Tucson, Arizona, US
United States Army
CPT, Third Battalion of the 7th Special Forces Group
Fort Bragg, US, 02/09/2005
It is one death, but many losses.
Tucson lost a native, Salpointe Catholic High School lost a star of its class of ’94, the Air Force Academy lost an alumnus and the Third Battalion of the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, lost a leader shortly before it deploys to Iraq.
The family of U.S. Army Captain Gilbert A. Munoz lost what one relative called its “center of the circle.”
Munoz died last week of a staph infection, two weeks after returning from Iraq and two days after his first wedding anniversary. He was 29.
He will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Arlington special guard unit he served with four years ago will take part in the burial.
His wife, Emily, remembered yesterday what she had, more than what she now must do without, as she pushes on with her life in North Carolina.
“I feel like I lost so much,” she said. “But it’s so hard to feel anything except thankful for such an incredible individual to have been in my life.”
Munoz was set to lead a Special Forces team into Iraq to help train Iraqis to take over security of their country, necessary before the withdrawal of the American military, his wife said. He left in January for a short scouting mission of the location where he would lead his men and returned home January 28, 2005.
On February 6, 2005, he went into the hospital with flulike symptoms and three days later was dead, his wife said.
Emily Munoz said his soldiers’ reaction underscored what her husband was all about: a natural leader who set an example contrary to ruthlessness.
“Machiavelli would have been absolutely stumped by someone who could have inspired so much respect and such love and such military bearing just because he expected it from himself,” she said.
Tucson neighbors remember Munoz as the kind of kid who did things kids don’t often do.
“He would come all the time and ask us for permission to have some friends over for a party,” said Margarita Hoyos, 65, who has lived next to Munoz’s family, near West Broadway and Greasewood Road, for the past 15 years.
“He was a beautiful person, a very religious person,” she said. “He would tell his troops, ‘You have to go to church today,’ and he would take them all to Mass.”
Munoz graduated from Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School in 1993.
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Munoz was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant after graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1998. Emily Munoz said he chose the Army because “there wasn’t enough mud” in the Air Force.
Following duty in Korea and the 3rd U.S. Infantry at Fort Myer, Virginia, Munoz was selected for Special Forces training in mid-2002. They were married last year.
Emily Munoz said her husband always wanted to be in the Special Forces and was looking forward to going to Iraq because he hadn’t been there.