MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Army Communications Specialist Carlos Gonzalez was buried late last month in Fairview, New Jersey. The 22-year-old soldier was killed after a mortar and rocket attack just north of Baghdad. Gonzalez was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, and he lived with his wife and daughter near Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. But as Judy Martin reports, he spent most of his life in Mt. Hope, New York.
Mr. CARLOS GONZALES SR. (Father of Army Communications Specialist CarlosGonzalez): Yes, he, he also called me this morning...
JUDY MARTIN, reporting:
Carlos Gonzales Sr. is talking on the phone in the kitchen. His wife, Anna, is tearful, but composed in the living room. The call is about their son, Carlos Jr., who was killed in Iraq. Mrs. Gonzalez points to pictures of her son on the fireplace mantle.
Mrs. ANNA GONZALEZ (Mother of Carlos Gonzalez, Jr.): That's his graduation when he graduated from Minisink, and that's his ROTC. Hw would always stand very proud, very up-straight and always proud of his uniform.
MARTIN: As a four-year member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Minisink High School, she says her son was focused on a life in the military. Carlos Sr. joins us in the living room.
Mrs. GONZALEZ: He really, truly found what he wanted to do.
Mr. GONZALES: Yes, he was actually, he was happy, no complaints.
Mr. GONZALES: No complaints on getting up in the morning, no complaints of working extra hours.
MARTIN: Mr. Gonzalez says it was surprising how his carefree youngster, the lady charmer, as he was known, had suddenly matured. The two parents proudly grinned through tears while they sit on the couch, clutching hands. Carlos Sr. recalls conversation with his son, just days before he died.
Mr. GONZALEZ: We talked about his wife, we talked about his daughter, his plans for the future, was maybe was why he change.
Mrs. GONZALEZ: Everything, e used to call her Chunk-Chunk, not (unintelligible) Chunk-Chunk. Spoiled her rotten, he was a good dad, you know, he was a good kid. He was a good kid.
MARTIN: Carlos' mom especially cherished her son's lighter, charismatic side. He had managed to come home for Christmas for a few days from his duty with the 501st STB Unit.
Mrs. GONZALEZ: And we would always say to him, Carlos, what does STB stand for? And he goes, it's Special Troop Battalion, 'cause we're special. Like that whole, and he'd have this huge smile on this face 'cause, you know, 'case he was, I guess, special, right? Yeah, he was, he was special.
MARTIN: Special, she says, because Carlos knew how to make people laugh. She hands me a eulogy, written by Carlos' roommate. It says, let us remember the laughter he brought, the never-ending hair gel, his cologne, and how very GQ he was. Carlos Senior says these words describe his son to a T, and he's nearly speechless about losing him.
Mr. GONZALEZ: You know, sometimes, you wish there was a little switch that you can go back in time, but you can't, you know what I mean? You can't.
MARTIN: Gonzalez says his son's death hasn't changed his feelings about supporting the troops. He and his wife plan to greet the members of the 101st Airborne Division when they return from duty in the fall.
For NPR News, I'm Judy Martin in New York.
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