By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
For years, he has prepared and trained as a Special Forces soldier in the Army. While he has traveled extensively and spent months on end away from home, this time is different. For the first time in his career, Gilbert Gonzales will be entering a combat zone.
In 1994, Gonzales left Clovis High School to join the Army. Now he is a Green Beret specializing in communications. He and his family live in Fayetteville N.C., near Ft. Bragg where he is stationed.
“I’ve been in (the Army) for over 10 years and I haven’t seen combat,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “It’s like training for the Super Bowl and never getting to go.”
Gonzales said he is not feeling nervous about the deployment.
“I’m more anxious to get there. I’ve been training to do this for three years and finally I’m getting to do it,” he said.
Gonzales, a 30-year-old staff sergeant, said goodbye to his wife, children and other family members on Tuesday as he began his trip to Afghanistan. His unit’s mission there will be to help train the Afghanistan Army to help defend themselves against insurgents.
Roosters crowed in the background as Rebecca Sena, Gonzales’ mother, fed her animals on her farm in Ranchvale on Tuesday evening.
“I’m trying to hold up,” she said, fighting back tears. “It’s hard. It’s hard for my son to go. He’s so excited about going and that’s what I want for him. It just scares me that something might happen to him,” she said.
Sena described her son as a “daredevil” and her “hero.”
“I’m very proud of him. I’m so proud of him — he turned out to be a good man,” she said.
Sena plans to stay in close contact with her daughter-in-law while Gonzales is away and said she will be sending frequent care packages so that her son knows they are thinking of him.
“He likes hot-rod magazines so we’ll be sending him those,” she said.
The next few months will be difficult for Sena as she waits for her son to return, but she said her faith will help her through.
“I will do a lot of praying. Gilbert’s in Gods hands now — all I can do is pray for him,” she said.
Vira Gonzales didn’t hesitate when asked how she was feeling about her husband leaving.
“Proud” she said. During his time in the Army, Gilbert Gonzales has spent a lot of time away — last year he was away more than he was home, only spending two months with his family, she said.
This time she feels a little more concerned. “He’s gone most of the year anyway, but knowing there’s going to be bullets flying by his head makes this different.”
While her husband is away she plans to keep busy with work and the children.
“I’m trying to keep my mind occupied,” she said. “I can’t afford to be too stressed out. The busier I can keep the better.”