro’s wounded rebels. After Castro’s regime had taken over, a former wounded rebel he cared for years earlier showed up at Fernandez’s door to inform the doctor that because Fernandez would not head a medical department under the Castro regime (much like the U.S. surgeon general), he had been put on a “death list.”

Appreciative for Fernandez saving his life, the now-senior federal security chief told the doctor to take his family and flee. They left all their belongings behind, and it was the last day the Fernandezes saw their native country. The Fernandez family moved to Miami’s Little Havana, an area heavily populated with Cuban immigrants. It wasn’t until after his father died six years ago that Dr. Fernandez III found out his father had assisted the CIA while still living in Cuba. From being exiled from their homeland to starting over in a new one, Dr. Fernandez appreciates the freedom our founding fathers have given to us in this country and shows this daily in his patriotism and service to others, carrying forth the tradition of three generations of physicians in his family. His father and grandfather were prominent physicians with humble beginnings.

Luis Fernandez III completed Pre-Medical Studies at the University of Miami and received his medical degree from Mexico’s Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, which is considered “Latin America’s Harvard.” There, he studied alongside the children of Latin presidents and other diplomats, receiving numerous honors and awards. Upon returning to the states, he pushed even harder, completing postgraduate training at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and the University of Illinois. Pathway and Surgical/Critical Care, including Subspecialty Rotation in Urology/Urologic Trauma Internships, were completed at Resurrection Hospital in Chicago. Residency requirements were fulfilled at Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Hospital, Columbus Hospital and Lakeside Veterans Administration Hospital. Residency requirements in Trauma/Burns were completed at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn New York, where Dr. Fernandez served as Chief Resident in General Surgery.

Dr. Fernandez is Board Certified by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, American Board of Surgery in Surgical Critical Care, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and Forensic Traumatology.

“If you’re a foreign graduate, you have to prove yourself four or five times over,” he said. A nationally recognized trauma surgeon, Fernandez came to Tyler in 1993, and under his leadership, helped established Trinity Mother Frances Hospital Critical Care’s trauma center. He is now the chairman of Trinity Mother Frances Division of Trauma Surgery and Surgical Care Center.

During his fifteen plus years at Tyler’s Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, he has been directly involved in caring for over 10,000 trauma patients whose lives were in the balance. Dr. Fernandez is the recipient of numerous awards, including the William J. Vynaled, M.D. Award, Outstanding Resident of Surgery, American Medical Association of Physicians Awards for 1989, 1991, 1994 and 1997, and awards from the American Academy of Family Physicians from 1994-1996, and the Captain William Barron Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, Emergency Medical Services Commendation Medal.

He holds memberships in 40 professional medical societies. Dr. Fernandez’s academic positions include: Clinical Assistant of Surgery and Family Practice at the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, Adjunct Professor of Nursing and Medicine and Physician Preceptor at the University of Texas at Arlington and Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Following the 911 attacks in New York City, and driven by his patriotism, Dr. Fernandez joined the Texas State Medical Brigade. This uniformed, statewide unit is charged with providing military emergency response and support during public health emergencies and disasters. As Commanding Officer, he was instrumental in ensuring that evacuees of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike received excellent medical care in special needs shelters manned by our State Guard soldiers.

Each year his leadership and service ensures that quality medical care is provided to the medically uninsured residents of the State of Texas with Operation Lone Star in the Rio Grande Valley. Over eighty percent of the residents of the Valley are Chicano, Spanish, Tejano, Hispanic or Latino and almost half live below the poverty level.

His achievements have been recognized by the Governor of the State of Texas and the Texas State Guard Adjuvant General, and Dr. Fernandez’s accomplishments were further acknowledged with his promotion to Brigadier General of the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade.

In addition, he is the recipient of the Medals and Ribbons of the Texas Military Forces, two Texas Outstanding Service Medals, three Adjutant General’s Individual Awards, two Commanding General’s Individual Awards, and two Humanitarian Service Ribbons. In addition he was awarded the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Medal, Commissioned Officers Association ribbon, State Guard Association of the United States ribbon and Texas State Guard Association ribbon. Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist Badges including the Basic MEMS Badge, Senior MEMS Badge and MEMS Flash Badge have been presented. Dr. Fernandez is also the recipient of the Orders of Knighthood of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher under the Protector ship of the Holy See and His Holiness, Pope John-Paul II, Pontiff of Rome.

Dr. Fernandez’s passion for the military is no coincidence. He comes from a long line of more than 200 years of Cuban activists who rallied for independence from Spain. His great-great-grandfather was a commanding officer in the country’s fight for independence in late 1800s; and his great-great-cousin, Perucho Figueredo, who also was active in the uprising, is famed for writing Cuba’s national anthem.

Dr. Fernandez possesses a strong work ethic and an overwhelming need to give to others. With so much accomplished and so much of himself devoted to this country, Fernandez said he is just doing what everyone should do in a nation that affords its citizens many opportunities. He said although it has its share of problems, many Americans take their country for granted.

“We just don’t appreciate it. We have problems, issues, but here’s a place where anybody can be anything,” he said. “This is a good country. There are good people here.”

The Mary Tyler Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution is thrilled that Dr. Fernandez has been selected as the Texas State Winner of the DAR Americanism Medal. He is truly a most deserving recipient and it has been our pleasure to nominate such a fine patriot for this most prestigious award.

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Dr. Fernandez Acceptance Speech - March 13, 2010

DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
AMERICANISM MEDAL AWARD

March 13, 2010
Houston, Texas

Good evening.

Thank you for your kindness, the generosity of your time and for the privilege of being here with you.

I am sincerely humbled and honored that you have selected me to receive this prestigious award. My sister Sylvia, my brother Richard and I would not be in this country if not for the courage and the sacrifices endured by my father, the late Dr. Luis G. Fernandez-Leal and my mother Josefina Blanca Fernandez.

Our family left Cuba in 1965 seeking the freedom that my father had fought for …and lost, during the Cuban revolution against the dictatorship of General Fulgencio Batista. My father believed that a nation’s greatness comes from its people and their ability to seek out their own paths, to work to fulfill their dreams and aspirations safe from political, economic or military oppression.

My father believed in freedom and liberty. He believed in the dignity of man and the Divine Rights, given to us by Our Creator, which are inherent in our humanity.

He followed a familiar path. As his ancestors before him, who had fought and died to found the Cuban nation, he strived to preserve the principles upon which the Cuban Republic was founded. During the course of his struggle to help bring to the Cuban people the dream of a free and democratic republic, he realized that the true goal of the Castro regime was to replace one form of dictatorship with a new and more oppressive system, communism.

He was a prominent surgeon who had saved many lives of those who had fought against Batista and was highly regarded by many in the new regime.

He was offered a prominent leadership position in the Ministry of Health in the new government, a position which placed him among the new political elites and carried with it not a small measure of power and privilege.

Because he would not compromise his principles he refused to serve in the Castro regime. This refusal was his death sentence. I recall ,as a seven year old boy, being held at gun point along with my mother, my brother and sister, as a member of Castro’s’ death squad broke into our home, searching for my father.

As he had enemies so he had friends. One was a high ranking officer of the G2 Internal Security service; my father had successfully operated on this man who had suffered a life threatening gunshot wound, years before, in a jungle in the high Sierra Maestra. He contacted my father and said to him “You risked your life to save mine…I will return the favor.”

This individual allowed our family to leave Cuba, with nothing but a change of clothing, never to return.

We travelled to Mexico, where we sought and were granted political asylum in the United States. A country that had no obligation to take us in, a country which offered, as a matter of course, those very things that we had been fighting for. A country which provides its people with the freedom to dream, and the liberty to make their dreams a reality.

My father and mother worked successfully to provide, us, their children with the fundamentals needed to become successful and productive men and women, but to this day one of the proudest days of all of our lives was when we became naturalized citizens of the United States. The Fernandez family recognizes that it owes a great debt to this nation. One that we may never be able to truly repay…one that we will never forget.

We all have a duty and a responsibility to remember what it means to be Americans, to remember that the freedoms we enjoy are not free and have been paid for in blood and sacrifice. We must remember that our liberty continues to be preserved, for the many, by the few, who willingly put themselves in harm’s way and, if need be, are prepared to lay their lives down for this country.

We must remember that America is more than what which we can see and feel. It is the first and last great hope for those who believe in the dignity of man. It is the beacon in the night for those who flee oppression. It is the bastion of freedom and liberty. It is God’s blessing on this earth.

I shall always strive to live my life in a way that reflects the values and principles that the Daughters of the American Revolution Americanism Medal represents.

I thank you for this honor and for the opportunity to be here with you AND FOR ALL THAT YOU DO TO PRESERVE OUR AMERICAN HERITAGE.

May God bless you, May He bless the Great State of Texas, and may He continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

BG Luis G. Fernandez, M.D.
Commander – Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard