By Ángel Rodríguez Álvarez
December 14, 2010
A little over 22 years have passed and the then First Lieutenant Carlos Manuel Perez Fernandez assured that he will never forget 1988 and the surrounding area of Cuito Cuanavale.
The morning of Valentine’s Day, he recalls, having woken up under fire by long range artillery of the South African army. The 155 millimeter enemy missiles turned the area where we were found in a true inferno.
“We conceived that an air attack was being prepared. We captured a UNITA explorer that day at 7:30am, who had confirmed the information. Close to noon the armored column with abundant infantry were advancing towards the positions of the 59th Brigade of the Angolan Armed Forces, where four Cuban advisors were located.
“We fought alongside the Angolans for almost two hours, they were all very young, and many did not surpass 17 years of age. I was the second with 24 and only Captain Izquierdo was older.
“We rejected the sustained enemy attack and then I noticed that, next to me, several soldiers had died and I was wounded. There was a lot of blood and the rifle was became useless. Captain Izquierdo was also wounded on the head.
“In these conditions we dragged ourselves through the trenches and arrived to the second phase of the defense and from there to the medical post where we received assistance.
“I had two mortar fragments: one under my left arm, in the dorsal muscle which penetrated all the way to my ribs and the other in the superior part of the right hip although it was not too deep”.
I have him in front of me now, with his ranks of Lieutenant Colonel with a shy smile and black eyes. He stops telling me his experiences, meditates in silence as though he was living through the moments once again.
“I returned to Cuba, he said, but I am willing to carry out other missions if necessary. I still can with my 46 years of age.
“The memory of the Angolan and Cuban soldiers that fell next to me, the scars in my body and the independence of Angola, Namibia and South Africa was worth it and constitutes a permanent commitment. As Cuba’s National Hero Jose Marti said: Homeland is Humanity”.