VA Palo Alto Health Care System

 

From Combat to Rehab

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SPC Orlando Gonzalez and his team in Afghanistan

SPC Orlando Gonzalez (front right) and his team are posing for a photo in Afghanistan in July 2010.

By SPC Orlando Gonzalez
Friday, May 20, 2011

My name is SPC Orlando Gonzalez and I served with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan.  I was a team leader with 21 months of deployment time. 

Although I lost nine friends in one month, it was hard for me to accept that I had been injured at first.  It was a routine day, we were doing a patrol around our base.  We took contact for about five minutes on our way.  Back to the patrol base, a suicide bomber walked up behind us and blew himself up. I lost my squad leader and the gun team in that accident. 

At first I thought I got shot in the shoulder.  No one would tell me what was going on. I didn't know I had a brain injury until a nurse told me.  I thought I was still in Afghanistan.  I remember waking up and seeing my girlfriend, my mom, brother and three friends. I had tubes everywhere in my body. I guess I had taken shrapnel to the head and I had one collapsed lung. 

It's been very hard to get used to not using my left arm. At first, I could not walk but now I think of it as a blessing. People always tell me to keep my spirits good and be happy.  I've lost my innocence and it's hard to try to be happy when it seems everything keeps getting worse. 

I keep finding out bad things from overseas. I feel like I belong over there and I'm letting my brothers down. It is hard to keep your hope up. I came to VA Palo Alto not being able to walk but now I'm playing golf. I'm learning a lot.

I could not go into a room with a big crowd but it has gotten a little better now. I know now what I want to do with my life. I have new goals to go to school and now I've got things to look forward to. 

I want to help troubled teens, because I was always getting into fights and getting kicked out of school. I guess all I need to do now is DREAM BIG but the hardest thing is trying to keep focus and stay happy. I know if I can learn to walk, I can do anything.  

In conclusion, I want to say RIP to my fellow Renegades and Blacksheep.