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Army Pvt. Joseph F. Gonzales

Died September 20, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

18, of Tucson, Ariz.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Sept. 20 in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Nathan M. Cox.

Tucson soldier, 18, killed in Afghanistan

By Sheryl Kornman

Tucson Citizen

Joseph F. Gonzales, an 18-year-old Army private from Tucson, was killed in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan on Saturday by an improvised explosive device, according to the Department of Defense.

He was deployed to Afghanistan in July.

Gonzales and Staff Sgt. Nathan Cox of Walcott, Iowa, who also was killed in the incident, were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

The two were in a vehicle when they encountered the explosive device.

Gonzales joined the military in April 2007 as an infantryman and had been assigned to the 1st Battalion since October 2007, according to the public affairs staff at Fort Hood.

According to a news release from Fort Hood, Gonzales’ military awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.

With his death, and Cox’s, a total of 375 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in and around Afghanistan as of Monday.

Army Pvt. Joseph F. Gonzales Jr. remembered

The Associated Press

Whenever Joseph F. Gonzales Jr. visited his family, he would point to a picture of himself as a toddler dressed in combat fatigues.

“He would look at it and say, ‘It’s fate.’ It was something that he was meant to do,” said his father, Joseph Gonzales Sr.

Gonzales, 18, of Tucson, Ariz., was killed Sept. 20 when his vehicle struck an explosive in Korengal Valley. He was assigned to Fort Hood.

He considered his enlistment in the Army in Phoenix at age 17 his birthday gift to himself, his father said. Gonzales Sr. and his wife gave their permission so their son didn’t have to wait another year.

Gonzales Sr. said his own brother served in Kuwait but that neither he nor Gonzales Jr.’s mother, Ana, wanted their son to go to war. “We were trying to go the opposite way with him,” he said. “But we couldn’t stop it so we went with him” and supported his military commitment.

He wanted to be a Tucson Police SWAT officer once his Army commitment was fulfilled, said Laura Garcia, a friend. “I am very proud of him and thank him so much for serving his country,” she said.

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