ORLANDO, FL, USA U.S. Army SGT, 377TH TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, 3D CORPS SUPPORT COMMAND, MANHEIM, GE HUMANIYAH, IRAQ 02/18/2005
If not for the bullet wound in Vietnam that put Edgar Gil in the hospital for 18 months, he would have made a career of the Army.”I loved the Army,” Gil said. “You make good, good friends — brothers, really. I was proud.”
But Gil wasn’t blind to the Army’s faults. And when his son Carlos enlisted, Gil gave him hard-earned fatherly advice — “You need to be strong, be proud” — and a warning: “When you’re a grunt, sometimes things aren’t fair.”
The truth of his father’s words must have rung in Sergeant Carlos Gil’s ears when in January he was sent back to Iraq for his third tour of duty in that war zone in less than two years.
This week, his family learned Carlos Gil was killed by an explosion in Humaniyuh, Iraq. He died the day after his 30th birthday, leaving behind a wife and a 4-year-old daughter who has seen precious little of her father since the war in Iraq began.
“He loved the Army, just like I did,” Edgar Gil, 60, said Wednesday as he gazed at photos of his son taken the last time he saw him, during a visit back to the family’s Orange County home at Christmas in 2003.
The Gil family, originally from Puerto Rico, lived in New York until moving to Orlando 11 years ago. Carlos, the second of four children, attended Valencia Community College, then went to work for the U.S. Postal Service before joining the Army six years ago. When he joined, he was following a path set by his father and grandfather.
The Gils were proud when Carlos enlisted, and he expected to make a career of the military. But the constant rotations to Iraq and the time away from his wife and daughter, who have been living in Germany, made him change his plans, his mother Carmen said.
Carlos Gil was in Iraq during the initial part of the war that began in March 2003. He returned to his base in Germany, then was sent back for a second tour of duty. He had been back in Germany only a couple of months when he was transferred to another unit that was headed for Iraq, his parents said.In January, Gil returned to Iraq for a third tour of duty that was scheduled to last a year.
Assigned to transportation units, Carlos Gil constantly traveled the convoy routes between Kuwait and Baghdad, prime targets for insurgents who strike U.S. forces with suicide bombs and explosives hidden along the roadside.His mother said her son never spoke about the danger when he called from Iraq.
“He would talk about the family, about his wife and his daughter,” Carmen Gil said. “He never talked about his missions.”
But Edgar Gil knew the risks his son was taking on the roadways of Iraq. Every time I talked to him, I would say, `You need to stay strong; you need to stay alert,’ ” Gil said. “It’s one of the worst duties over there, transportation.”
On Wednesday, the Gils were preparing their home in east Orange County for the arrival in a few days of their daughter-in-law Farah and their granddaughter Jallisa — whom her grandfather calls “Ja-Ja.”
They will live with the Gils until they find a home of their own, Edgar Gil said. While it will be a comfort to have them near, it will also be hard.
“Ja-Ja, she’ll be the queen here,” he said. “I love her so much.”
But she’ll be a constant reminder of the son he’ll never see again.
“She has the same face, the same way of standing. She’s like a replica of my son,” Gil said.