DOWNEY – A strong desire to serve is an accurate description of United States Marine Corps veteran Hector Gomez. Hector is a Downey native and graduate of Warren High School. At the age of 17, Gomez was determined join the United States Navy. At that time, he was approached by a United States Marine recruiter. Hector quickly learned about what it means to be a part of “The Few and The Proud.” Hector states that when he saw his “Marine recruiter, the uniform and the way that he presented himself,” his mind was changed. Within a short period of time, Hector went from future sailor to future Marine.
Hector served a total of eight years with the Marine Corp. Hector was deployed four times to Iraq from 2004-2006 and 2008. Gomez describes that from his “first deployment to his last that things changed radically.”
“Being fired at constantly was now commonplace,” he says.
Gomez’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) included a 1345 Engineer and an 8411 recruiter. Hector also holds the title of sergeant with the infantry. Hector describes a particular challenge that arose was not being able to successfully complete his assignment. As an Engineer, he “was with an infantry and being attached to the infantry men meant that I was not able to complete my job.”
Another challenge that was apparent was realizing the things taken for granted – no matter how small.
“Being able to walk around in flips flops and shorts and know that you aren’t going to get stopped by anyone is something that we here in the U.S. take for granted.”
Gomez describes that he missed his family deeply when he was deployed. He joyfully adds that his fellow Marines helped fill that void.
“Family is different from your Marine family; your Marine brothers replace your family. You fight like brothers and love each other like brothers.”
Hector describes that his transition back into civilian life was “hard and easy at the same time.” Even though he spent his last two years of service as a recruiter and was always in the public eye, “starting fresh was hard.” Hector was able to transition back into public service where he is currently involved in a law enforcement agency in Orange County.
When asked whether or not he would relive his experience while serving, he replied “In a heartbeat. I miss the camaraderie. It was a huge family and I was good at it. I loved being a Marine.”
Hector’s advice to anyone considering joining a branch is to “do your research and make sure that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.” He also states that it is important that young people consider enlisting because this is an excellent way to support their community.
Gomez states that his training has greatly impacted his civilian life as he applies it on a daily basis. He states that being able to be an effective communicator is something that was vital to establish.
“Communication and being able to speak well is important.” Without proper communication skills we are at a loss, he says.
Gomez plans to put his Criminal Justice degree from Cal State San Bernardino to work as he plans to continue pursuing a career in law enforcement. Hector continues to live life day by day with the endless support of his family and friends as well as the support of his hometown city of Downey. He mentions that the city “makes you feel important and that you’re not forgotten. The city of Downey has your back.”
“Coming Home: A Veteran’s Story” is a project between the Living Tree Foundation and the Downey Patriot, with the goal of telling the stories of local veterans. If you are interested in telling your story, contact Julie Garcia at (562) 884-8683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: Sept. 18, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 23