Army Staff Sgt. Amilcar H. Gonzalez
Died May 21, 2010 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom
26, of Miami; assigned to 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.; died May 21 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.
(The following was taken from www.miamiherald.com of June 3, 2010) Just days after the 9/11 attacks, Amilcar H. Gonzalez left behind the life he knew as a Southridge High School student in South Miami-Dade to become a U.S. Army soldier.
Deployed to Iraq four times, Gonzalez transformed from quiet teen to respected staff sergeant who earned an Army Commendation Medal for valor as he helped lead the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment.
The 26-year-old was killed May 21 by insurgent gunfire while on duty in Iraq. On Wednesday, friends and family members gathered to mourn at the Caballero Rivero Funeral Home in South Miami-Dade.
``This is the unfortunate side of the war,'' said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose ``Pepe'' Diaz, who joined Gonzalez's family a day earlier when they retrieved his body at Homestead Air Reserve Base.
``This is a young man who was a true patriot, who was out there protecting our way of life,'' Diaz said. ``It's unfortunate that after four tours of duty, he had to come back this way.''
In a private ceremony, military honor guards paid final tribute to the fallen soldier, who was nicknamed ``Gonzo'' by his fellow soldiers. A family spokesman said Gonzalez's mother was too upset to comment.
Outside the funeral home, family friend Jim Silva, 19, said: ``Whenever I felt like I was in trouble, he was someone I could turn to for advice.''
Silva described Gonzalez as a ``really caring'' person who, when visiting Miami, frequently attended Sunday church services.
Gonzalez, a tank commander, has posthumously been awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
He joined the Army on Sept. 17, 2001, less than a week after 9/11, forgoing his senior year at Southridge High. He was born in Managua, Nicaragua.
His former high school computer teacher John Zatroch remembered Gonzalez as a hardworking student, who mostly earned A's and B's in the class.
``He was an all-around good kid,'' Zatroch said. ``He was pretty quiet and reserved, but he obviously got very far in the Army. You don't just become a staff sergeant by sitting around. You have to have gained some level of respect.''
Zatroch said Gonzalez paid close attention in his class, and was a quick learner.
``He was very polite,'' Zatroch said. ``The type of kid you wish there were more of.''
On the Facebook page for Gonzalez's military unit, fellow soldiers and friends mourned the young soldier, leaving messages that described him as a ``true hero.''
``He was a leader, warrior, soldier, and friend to the entire Desert Rogue family,'' wrote Lt. Col. Richard R. Coffman. ``He will be missed by all of us.''