SPC Hugo L. Gonzalez & Family

From: Pembroke Pines, FL

Age: 37

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Rank: Specialist I E-4

Service-Related Awards: Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge

His story: Gonzalez joined the military in 1998 as a member of the Puerto Rican National Guard, and graduated from the Artillery Academy in Fort Sill Oklahoma as a Cannon Crew Member. This allowed Gonzalez to enjoy the benefits of having a civilian life parallel to his military life. During that period, he served his country as support of the counter drug unit of the customs in Puerto Rico. On May 12, 2000 he graduated from the field artillery weapons maintenance course, to become a field artillery mechanic. In 2003, after graduating from college, he decided to switch to active duty where he was sent overseas to Bamberg, Germany to join the First Division also known as “The Big Red One.” Gonzalez then graduated from the infantry training to support Operation Iraqi Freedom as an infantry solider.

June 2, 2004 seemed like any other combat patrol, Gonzalez’s unit was following a lead about an improvised explosive device in the town of Jhadi’r. After an unsuccessful raid, the unit was given orders to leave when an explosion of an IFD stopped them and they were ambushed. Gonzalez remembers the event like this:

 “ We Fought!..By the time I heard the cease fire order, I was already mortally injured. As a consequence of that blast, I suffered a penetrating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and lost the vision in my right eye, shrapnel flew around my body including one that hit my left eye creating a macular hole in my left eye retina, leaving me with blurry vision. One of the sharpened fragments hit my left side upper maxillary sinus bone leaving a fracture, my mouth was also hit by some of the hot pieces of metal. However, we fought! We fought bravely like each time we engaged in combat during our tour in Iraq.”

 “I was then evacuated to the war horse base camp, where I was induced in a medical coma and underwent a craniotomy to remove a piece of bone from my cranium to release the pressure of my swelling brain. That split second decision saved my life.”

 Two days later Gonzalez was flown back to Germany and then on to Washington to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Unfortunately during his recovery at the center, he developed a post traumatic epilepsy condition as well as traumatic migraine condition as a consequence of the trauma to his brain. Conditions that still haunt Gonzalez as he tries to stand strong while being treated for a post traumatic stress disorder.

 Hugo and his wife, Any Gonzalez, have three young daughters, Leilany (4 years old), Leila (4 years old) and Lorelei (3 years old).

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