Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 22, 2014

Wounded Warrior delivers heart-felt message at concert

BLUEFIELD — For the past year, Sal Gonzalez has been traveling around the country speaking on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project. It was a fraternity that he entered on Oct. 31, 2004 when the Humvee he was traveling in was blown up. “Halloween,” he said.

“We were on a mission that was about as routine as any mission we could have been on,” he said. “The tape said it was 7:08 a.m.”

Gonzalez, 29, was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Division in Ramadi, Iraq at the time. He knew the enemy’s typical tactic was to use an IED to disable a vehicle, then to fire on the Marines as they exited the vehicle. “I started crawling up to man my machine gun when I knew my leg was hurt so I laid back down and let my Doc take care of it.”

Gonzalez said he went to sleep, “and I woke up about a week later in Bathesda, Md.,” he said. His platoon leader, First Lt. Matthew D. Lynch was killed in action in the same engagement. Gonzalez’s left leg was amputated below his knee.

“We had 15 guys in my company that were KIA,” Gonzalez said. “Ten of those guys, I knew personally. It was pretty rough.”

As a young man growing up in East Los Angeles, Calif., Gonzalez relied on music to keep him out of trouble. He said that he started playing guitar when he was 13 years old, and started writing songs at age 16. “I wasn’t very good then,” he confessed.

However, after he was discharged from the Marines, he wrote a song called, “Heroes,” about his experiences in the Marine Corps. “It was hard getting it out at first,” he said.

“A lot of guys can’t talk about it,” he said. “It’s hard for them to recall their stories. It has been a gift for me to be able to share my story.” He said that he tries to tell it in a different way so it won’t become stale. “A lot of guys and gals appreciate it.”

“He really did a good job when he shared his story with our sponsors at the barbecue Friday night,” Erik Robinson, executive director of the Second Chance Learning Center, said. Robinson and Billy Wagner developed the Second Chance Rocks the Two Virginias concerts as a project to benefit the entire community. “The people there were really moved by his presentation.”

Gonzalez and 2nd Lt. Tiffany Teubert have been traveling throughout the country to deliver a message of hope to other wounded warriors.

Gonzalez now lives in Nashville where he is pursuing his career in music. He’ll get a chance to take his music to a much bigger audience this year as a contestant on America’s Got Talent. For now, he seems content serving his fellow wounded warriors and the American public.

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