Few things can capture a feeling as well as a song. And one Laredo veteran finally recorded a ballad about Vietnam 40 years after serving. Eduardo Gonzalez and 5 of his brothers served in the military, most of them in the Navy. And he spent a tour of duty onboard an aircraft carrier. He and one of his brothers wrote a song dedicated to those who served and didn't come home.
Coming from a military family Eduardo Gonzalez understood the sacrifice of war. He wrote a song with his brother before he ever served in the military himself. "My Friend" is the story of a teenage Marine who answered America's call, but died in combat. He was a friend of Gonzalez's brother. It's a loss thousands upon thousands of American families experienced. Despite the risk Gonzalez enlisted in the Navy. It was 1971. Conflict was raging in Vietnam, and that's exactly where Gonzalez wanted to be. "I wanted to serve my country because we were a family of, we were all sailors," he said.
And as soon as he finished boot camp he was sent overseas. He wanted to be a placed on river patrol in Vietnam, but ended up serving on board an aircraft carrier. He was in the engineering department in charge of helping to keep the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk running. "We were machinist mates, we were engineers, we were the ones in the bottom of the ship," he said.
Gonzalez repaired and maintained everything from propellers to air conditioners. Gonzalez would spend as many as 60 days at a time in the depths of the ship without seeing the light of day. "We would work six hours on, six hours off, we didn't know what day it was, we didn't see the sun," he said.
The carrier supported fighter jets headed to Vietnam on combat missions. While Gonzalez never saw combat himself there were hazards all over the carrier from the planes, and accidents claimed the lives of many fellow sailors. But everyone had to persevere. "You have to work together, you couldn't be slacking up," Gonzalez shared.
When he returned home from Vietnam he stayed in the Navy until 1973. And when he got out, he returned home to Laredo to open his trophy shop. But the song he wrote always remained in the back of his mind. And when his cousin approached him about recording it 3 years ago they made it happen
They made CDs and he even put on a concert sharing that song and others from the Vietnam era. The money raised provided scholarships for local students.
"I said you know what, let's do the concert, and give all the money there to LCC."
Gonzalez encourages anyone with a dream to help others to pursue it no matter their age.
"If you want to do it, do it. Do it right now. Don't be afraid, don't put it out," he said.
Gonzalez has ambitions to put "my friend" on iTunes in hopes of raising money for Veterans in need, and to help people remember those who paid the ultimate price for their country.
Gonzalez says he'd like to do another CD or maybe even another concert to benefit scholarships and veterans
If you'd like to nominate someone as a South Texas Hero, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.