Friday, November 15, 2013

The man behind the marker

Tony Gomez gravestone

Last weekend, thinking about the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, I walked through the Downey Cemetery and noticed this gravestone.

Tony Gomez was born at the end of the first World War, the Great War. And he died at the end of the second World War. I've always wondered at the history behind the people buried here, and now, thanks to the internet, we can fill in some of the blanks.

Based on U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, Tony Gomez enlisted as a private in the army in Colorado, in July 1943. He was 25 years old, with a grammar school education. He was married. In his civilian life, he was a driver of some sort. He rose to the rank of Technician Fifth Grade, the equivalent of a corporal. The cross on his gravestone indicates that he most likely served as a chaplain's assistant. In this role, he would have cared for the chaplain’s official property, acted as his clerk, and helped with the educational, religious, and general entertainment programs.

The 306 Infantry 77 Division served in the Pacific during World War II. At the time that Private Gomez was killed, his unit was "...fighting its way slowly against extremely heavy Japanese resistance."

These are the facts that possibly apply to Tony Gomez. But I still wonder. How did he come to be buried in Downey, California? Did he leave behind children in addition to his wife?

And did he know how much his sacrifice would be appreciated by the generations that have come after him?

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