Major Agustin M. Gonzalez
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ.
Died: May 25, 2019.
Unit: 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.
JERSEY CITY — Talk to anyone who knew Agustin “Augie” Gonzalez and they’ll tell you about a man that brought out the best in you. Talk to the hundreds of people that knew him, and you'll hear story after story about the immensity of his kindness and his character.
"Everybody loved him," a Bayonne resident, who declined to give her name, said.
"He was a better man than me," said Matt McMahon, a Jersey City resident.
On Sunday, hundreds of people attended visitation at Greenville Memorial Home in Jersey City for Gonzalez and his two daughters, who were killed last week after an unspeakable tragedy. Gonzalez, 36, a U.S. Army major and former Jersey City resident, was driving southbound on I-65 in Hart County, Kentucky when he struck a tow truck stopped on the side of the road shortly before 8 p.m. The impact of the crash killed him and his two daughters, Noelle, 6, and Gwen, 2. His 8-year-old son Nick survived the crash. The four were en route to Colorado, where he was moving his family for a new assignment at Fort Carson. His wife, Melissa, and newborn son Gabriel traveled separately via plane.
"It's just surreal for everybody," one woman said.
Friends of Gonzalez said was as hard-working as he was kind. He had recently earned his masters degree in public policy from Duke University through the Downing Scholars Program, a West Point initiative that selects four to six Army officers each year to attend graduate school at elite institutions throughout the country. One man, a New York resident who declined to give his name, said he had gotten to know him while Gonzalez was on an internship with the American embassy in The Hague in the Netherlands. "He was technically our intern but he was a mentor for me personally," he said, adding that Gonzalez helped him pursue a dream of his to join the military. "You'd meet for a drink and dinner after work (and) I remember taking a break with him and he would just give me advice," he said. "He was a big influence in my joining the Army Reserves. It was a lifelong dream, and he was really the reason I went and did that."
McMahon, 41, remembers him as the young kid in Jersey City he got to know through Gonzalez's older brother John. “He was the little brother, he was looking up to us,” he said. “And look at what he accomplished in his life — now it’s the other way around.”
Gonzalez attended St. Peter's Prep, where he played football and baseball. He then graduated from Rutgers University in 2006 with a degree in criminal justice and sociology. He later joined the military and was stationed at a number of military installations throughout the country, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Knox in Kentucky. He was deployed four times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Resolute Support, a NATO mission.
Shane Oravsky, who was deployed to Afghanistan with Gonzalez, said that “everyone that worked for him loved him.” "He put his all into everything," he said. "He was a great co-worker; a great everything."
He earned a handful of military honors during his tenure, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, among others.
“When you met him you felt like you knew him your whole life,” the Bayonne resident said. “What a wonderful young man he was — a devoted father, a great husband and an excellent student. He will be greatly missed.”
MAJ Agustin M. Gonzalez received his commission through the ROTC program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in August of 2006, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology.
MAJ Gonzalez’s first assignment was as a Rifle Platoon Leader in 2nd of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), then as an Aide-de-Camp to the Deputy Commanding General – United States Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Upon completion of the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, he took command of Charlie and then Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Following those commands, he served as the Battalion Adjutant, Training Officer, Assistant Operations Officer, and Delta Company Commander at 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He deployed four times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Resolute Support, and once to the Republic of Korea as the commander of a Special Operations Task Force.
His military education includes the Basic Officer Leader Course and Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Pathfinder School, the U.S. Army Jumpmaster School, and the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. MAJ Gonzalez also attended the Strategic Studies Fellowship Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal (1OLC), the Meritorious Service Medal (1OLC), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement medal, Army Commendation Medal (1OLC), Army Achievement Medal (1OLC), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Citation, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with 4 combat stars), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Air Assault Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, and Ranger Tab.
He is married to the former Melissa Walsh, of Basking Ridge, New Jersey. They have three children, Nicholas, Noelle, and Gwendolyn.