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Fort Hood soldier honored, remembered as giving man

By KBell
Oct. 2, 2010 at 5:02 a.m.

Family members of U.S. Army Master Sgt. Baldemar Gonzales hold flags presented to them by the Fort Sam Houston Army Honor Guard of San Antonio at his gravesite during the flag folding ceremony. Gonzales was given full military honors at the burial Saturday at Resurrection Cemetery.

GONZALES CHILDREN MEMORIALGrace Funeral Home is accepting donations for a memorial fund that will be set up for Gonzales' three children. If you'd like to help, contact them at 361-573-4341 or at 2401 Houston Highway.

A breeze picked up a row of American flags as friends and family covered their hearts in honor of Master Sgt. Baldemar Gonzales on Saturday.

Veterans and uniformed men and women scattered about the large crowd saluted the 39-year-old Victoria native, who died of an apparent suicide at his Fort Hood home a week earlier.

Gonzales had been married to his wife, Christina, nearly 17 years, and the couple had three children - Felicia, 16, Thomas, 14, and Mariah, 5.

His wife said Gonzales could "love a stranger" and always went out of his way to help people - even checking out library books so he could study up on how to renovate her parents' bathroom.

"He would take the extra mile," she said at a gathering at the Catholic War Veteran's lodge after his burial. "There was nothing he wouldn't do for his country."

Gonzales smiled when she was reminded of her husband's famous speeches - the ones he would give at any and every gathering to thank the crowd for coming.

"The kids would always say, 'Dad, are you giving one of your speeches again?'" she recalled.

Gonzales, who was known as "Bobby," was a decorated 21-year member of the military, serving in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He received numerous honors, including a Bronze Star, a Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, an Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, among others.

Sgt. 1st Class Merced Valderamos grew up on the same street as Gonzales and served two tours in Iraq with him.

He spoke softly after paying his last respects at the Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.

"He looked out more for others than himself," Valderamos said of a man he considered family. "Everybody else was always first."

Valderamos smiled when he recalled Gonzales being in Stroman High School marching band.

Gonzales had always been an "awesome guy," he said.

"He's a great leader and role model for his kids," Valderamos said. "If they follow him, they'll be very successful."

Rudy Guzman, a cousin of Gonzales' wife, said Gonzales had passion for his work, but even more for his family.

"When they say Bobby touched a lot of people, he really did," Guzman said outside of Grace Funeral Home. "He was a very compassionate man and had a lot of passion for everything he did."

Guzman said Gonzales' death, and those of other soldiers at Fort Hood recently, have reminded him to stop and say "thank you" to the soldiers who struggle and sacrifice for their country.

"A lot of times, we just take freedom for granted," he said.

Twenty-one Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists who display American flags and ride out of respect for U.S. Armed Servicemen and women, were at the funeral and burial.

Gonzales was buried with full military honors provided by Fort Sam Houston Honor Guard out of San Antonio.

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