Vietnam vet recalls war, loss of son
George Gonzalez Jr. was adopted at birth in 1991 through the Catholic Charities of New York City, and went to live with his new family in the Bronx.
The boy was a hard worker who tried to follow in his fatherâs footsteps at a car dealership, then at AAA, driving a flatbed truck. He worked out of a garage in downtown Manhattan by the Lincoln Tunnel.
Growing up, he enjoyed watching his father, George Gonzalez Sr. restore a vintage 1971 Ford Mustang. The pair would ride in the blue car with the white interior in the Puerto Rican Day parade every year.
In 2016, while riding his motorcycle in the Bronx early one morning, Gonzalez Jr. went to pass a car and didnât see the truck double parked in front of it. He laid his bike down and it slide under the truck. Gonzalez Jr. did not survive the crash, dead at the young age of 26.
Still mourning the death of his son, Gonzalez Sr., now of Stroud Townshi p, took the Mustang out on Wednesday to spiff it up. He took a picture of his pride and joy, the doorway to a loving past. When he looked at the picture, he saw a rainbow reaching from the sky and leading to the car. Gonzalez Sr. was stunned.
âHe shined a light on there," he said of his son.
Hell and back
Gonzalez Sr. hasnât had it easy before or after his sonâs death. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, having served in Vietnam. He was a Marine in an infantry division when he was deployed in the fall of 1967.
It took 30 days by ship, the USS Gaffney, to travel from San Diego to Vietnam. At first he was stationed at a helicopter base in Da Nang and then moved on further in country to Dong Ha, one of the forward bases.
âWe went into combat in the jungle in Operation Kingfish - in the DMZ, to hunt out the North Vietnamese army,â he said.
Base camp was called the rock pile. His platoon was told to pack up into battle gear, and they marched for four miles before engaging the enemy.
âThey told us to take a break, two, three minutes,â Gonzalez said. âI ran out of salt tablets to keep us hydrated. It was almost 100 degrees and humid out there. I put the salt from a salt packet on my tongue and it rejuvenated me.â
A convoy was pinned in the middle of a field. The platoon moved to the left and formed a skirmish line. Gonzalezâs fire team leader was hit by enemy fire. Gonzalez, was second in line.
â(A North Vietnamese soldier) fired five or 10 shots at me but couldnât get me,â he said, hidden in the tall grasses that characterized the landscape.
Gonzalez felt a sixth sense and got a bearing as to where the enemy was shooting from.
âAs soon as he stopped I emptied two magazines, 20 rounds each. We got no return fire from them. We were told to move forward then word came back to fall back and I yelled out for my comrades to pick up my fire team leader, who was d ead, but we didnât know it at the time. We never leave a man behind. Four Marines grabbed him and we fell back to our skirmish line where there was a reinforcement of Marines. They told us where to drop the body and to keep going to reunite with my company. The firefight lasted til seven or eight oâclock at night. We were exhausted.â
Over the years, Gonzalez tried but couldnât remember his late fire team leaderâs name. Forty years later, with the help of State Sen. Rosemary Brown, he learned his name. It was George Naylor.
Gonzalez still wears his own dog tag. He was issued two, one for around the neck and the other for the ankle, in case you were killed.
âThey always say war is hell,â Gonzalez said. âCombat is just as bad.âSource: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vi etnam