Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Daniel Gomez remembered

Army Spc. Daniel Enrique Gomez is being remembered by those who knew him as a natural leader, hard worker, caregiver and loving son.

Gomez, 21, was among four soldiers killed July 18 in Adhamiyah, Iraq, when their vehicle was attacked by enemy forces using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.

"I knew Daniel very well," said Warner Robins High School principal Steve Monday. "He was a leader in our school, an excellent, well-rounded, mature person."

Gomez, who graduated in 2004, was "one of the best and brightest we had to offer," Monday recalled. "His death really brings things back home. I'm shocked and saddened. He was a tremendous young man."

The young soldier's father, Juan Gomez, recalled that in his son's last visit to Warner Robins in early June while on a rest-and-recovery leave, Daniel's thoughts were half a world away.

"He was telling me all the time he was ready to go back," Juan Gomez said. "He wanted to be with his buddies and take care of them."

That last thought was amplified by Steve Atkins, a retired lieutenant colonel who was Daniel Gomez's Junior ROTC instructor at Warner Robins High.

"He was a natural leader and a server who did not mind taking care of others," Atkins said. "He had a lot of initiative and never shied away from any work that had to be done."

His involvement with ROTC was an example of initiative, his father said.

"One day he called home and said he would be late from school," Juan Gomez said. "He stayed and watched the cadets drill. The next time I saw a drill, he was in it."

Daniel Gomez was drawn to the military and at first wanted to be an Air Force officer. He attended Texas A&M University on an ROTC scholarship, his father said, but "things didn't work out" and he left after one year. He enlisted in the Army two years ago.

"He wanted to be a corpsman, a combat medic," Juan Gomez said. "He did a paper on medics while in school and was impressed with their courage, how they performed their jobs in difficult circumstances."

Daniel Gomez had plenty of difficult circumstances to face himself once he was deployed to Iraq.

"The first month he was there he was in action every day. One time he and others went to the scene of a car bomb attack. He said it was awful, body parts all around," Juan Gomez related. "He treated our soldiers first, then treated some Iraqi civilians. One man he was treating kept saying something and Daniel got an interpreter to tell him. The man was asking about his son, who was also killed in a car bomb attack. He told me the man was crying for his son.

"Now I understand what the man was going through."

The loss of Daniel Gomez is something the family will have to contend with for a long time, his dad said, but the soldier had left hints something like this might happen.

"The fact that he was out there, doing his duty and doing something he liked makes it somewhat bearable," Juan Gomez said Tuesday. "I know he made his peace with himself. The last time he was here, with all the violence going on over there, he still wanted to be there for his buddies. I feel he was preparing us for this."

Since the news of their loved one's death, the Gomez family has heard from many people who knew him, both here and abroad.

"Ever since we heard of his death, people have been calling us, knocking on the door and crying with us about it," Juan Gomez said. "He was a big-hearted person who took care of everybody, even the Iraqis. We didn't know how many lives he touched until we started receiving messages from people all over. It's a source of comfort knowing he was doing what he wanted to do."

The best thing people can do to remember Daniel Gomez is support the troops and pray for them, he said.

"To me he was the ultimate soldier, the ultimate warrior," Juan Gomez said. "They have a job to do, and he liked what he was doing. All we are asking for is support and prayers for the troops over there."

The young man's love - his passion - for what he was doing in Iraq was evident, Atkins said.

"His enthusiasm for what he was doing in the medical corps, you could tell he had a deep passion for what he was doing," the Junior ROTC instructor said.

The soldier and his former teacher talked about the future in early June, and the corpsman said he would either re-enlist or go back to college and finish his degree.

"He would have done well no matter what he chose," Atkins said. "He did have his 'pick-up' moments, but he was the kind of person who learned from his mistakes and never made the same one twice."

"Daniel was the right person for just the right job," his father said. "He was born to be a combat medic.

"It's just very terrible, his death, and something we're going to be dealing with the rest of our lives. It's a turning point in our lives."

From the Macon Telegraph

Related Link:
Daniel E. Gomez dies 'of wounds sustained when his vehicle was attacked by enemy forces using an IED and small arms fire'