Orlando Eric Gonzalez
Private First Class, United States Army
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 345-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.They died March 25, 2007, in Baqubah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations.They were assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Sergeant Jason W. Swiger, 24, of South Portland,
For more information in regard to this release the media can contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at (910) 432-0661.
29 March 2007:
When Private First Class Orlando E. "Eric" Gonzalez needed a place to live during his senior year of high school, Patrick LeBlanc was happy to make that happen - even though it was unusual for people to live at his camp during the school year.
Generally, campers stay at Summit Grove Camp in New Freedom during the summers.
However, Southern York School District contacted the camp looking for a place for Gonzalez - who was an incoming senior at Susquehannock High School at the time - to stay. LeBlanc, executive director of the camp, took him in.
He said Gonzalez had stayed at the camp during several summers and described him as an ambassador - outgoing and willing to "talk (anyone's) ear off."
"Orlando was an amazing young man," LeBlanc said. "He had a heart as big as this camp."
LeBlanc said, spans about 45 acres.
Gonzalez, 21, was killed Sunday in Baqubah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near a vehicle he was riding in, according to the Department of Defense. Three other soldiers, all assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were killed in the attack. Two others were injured.
Both LeBlanc and Susquehannock Principal Brian Cashman said Gonzalez, who graduated from Susquehannock High School in 2005, had a difficult family situation, but they would not elaborate.
Gonzalez is the son of Orlando G. Gonzalez of Connecticut and Carmen M. Diaz. Family members could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
LeBlanc said Gonzalez was excited about joining the Army after high school. The soldier visited the camp a couple of times between boot camp and his deployment to Iraq.
"He couldn't wait to be seen in his uniform," LeBlanc said of Gonzalez's first trip back to the camp after boot camp.
The camp director said it's comforting to think of how Gonzalez - a "man of belief" who "knew where he was going" - was excited to join the Army.
LeBlanc believes "if you told him this is how it would end, he still would have went (into the Army)."
Gonzalez lived in the staff dormitory at the camp during his senior year. His dorm, along with two others, sits toward one edge of the wooded campground, which has dozens of cabins and other buildings.
It's a college setting, with campers coming from as close as the immediate area and as far away as California, said Le- Blanc, who has been the camp director for about 10 years.
During the summer, LeBlanc said, about 25 teenagers typically live at the camp. Gonzalez had been one of those summer campers, and he was known as "Speedy."
"The kid ran like a gazelle," LeBlanc said.
At one point during Gonzalez's stay, LeBlanc recalls seeing a wild rabbit darting around the campgrounds. He told Gonzalez he was probably fast enough to catch it. Gonzalez said he wasn't fast enough.
Later that day, Gonzalez showed up at LeBlanc's door.
"There he was, petting this rabbit," LeBlanc
A memorial service will be held tomorrow for fallen York County, Pennsylvania, Army paratrooper Orlando "Eric" Gonzalez, who was killed in action in Iraq last week.
Gonzalez, 21, of New Freedom, Pennsylvania, will be remembered at a service at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Shrewsbury Assembly of God Church at 234 North Main St. in Shrewsbury.
He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but the date of the burial has not been determined.
Gonzalez, a 2005 graduate of Susquehannock High School, was a Private First Class in the 82nd Airborne Division and was killed in Baqubah, Iraq, on March 25, 2007.
Gonzalez was on combat operations about 35 miles north east of Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle, killing him and three other soldiers. Two other soldiers were also injured.
After growing up in Glen Rock, Gonzalez lived and worked at Summit Grove Camp in New Freedom during his senior year in high school.
He joined the Army immediately after graduation and was a Javelin gunner with the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In addition to the Purple Heart, Gonzalez as also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
He is survived by his father, Orlando G. Gonzalez Jr. of Bridgeport, Connecticut; his mother, Carmen M. Diaz of York; his sister Jennifer M. (Stephen) Jackson; his brothers, Frank, Michael, and Nathaniel; three nieces, and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
GONZALEZ, ORLANDO ERIC
Posted: 2 April 2007 Updated: 14 April 2007 Updated: 18 May 2007 Updated: 2 July 2007
Photo Courtesy of Holly, May 2007
Photo Courtesy of Holly, April 2007