View Full Version : A Sergeant's Death in Iraq Follows His Fiancée's

05-03-2006, 12:50 PM
NY Times
Published: May 3, 2006

Jose Gomez knew the loss of war. In 2003, his fiancée, Analaura Esparza-Gutierrez, an Army private, died in a roadside bombing in Tikrit, Iraq. So when he was ordered to Iraq for a second tour last July, this time as a reserve officer, he decided to spare his mother by not telling her.

Instead, Sergeant Gomez, 23, invented a detailed ruse that he was studying accounting and economics two days a week at a college in Texas and working. He made regular Saturday phone calls to his mother, Maria Gomez, of Corona, Queens, and insisted on being the one to place the call. When Mrs. Gomez dialed the number and found it disconnected, he gently brushed her off, reminding her that he would call her.

Then a bank statement arrived at Mrs. Gomez's home, showing Army paychecks deposited to Sergeant Gomez's account.

"You've been in the Army these eight months," Mrs. Gomez told her son.

"No, no, I'm not," Sergeant Gomez insisted.

There was no call last Saturday. On Friday, two officers and an English-Spanish translator came to tell her that her son was killed that day in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.

"He never wanted me to be hurt," Mrs. Gomez, a petite woman in jeans and a turquoise sweater, recalled yesterday, sitting on a settee in her small living room on 104th Street, made smaller by the presence of a pack of reporters pressing her for details of her son.

Her eyes moistened when she spoke of him, but when she spoke of his deception, she glowed with tenderness and said that her son would go to any lengths for her.

"He was saving money to buy his mother a house; that was his main goal," said Felix Jimenez, Sergeant Gomez's stepfather.

On a side chair sat Marie Canario, 21, wearing the diamond engagement ring Sergeant Gomez gave her at Christmas. He had waited until the last moment before leaving in August to tell her he was going to Iraq. "I was upset, crying," Ms. Canario recalled.
"Don't worry," Sergeant Gomez told her before he left, she said. "You act like I'm not coming back."

"I don't think he wanted to go back," she said yesterday. "He said he didn't want to go."

It was Iraq that dealt Sergeant Gomez, described as a quiet, affable young man who had a knack for numbers, the greatest trials of his young life. He returned home in 2003 nervous and shaken by his combat experiences, his mother said. She took two weeks off from her job packaging automobile air fresheners in a factory on Long Island to take him to Santo Domingo, where he had been born and lived until he was 3.

There, he swam, basked in the sun, visited his older brother, Severino Peralta, 27, and seemed restored by the trip, Mrs. Gomez said.

And he could focus on his engagement to Ms. Esparza-Gutierrez, whom he had met at Fort Hood, Tex. He had nervously proposed to her in the spring.

"Girl, I love him so much," Ms. Esparza-Gutierrez wrote in a May 2003 letter from Iraq to her best friend back home that was quoted in a story by The Associated Press. "I can't imagine sharing life's most precious moment with anyone else."

But on Oct. 1, 2003, Ms. Esparza-Gutierrez, 21, was killed. She was the second female soldier killed in combat in Iraq.

"He was destroyed," Mrs. Gomez said yesterday of her son, recalling how different, once again, he seemed. "When you have a pain like that, you notice it."

Then, the phone rang. It was Ms. Esparza-Gutierrez's mother, Armandina Esparza, calling from Houston. Only once had she met the woman who would have been her daughter's mother-in-law — at her daughter's funeral.

The death of Sergeant Gomez confounded Ms. Esparza. "It's going to be the same as before," she told Mrs. Gomez. She said she was heading off to church to pray for their dead children.

Ms. Canario sat quietly in the corner. Mrs. Gomez looked at her and smiled. Mrs. Gomez said that after her son met Ms. Canario at the Queens Center Mall about a year ago, it was nice to see him happy again.

Mr. Jimenez, unshaven and wearing a white undershirt with khaki pants, stood in a doorway, his arms folded across his chest. For days, he had been urging his wife, who could not sleep or eat, to remain strong.

When asked what the family thought of the war, Mr. Jimenez, a truck driver, wearily leaned his head against the jamb and answered, "Who am I to decide?"

web page (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/03/nyregion/03soldier.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)

05-03-2006, 01:49 PM
R, it's stories like this, instead of the impersonal "3 Americans killed...."
that really bring the tragedies of the war to reality.
I could not sleep at nite, if I were GWB, knowing that maybe I began a war that might have been avoided, and at a cost of so many young lives.

05-04-2006, 04:59 AM
A Simple Thank You

Last week, while traveling to Chicago on business, I noticed a Marine sergeant traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two and two together. After we boarded our flight, I turned to the sergeant, who'd been invited to sit in First Class (across from me), and inquired if he was heading home.

No, he responded.

Heading out I asked?

No. I'm escorting a soldier home.

Going to pick him up?

No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Iraq. I'm taking him home to his family.

The realization of what he had been asked to do hit me like a punch to the gut. It was an honor for him. He told me that, although he didn't know the soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier's family and felt as if he knew them after many conversations in so few days. I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, Thank you. Thank you for doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do.

Upon landing in Chicago the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honor of having Sergeant Steeley of the United States Marine Corps join us on this flight. He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his family. I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to allow Sergeant Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign."

Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the sergeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize that I am proud to be an American.

So here's a public Thank You to our military Men and Women for what you do so we can live the way we do.

Stuart Margel, Washington, D.C.

Gayle in MD
05-05-2006, 08:16 AM
Tap Tap Tap...very touching...thanks.

There should be more documentaries on our wounded soldiers, and the survivors of our fallen heros. Seeing the war from a hospital ward puts a whole different face on War, and how hard we should endeavor to avoid it at all costs, through diplomacy, and communication, IMO.

Gayle in Md.