Joseph Gomez was born on November 13, 1929, to Ambrosio and Amanda Gomez in Silvis, Illinois. Gomez was raised a second-generation immigrant in the Mexican-American community in Silvis centered around 2nd Street, a neighborhood now known as Hero Street. “Mexican immigrants came to little Silvis, Illinois, to work for the railroad after World War I. They lived, many of them, in box cars at first, and then on a one-and-a-half-block dirt road called 2nd Street.
The couple dozen families gave endlessly to their new country in the most selfless way possible – with their children.” The timeline of Gomez’s early life becomes somewhat hazy up to his enlistment in the Army. He likely attended East Moline High School due to its close location to his home, but it is unclear whether he graduated. Having received the World War II Victory Medal, it is evident that Gomez served in the Second World War. Like approximately 200,000 other young Americans, Gomez had to lie about his age to the recruiters to enlist in the Army before the War’s end (he turned 16 in 1945). Given this fact, it is likely that Gomez chose to forgo a high school diploma in favor of Army service. This would be the first of many acts of bravery in Gomez’s heroic career as a soldier.
Gomez served with the Company K 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division in the European theater during the closing acts of the Second World War. The 2nd Division saw a great deal of action in the campaigns following D-Day. They fought against several crack German regiments in Normandy for 70 days. They then swept into Brittany, and wrested the port of Brest from the Germans in 39 days, 51 days less than military experts had predicted. The 2nd then repelled a last ditch attempt at a breakthrough of Allied lines by German commander Gerd von Rundstedt. From there the 2nd pushed into Germany to capture Monschau and Ahrweiler, and even further onward to liberate Czechoslovakia before the war’s end. Given the uncertainty of Gomez’s date of enlistment, it is difficult to determine how much of these campaigns he participated in. However, given the 2nd’s action-packed record, any amount of time with the Division during this period implies a great deal of combat experience for the young soldier.
In December of 1950, Gomez and his brother Rudolph, also in the Army, were home on furlough and the entire family was returning home from visiting another brother, when the car they were in was involved in an auto accident. Gomez’s mother, Amanda, was killed.
Gomez would fight with the 2nd again in Korea. Much like their experience in Europe, the 2nd Division saw enough fighting in Korea to justify their nickname, “The Warrior Division.” From the moment the 2nd Division arrived in Korea, they led the spear tip of the American offensive:
The Division arrived in Korea, via Pusan, on 23 July 1950, becoming the first unit to reach Korea directly from the United States. The Warrior Division was the first unit to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and led the Eighth Army ‘s Drive to the Manchurian Border. The 2nd Infantry Division was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation on 29 September 1950, for the defense of the Naktong River line against enemy attack. On 5 February 1951, the 23rd Regimental Combat Team moved into the narrow valley of Chipyong-ni. On 13 February 1951, the 23rd Regimental Combat Team, with the attached French Battalion, was cut off and surrounded by four Chinese Divisions. For more than three days the 23rd Regimental Combat Team and the 1st ROK Division bravely fought in freezing weather, killing over 5,000 Chinese, and causing the Communist Chinese Forces to withdraw. The Battle of Chipyong-ni was the first major defeat for the Chinese and proved to be the turning point of the Korean War. In April and May 1951, the 2nd Infantry Division was instrumental in smashing the Communist’s Spring Offensive as they fought for hilltops in the Iron Triangle, Pork Chop Hill, Baldy Hill, Bloody Ridge, and Heartbreak Ridge.
Wounded in action on March 15, of 1951, Gomez was sent to recover at the Army Hospital in Kobe, Japan. On April 8, he linked up with an infantry unit and rejoined the fight against the North Korean and Chinese forces. Nearly two months later, on May 28, 1951 Joseph Gomez was killed in action. In November of 1951, Gomez’s widow was presented with his Silver Star. It was the first posthumous award of the citation to a Davenport resident killed in Korea. “The award was made for his display of extreme bravery in action. His bayonet-wielding assault on an enemy position was made in complete disregard for his own safety. He repulsed the Reds with heavy loss and cleared the position for his fellow infantryman.”
Joseph Gomez’s story did not end on that battlefield in Korea, however. In 2001, a monument was unveiled in Silvis to honor Gomez and seven other sons of Mexican-American railway workers who gave their lives in World War II and Korea. It was raised to honor the disproportionately high sacrifice of the families of 2nd Street: “The U.S. Department of Defense has documented that no other street of comparable size has had as many residents serve the country in times of war as those from the Hero Street neighborhood of just 25 homes.” Thus was Gomez’s service immortalized in stone; displayed to honor himself, his descendants, and his community for as long as it stands. Joseph Gomez leaves behind the legacy of a warrior who fought to defend his country from fascism, and a titan of the now legendary Hero street.
 “Pfc. Joseph Gomez Killed in Action on Korean Front,” The Daily Times, June 18, 1951, p. 13,; “Pfc. Joseph Gomez,” The Dispatch, December 4, 1951, p. 24.
 “Young Warriors: Some Veterans Lied About Their Ages,” ABC News (ABC News Network, February 18, 2009),.
 “Pfc. Joseph Gomez Killed in Action on Korean Front,” The Daily Times, June 18, 1951, p. 13.