Fellow Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort said goodbye to their comrade Armando Ariel Gonzalez today. Gonzalez was killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq last week. Cpl. Gonzalez came to America from Cuba looking for freedom, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for just that.
Lcpl. Philip Smedley said, "He was a great leader, he showed you what to do and then he helped you do it."
"He was a very dedicated individual. He cared about his job," said SSgt. Michael Spear.
Cpl. Gonzalez was killed April 14, when a refueling truck collapsed on top of him, while serving in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"He was ready to go way before the time came to actually depart," said Sgt. Elijah Williams. "He was well prepared. He was ready."
He was ready, because Gonzalez knew what it was like not to have freedom. In 1994, he came to America on a raft from Cuba, risking his life for freedom, and he ended his life fighting for that same freedom.
"He didn't take it for granted," said SSgt. Spear. "The Marine he was, he was a true Marine. He understood and he wanted to go over and help others."
"He wanted to have the opportunity to help other people have that same taste of freedom he had," noted Lt. Col. Prevatt.
And he did, but he had to pay the ultimate price, leaving behind his wife, who is four months pregnant. At the time of his death, he wasn't even a United States citizen. However, the Marine Corps and the immigration service is working on making that happen.
Cpl. Gonzalez's family was unable to attend the service today. They are back home in Hialeah, Florida, planning his funeral, which will be held next Tuesday.