Growing up in the Central Valley, he was keenly aware that he was not an American citizen, but "he loved this country," his mother said. "He said, 'This is my country.' "
Toledo-Pulido was about 7 years old when a smuggler helped him and his older brother and mother cross over the mountains along the California border into the United States. He became a legal resident in 1999. Like many undocumented immigrants, he worked hard jobs at a young age. He toiled in the fields of the Central Valley with an uncle, picking grapes and other crops. Later, he took jobs as a restaurant cook.
In the early morning hours of May 23, Toledo-Pulido and others in his platoon were awakened and given a mission to retrieve a military vehicle that had just been hit by an explosive. After concluding the mission, the team started driving back to their base. Minutes into the trip, their vehicle was hit by a tremendous explosion.
Army Capt. Troy Thomas, who was in the vehicle, was sent flying through the air. Miraculously, he was unscathed. But when he looked back to check on the others in the vehicle, he saw Toledo-Pulido's lifeless body slumped over the steering wheel. Another soldier was also mortally wounded in the blast.
Thomas said he would never forget him or the American values he stood for. He said Toledo-Pulido was a "Mexican citizen voluntarily serving in our armed forces at a time when you hear more about illegal immigration on TV than the war itself."
"What does it take to prove your worth as an American?" Thomas asked. "Well, if you ask me ... Victor Toledo-Pulido showed his worth by serving his nation and his family."
Toledo-Pulido's brother Yosio Toledo, 29, said he gets angry when people portray immigrants as people who just take and give nothing back. He said his brother had friends who were also immigrants going through basic training and serving in Iraq. "They judge us and say we just come to take their jobs and positions, but we also make sacrifices," he said. "Victor worked since he was little, in the fields and in restaurants. He was a Mexican, but he thought like an American. And he gave his life for this country."
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