Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, one of two Green Berets from the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who died last week in Afganistan as a result of small-arms fire, was a 17-year military veteran who had been deployed seven times. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, and was also promoted posthumously to the rank of master sergeant.
EGLIN AFB — The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) has released more information on the second of two Green Berets with the Eglin Air Force Base-headquartered U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who died in combat operations in Afghanistan on Aug. 21.
Initially, the family of 35-year-old Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, a native of La Puente, California, had asked that no information other than his name be released to the media. Earlier this week, USASOC Public Affairs issued a news release with additional information about Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who had a 17-year military career, had been with the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) since 2014, serving as an engineer sergeant. He had previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2016, and had deployed to South America, the 7th Group's primary area of responsibility, in 2014 and 2018.
Also during his military career, Gonzalez was deployed twice as a Marine, in 2003 and 2005, and deployed as an Army infantryman in 2009, according to the USASOC news release.
Gonzalez died along with Master Sgt. Luis F. Deleon-Figueroa, 31, in Afghanistan's Faryab Province on Aug. 21 as a result of small-arms fire. The incident is under investigation, as is routine with combat deaths, according to USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer.
Both men were posthumously promoted to the rank of master sergeant, and both were also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Their bodies arrived back in the United States on Friday, and were met by Vice President Mike Pence at Delaware's Dover AFB.
“It was an honor having them serve within the ranks of 7th SFG (A)," 7th Group commander Col. John W. Sannes said in the USASOC news release. "They were a part of our family, and will not be forgotten. Our priority is to now provide the best possible care to the families of our fallen warriors. We ask that you keep their families and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.”
Deleon-Figueroa, a native of Chicopee, Massachusetts, served more than 13 years in the Army. He was assigned to the 7th Group in 2014 as a communications sergeant, and subsequently worked as an operations and intelligence sergeant.
Deleon-Figueroa deployed six times during his career, including deployments this year and last year to Afghanistan, and deployments to South America in 2015 and again last year. He deployed as an infantryman to Iraq in 2008 and to Afghanistan in 2010.
The two Green Berets' deaths came as the United States and the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist political and military movement waging war in Afghanistan, are reported to be closing in on an agreement that could bring home at least some of the 14,000 U.S. troops in that country, where the U.S. has had a military presence for 18 years. In return, according to media reports, the Taliban would ensure that terrorist networks would not find a safe haven in Afghanistan.