Local Marine ready for Fallujah | VailDaily.com

Local Marine ready for Fallujah

J.K. Perry
NWS Marine Sendoff PU 8-30

EDWARDS – Lance Cpl. Cesar Gonzalez handed duplicate dog tags to friends, a symbolic gesture the Marine would return from Iraq to collect the metal identification.”I felt the need to give out a couple,” Gonzalez said. “I plan on taking them back.”

Harrison Brown, Gonzalez’s friend, got one tag.”I’m scared and I’ll miss him, but he knows what he needs to do to come home,” Brown said.Gonzalez, a skinny 19-year-old from Edwards, heads to Fallujah, Iraq Sept. 26 for a seven- to eight-month tour. He is a radar operator and will coordinate targets for artillery fire while also tracking incoming artillery fire.”From what I hear it’s calmed down a little bit, but it’s still a little intense over there,” he said. “I’m actually looking forward to going.”Mother Ida Deloera teetered between sobs and smiles Wednesday during a send-off party for her son organized by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10721. Still, she’s wary about sending her son away.”I’m scared. I’m putting it in God’s hands,” she said.

Gonzalez graduated from Red Canyon High School in 2005. He considered college, but ultimately he startled his mother when he told her he planned to join the Marines.”It was kind of a shock, because Cesar is a jokester and a clown,” Deloera said.Gonzalez said several reasons motivated him to sign up with the Marines.”I joined to get the experience and get to know an area other than the Vail Valley,” he said, adding he trained in San Diego. When he returns, Gonzalez intends to go to college and become a computer technician.He also hopes to set a good example for his younger cousins, because other family members have gone to jail or gotten into trouble, Deloera said.”He wants his cousins to see something better,” Deloera said, adding a Texas cousin plans to join the Marines after high school. “It’s actually coming true for him.”

Friends, family and local officials came to the send-off party to wish Gonzalez good luck and a safe return.”It’s a journey of life, and when you’re young you go off to war,” Vietnam veteran Mike Mathias said. “While we have a party here, wait until you get back.”Fellow veteran Pat Hammon met Gonzalez during a Red Canyon class project about the Vietnam War. Hammon spoke with several other veterans about music and literature of the period.Hammon said she knew then Gonzalez was interested in joining the military.”The military is a way for some kids to go away,” she said. “It’s a good way to get experience.”Much like the Vietnam War, Hammon said people don’t support the Iraq war. The community must support Gonzalez and other soldiers so they aren’t neglected when they return home, she said.

“We remember all too well what it was like to be unpopular,” Hammon said, holding back tears. “We must be behind them and support them when they come back.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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