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El Pasoan receives Navy Cross for valor in Iraq

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An El Paso native was honored for his service with one of the military’s highest awards.

Current and retired service members all lined up to shake hands with Ben Gonzalez, a Navy Cross recipient.

“It's an honor,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez was awarded the military's second-highest honor for his service in Iraq.

“I take it with great pride and humility, and on behalf of the Marines that didn't make,” Gonzalez said. “I thank God for this.”

The award is presented for valor in combat.

“All we heard was a clink of the grenade hitting the floor and I was going to try and move out of the way, but I saw one of my friends on rest,” Gonzalez said of the incident in 2004.

He threw himself over that fellow Marine and took the blast of a grenade.

“The grenade hit me from my waist down on my backside,” Gonzalez said. “I have permanent nerve damage. It makes it hard to walk. Sometimes, it makes it hard to even get out of bed.”

The blast has left permanent scars but Gonzalez's family has been there to help every step of the way.

“He still goes through pain every day, but he's strong. He's so strong,” younger brother Adrian Gonzalez said. “I remember the doctors said they were going to have to take away his legs but they didn't. He's still walking. It's a miracle."

Adrian's older brother, Ben, has always been his hero.

“He's a great guy. I love that guy, and a great brother,” Gonzalez said. “I couldn't have asked for a better one.”

Gonzalez's fellow Marine, survived the grenade attack that day without a scratch, thanks to his sacrifice.

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