A Vet’s Horses Honor Their Hero
He trained these stunning animals his whole life. At the end, they were there for him.
Roberto Gonzalez, 67, was paralyzed during the Vietnam War after being shot just two months into his service there. He was 21 years old at the time.
Wheeled outside by his medical team for the final reunion, Gonzalez was granted his wish on the 46th anniversary of his injury.
Despite those injuries, he returned home and made a living as a successful horse trainer in his hometown of Premont, Texas.
“My husband was one of the only handicapped or paralyzed licensed horse trainers in Texas,” his wife, Rosario Gonzalez, told local WOAI-TV.
Horses were his life. The couple trained and raised the beautiful animals for over 30 years, his wife told the station.
Now, the paralyzed Vietnam Army vet has passed away, according to a South Texas Veterans Health Care System statement. But not before he received a final visit from his beloved horses — a visit that was captured on video and went viral just before he died.
Gonzalez was granted his dying wish to see his two best friends, Sugar and Ringo, one last time last Saturday.
Fearing his time was short, Gonzalez had asked his family if he could spend a little time with his two best friends. The Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital was happy to help — the Texas resident was one of the facility’s first patients back when it first opened in 1974, after he first returned from Vietnam. Rosario Gonzalez said her husband had been treated for a back wound during this stay and also suffered from liver and kidney problems.
Wheeled outside by his medical team for the final reunion, Gonzalez was granted his wish on the 46th anniversary of his injury. Sugar and Ringo — transported more than 150 miles from their home for this occasion — approached the American hero's bedside. Then they sweetly nuzzled him, saying their goodbyes.
"When the horses came up to him, he actually opened his eyes," Rosario Gonzalez told reporters. "I think they were actually kissing him."
Her husband "never let his injuries slow him down. He loved ranching and farming. He was proud to serve his country," she told KSAT.
As Americans across this nation begin Memorial Day weekend 2016, let's all remember that the way these horses treated him — the way his wishes were granted, and the way his family, friends, and caregivers took care of him — represent a level of respect, love, and care that all our veterans deserve, no matter who they are, where they are, or what their situation is.
(Photos shown at top of article are courtesy of South Texas Veterans Health Care System, taken by Lupe Hernande.)