Juan Jose Gonzales
On his first day in the Army, Laredo, Texas native Juan Jose Gonzalez met a fellow new recruit, Russ Lee of California. The two, along with a third new friend, Mike Fluharty, hit it off and decided to do all they could to stick together, wherever the journey ahead would take them.
In 1967 there was pretty much one destination for an Army private: Vietnam. And that is where the three friends ended up. Surprisingly, their pact to remain together had worked, and all three became soldiers in the Third Squadron, Fourth Cavalry of the 25th Infantry Division.
As members of Charlie (or “C”) Troop in the “3/4 Cav,” the trio was assigned to armored vehicles that provided reconnaissance and supported combat operations and security for 25th Infantry Division combat engineers, convoys and bridges. Soon after they arrived, Mike was wounded in action and assigned to base camp for the remainder of his tour. But Russ and Juan remained together, counting down the days until their one-year combat tour ended.
On June 15, 1967, the unit went on patrol in their armored vehicles. As they returned, the vehicle in which Juan was riding was exploded by what would today be called an IED, or Improvised Explosive Device near LZ Liz, near the village of Duc Pho. All nine soldiers on board “Track 19” were killed instantly, including Juan. He was 19 years old.
Juan Jose Gonzalez was buried in Laredo. He is remembered on Panel 21E, Line 105 of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
And he is remembered by his friend and Army colleague Russ, who captured Juan on film on the last full day of his life, and submitted this story of his Texas Vietnam hero.