After over a year in Iraq, Eddie Gonzales of Tucumcari is back home and happy about it.
“It’s just nice to be able to drive down the street and not be worried about somebody shooting at you,” said Gonzales.
The staff sergeant, said he was proud of the work he and the other members of his unit, the 82 Airborne did in Iraq, and he was especially proud of how his unit functioned under fire.
His unit was also very proud of how the Tucumcari native behaved under fire. Gonzales was awarded a special medal, the Army Commendation Medal with a “V” (valor) Device. The certificate which went with the metal stated, It was awarded to Gonzales for “demonstrating outstanding valor and personal courage under fire.”
Gonzales said it came about when he was serving as a section leader on the edge of a unit making a major push at the enemy.
“I was in support of Alpha Company when I identified an enemy vehicle they (the main American force) could not engage. I engaged while I was under enemy fire. We pretty much cleared the objective for them.”
Gonzales said he was especially proud that while his anti-armor squad eliminated the enemy vehicle, none of his men were killed or wounded.
“I didn’t take any causalities,” said Gonzales. “No one was injured.”
The soldier said one of the frustrating part of Iraq for him was that not many of his interactions in Iraq and especially Baghdad near where his unit was stationed for most of his tour were not usually that cut and dry.
“That was the hardest part,” said Gonzales thinking back on the frustration, “never knowing who the bad guy was. While I was there, I never fought a conventional unit. We fought the Fedaheem guerrilla warfare units. That’s all we fought the whole time I was there.”
Despite that, the Tucumcari High School graduate said there was a good feeling in being in the Middle Eastern country in that it gave him a chance to test his metal and to see that what he had learned since he was in the military was indeed applicable.
The best part while I was there, was putting everything I knew to a test,” said Gonzales, “and the test of one’s innerself, so to speak.”
Another hard part for the native New Mexican was not having access to some of the things he grew up with that he took for granted at the time.
“I probably missed my family most of all,” said Gonzales. “Them and green chili.”
In fact, when Gonzales first landed in New Mexico, his first meal, was an all-American one, one at McDonalds. Gonzales said his unit will be going back to Iraq in the not too distant future, but they will be going back without him. He said to be able to go to Iraq, he stepped away from his regular assignment and he wants to get back to that at Fort Bragg.
“I took a break from Special Opps to go to war. I’m going to be going back to them,” said Gonzales. “Going back to school, among other things.”