The Miami Herald
Apr. 16, 2003

Hialeah Marine is killed in Iraq accident


  Roughly eight years ago, Marine Cpl. Armando Ariel Gonzalez left Cuba on a boat bound for Miami, joined by his father and younger brother. The family settled in Hialeah.

  Gonzalez learned to speak English in classes at Miami-Dade Community College, joined the Marines and married his love.

  Two and a half months ago, he shipped out to Iraq, leaving behind his pregnant wife.

  On Tuesday, the U.S. Defense Department reported that Gonzalez, 25, was killed. He is the first Miami-Dade resident known to have died in the conflict.

  Gonzalez died Monday after being crushed by a commercial refueling truck as he worked beneath it at Logistics Supply Area Viper in southern Iraq, according to defense officials.

  Capt. Don Caetano, spokesman for the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort, S.C., where Gonzalez was based, said the death shows the dangers troops still face in the region, despite the military successes.

  The death was the first suffered by the Beaufort base, which has about 1,800 soldiers in the region, Caetano said.

  ''It's one of our brothers, one of our brothers-in-arms died,'' Caetano said. "And that's real tough to handle.''

  Gonzalez got married about seven months ago, according to his father, Julio Orlando Gonzalez, 69, of Hialeah. Armando Gonzalez's wife is four months pregnant, his father said. The family is unsure yet whether it is a boy or girl.

  ''I am very proud of my son; I am very proud of the cause he died for,'' Julio Gonzalez said during a tearful phone interview Tuesday night.

  Armando Gonzalez had been a Marine for about 2 ½ years. A few hours before his death, Gonzalez talked to his wife from Iraq, his father said.

  As usual, he was calm, composed, fearless.

  ''He said that he felt good,'' Julio Gonzalez said. ``Everything was going good.''

  In Cuba, Armando Gonzalez had contemplated being a doctor. But his father, who works as a security guard, said it would have been financially difficult to pursue such a career in the United States.

  ''I didn't have the means to pay for him to study medicine,'' Julio Gonzalez said. Armando Gonzalez's mother remained in Cuba after the rest of the family left, but she has been given permission to come to the United States, according to his father.

  She is expected to arrive by this weekend.