HOUSTON - A decorated war hero who was a graduate of The Woodlands High School was laid to rest here in Houston today. Sgt. Marty Gonzalez suffered his injuries in the Iraq War.
He is considered killed in action but the U.S. Marine Sergeant's death was delayed for years after the deadly damage was done to him on the battlefield back in December 2004.
“And in Marty style, it took 16 years for it to finally take his life,” Pastor David Maulsby told the congregation during the funeral service at Champions Forest Church.
"I've watched Marty endure so much pain in our 10 years together. Surgery after surgery,” said his wife Tawnee Gonzalez.
Sgt. Gonzalez died at home the Saturday after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, after surviving two separate grenade blasts, one that broke his back and he was shot twice while fighting in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.
"As Marty's squad entered I remembered seeing an insurgent run down the stairs through the window. Before this could be conveyed to them the firefight was on and Marty was shot in the arm,” says fellow marine and friend Sgt. Eric Copsetta.
Before his death Sgt. Gonzalez spoke about seeing eight Marines killed in explosions in Fallujah. “In that black cloud you could just feel the evil in that city and I prayed to God and I said if you could send me there it would be an honor” and Gonzalez was deployed to Fallujah in September 2004.
"Make no mistake about it Marty was a war hero. He was a true friend with a kind heart,” says friend and fellow marine Sgt. Mason Fisher.
"To me, he was 'babe'. He was the love of my life,” says Mrs. Gonzalez. The war hero's wife spoke at his service and so did Judge Marc Carter. "Generally speaking jail and the courthouse is not the place where you want to go to make lifelong friends but that's where I met Marty and we became lifelong friends,” explains Judge Carter.
You see, the judge and Sgt. Gonzalez worked together to create Veteran's Court in 2009 after Gonzalez wrecked his vehicle with pain killers in his system and his child in the car. Judge Carter got him help instead of prison time. Then the two did the same for many other veterans.
“He leaves behind an amazing legacy with his children and in the veteran community,” says Judge Carter.
"Oh, your dad loved you. Over and over again he laid down his life for you. He laid down his life for us,” adds Pastor Maulsby while looking at and talking directly to Gonzalez's four children.
“When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me. I want no rites in a gloom-filled room. Why cry for a soul set free?” Steven & Tommy Gonzalez, Marty's brothers choked back tears while reading a poem. “And not with your head bowed low, remember the love we once shared. Miss me, but let me go”.
"It breaks my heart to know I only got ten years with him but it was the best ten years of my life,” says Mrs. Gonzalez.
We introduced you to the couple in 2012 when the group Helping a Hero gave the family a house.
Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio presented the decorated war veteran, who received three Purple Hearts and two bronze stars, one set of keys to his brand new home.
Now the 40-year-old is on his final journey home, being buried with full military honors, laid to rest at Houston's VA National Cemetery.
"I know you'll make sure that we're okay and I know that you will always be there guiding us and protecting us. We love you,” says Mrs. Gonzalez.