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HONORING OUR HEROES: A paratrooper’s motto —Train harder, fight longer, know there will be no relief in sight
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HONORING OUR HEROES: A paratrooper’s motto —Train harder, fight longer, know there will be no relief in sight

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—As a Scottsbluff High School dropout, Oscar Gonzalez didn’t feel like he had much going for him. Gonzalez was from a migrant-worker family. He was not very good at education and not dedicated to school.

“I think I needed a big life-changing event to get me out of my environment, to kind of reset my thought process. The Army active duty did that for me.” Gonzalez said.

When Gonzalez joined in 2007, he knew the country was at war, joining was not only an opportunity to change his lifestyle but also to serve his country that was going to war.

“It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when and that was a driving motivator, to be able to give back to this country,” he said.

Basic training began in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for Gonzalez, he then moved on to Airborne School where he became a parachutist. Gonzalez was first assigned to a military police brigade in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“Basically, this was like infantry, we never did any kind of police work,” Gonzalez said. “We lived out in the woods and did a bunch of training.”

In 2009, Gonzalez had his first deployment serving under the 82nd Airborne Division that was assigned to the Global Response Team.

“We were assigned to be anywhere in the world within 18 hours, just one phone call and we went anywhere,” Gonzalez said.

The 82nd Airborne Division trained to be ready at any moment. Gonzalez recalls keeping a backpack ready to go at any time, including a second set of equipment that was always prepared to go anywhere. He recounts a mission that would have had his division jumping behind enemy lines in Syria,

“The airplanes were in the air, we were ready to jump and then the entire situation was mitigated, turning us around without ever making the jump.”

Gonzalez described this situation as being mentally ready and physically ready, with your ammunition and everything else you may possibly need on a mission accessible.

“Once you jump out of the airplane and before you have landed, you know exactly what you’re supposed to do.” Gonzalez explained, “Then they may say that it’s a no go.”

Being an active paratrooper in the Army was the “ultimate thrill” for Gonzalez who recorded 42 successful exits.

“My plan was either to die or retire from the military but, as my life went on and situations changed at home, it was time,” Gonzales said.

“Plus, you’re at a point were you’re physically beat, where you’ve demanded to much from your body that at some point, you can’t give as much to the Army any more and that’s when you make plans to return home.”

Gonzales actively served in the Army from 2007 to 2015. The Army life had defined who Gonzalez was, leaving him stuck in the Army mindset.

“If as a civilian, you can use the same Army mindset to move forward and find other goals, you can push yourself to be anything you want to be,” Gonzalez said.

He attributes using this strategy in life to have gotten himself where he is today. Gonzalez is a new business owner with his wife, Stefanie, an ISS paraeducator at Scottsbluff High School, while pursuing a teaching degree and raising six children. His entrepreneurial spirit was what led him and Stafanie Gonzalez to set in motion the planning necessary to own their own business over a year ago. Their veteran-owned mortuary, Reverence Funeral Parlor, opened it’s doors in April 2021. Gonzalez has almost completed his teaching certificate from Chadron State College and plans to continue his focus on ISS supervisor at the Scottsbluff High School.

Though Gonzalez may not bring his paratrooper mentality with him into the high school, he does foster the inherent authority from Army life when discipline is needed. He also reflects that his Army service experience “has helped me tremendously to be in this position. Having been a high school dropout, I am somebody that was once in their place.”

Gonzalez said feels fortunate that he can be in a position to guide high school students and connect with them on different levels.

“Even with the full plate, I have maintained that drive and mentality that you can get anything done if you stay focused and keep moving forward,” Gonzalez said

“That is something I can credit to my time in the Army.”

As Veterans Day approaches, Gonzalez takes that time to reflect on what he has done. He reaches out to Army buddies and reminds himself of what he has accomplished.

“Adversity and combat draws you close to the people around you, these people are willing to give their lives for you,” Gonzalez said.

“They will always be there and being back from active Army duty doesn’t change that.”

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