Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Christopher Gonzalez laid to rest

BIRD SPRINGS — The late Sgt. Christopher Neil Gonzalez of Bird Springs, Ariz. gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He was killed in action on May 14.

Gonzalez, 25, was one of two soldiers who died in Salman Pak, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his unit came under attack of enemy forces with I.E.D. and small arms fire.

On Friday, family, friends, and his community gathered together to mourn his death, but also to remember his life as a husband, father, and son. Over 500 people were in attendance as Pastor Brad Hicks delivered a eulogy over a video cast shown on two giant television screens at the Bird Springs Full Gospel Church.

Pastor Hicks spoke of Gonzales legacy as a man and his devotion to his Christian beliefs. He spoke of the love he had for his wife, Tonita Gonzalez, and his six-year old son, Breenen.

He recalled how he and his wife got married on December 31, 2001, and how he was deployed the following day. The memory made him smile, but he became serious and solemn when he spoke of Gonzalez's service to the Navajo and American people.

"He was proud to be an American," said Hicks. "He was willing to pay the ultimate price."

After six years of being in the Army, Gonzalez was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. In his time as a soldier, he volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House and was a volunteer with the Special Olympics among other things. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in Ft. Benning, G.A.

Those who knew him best didn't hesitate to use words like "committed," "courageous," and "sincere" to describe his character.

"He was always positive," said one fellow soldier in the video cast. "He was like a breath of fresh air."

The delivery of the eulogy via-video cast was a request made by Gonzalez before he passed.

Emotions ran strong when a 25-minute slide show of Gonzalez was shown. Music played in the background depicting each segment of photographs. The pictures served almost as a timeline of Gonzalez's life. There were pictures of him as a young boy, others from teenage years as a student at Sanders High School where he was wearing his basketball uniform and taking pictures at home before going to prom, and some where he was fishing or just being goofy at family cookouts. But the most intimate of the photos were of him spending time with his son as a newborn, toddler, and young boy.

The picture show was followed by a reading out of Gonzalez's journal by Brenda Long, a friend to Gonzalez and his wife. A tearful Long explained to the audience how she and she husband, who also served in the Army in Ft. Benning, G.A., became good friends with Gonzalez and his family after they met at a store.

Gonzalez's journal entry's expressed his love for God.

"I want to show what beautiful things he has done for my family," he had written. "It's amazing how he built the Earth for us, for me."

His entries shared the emotions he felt when leaving for Iraq.

"Today was a hard day. I had to say good-by to my family," he had written.

Gonzalez wrote that he thought he would have been more prepared to leave, but shared how he was not at all prepared.

"I'm starting to understand combat vets and why they're so proud," he wrote. "It's because they made so many sacrifices."

In a letter to his wife, he began with "Happy Monday" as his opening greeting, and talked about the dentist, horses, and how he wish he were home to see his son's graduation.

"Happy Mother's Day," he continued in a recent letter to his wife. "Go spend some money on yourself!"

The Air Force National Guard, the U.S. Army, the Arizona National Guard, the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders, and Navajo Nation Honor Riders presented awards and honors to Gonzalez's wife and mother, Judy Nez. They were given the Purple Heart and Bronze Star among a number of other distinguished honors and awards for Gonzalez's injuries and his dedication to the War on Terrorism.

From the Gallup Independent

Related Link:
Christopher N. Gonzalez dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using an IED and small arms fire'