Monday, August 06, 2007

Zachariah J. Gonzalez dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

"Thank you for letting us share Zach's life."

Manuel Gonzalez shared those words as he talked to the news media about the tragic time his family is facing.

Gonzalez's nephew is Zachariah Gonzalez, 23. The Army reservist was killed Tuesday in Baghdad. An improvised explosive device took out his vehicle.

He is the 93rd Hoosier to die in the war in Iraq.

"There has been tremendous outreach to the family from the Latino community, where they were very active," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez, the son of Benedict and Laura Gonzalez of Indianapolis, had been in Iraq about 14 months.

He'd spoken to his mother sometime last week, telling her he was ready to come home and help her lay grass in the family's back yard, his uncle said.

"He'd call home all the time and tell his family to pray for the wounded soldiers," Gonzalez said. "He hoped to return home and began working with his father in his landscaping business."

Gonzalez joined the Army Reserve after graduation from Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers in 2002. He began in the culinary division, because he was a great cook, according to his uncle. A short time later, he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman.

"He wanted to serve his country in a bigger way," his uncle said. "He wanted to be there in front and that was the decision he made."

Gonzalez was part of a combat arms unit. His team was on a mission when he was killed, according to military officials. Three other soldiers also died.

"The only thing we know is that he was riding in a Stryker vehicle," said Sgt. 1st Class Philip McCord, an Army spokesman. The armored vehicle "hit an IED (improvised explosive device) that contained some type of penetrating device."

Staff Sgt. Les Newport, another Army spokesman, said the device is something the military hears about on a regular basis.

"It's one of the weapons of choice," Newport said. "There are a lot of people working very hard to figure out who's using them and how to neutralize them."

Funeral arrangements are pending at Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center in Carmel.

Gonzalez's body is expected to arrive Monday in Indianapolis. A cousin, Gino Maldanado, who also serves in the Army, will escort Gonzalez from Iraq.

Gonzalez said by phone that Maldanado, whose stay was extended last August, told his mother he now understood why.

"I now know why I was supposed to stay here," Gonzalez said, repeating what he was told by Maldanado's mother. "I had to stay here to bring Zach home."

From the Indianapolis Star