When I was in Vietnam with the 1/6 198th Light Infantry Brigade, one of my platoon mates was a guy named Hector Gomez. He was from Texas and he was a down to earth guy. I guess that wasn’t unusual because you didn’t encounter many arrogant people in the infantry, as they generally didn’t last very long.
Hector was short in stature, but he had a big heart. And as I remember, he was a good soldier too. I know he always performed his duties out in the field and nobody I recall ever uttered a harsh word about him. He was truly one of us.
What set Hector apart from the others, was that he was a great guitar player and singer and when we would get pulled out of the field we would stop in the local village and buy a cheap guitar for five dollars. Then in the evenings, of our two or three day stand down, we’d get out our guitars and play and sing Beatle songs. One of our favorites was “Devil In Her Heart“. We would play that song with Hector singing lead and I’d chime in with the harmony. And the guys gathered around with cold beers in their hands would feel normal for a few hours listening and singing to the music.
I thought about this very recently and I remembered the name of another soldier who survived the war, but tragically was killed in an auto accident shortly after he arrived home from the war. I had written him a letter and his sister found it in his belongings and she notified me of his death. I unfortunately forgot to name him in my book Vietnam: There and Back - A Combat Medic’s Chronicle so I will name him here. His name was Delvis Godwin and he was a great guy and he loved singing Elvis Presley songs while Hector and I were jamming. Delvis had a great personality and he was a good soldier and a very good singer too.
Hector was one of the most talented guys I had run across in my life and I truly thought he would make it in the music business. It would not have surprised me to learn he was in a successful national band at one point in his life because he had the “it” factor.
About six months ago, I wondered what had happened to Hector Gomez so I got on the Internet and conducted a Google search. Sadly, I discovered that he had passed away a few years ago. I paid my respects on his Obituary page, and with a heavy heart, reflected that I wished I had sought him out years ago.
Last week, I put an ad on craigslist to sell a musical item, and I saw in my inbox an email from Hector Gomez together with a phone number. i immediately called the number and spoke with Hector who was inquiring about my for sale item. No, it was not my Hector Gomez, nor a member of his family. It was just a stranger who happened to share the same name. However, I spent ten minutes telling this stranger all about the Hector Gomez I knew in Vietnam and what a great guy he had been. I talked for about fifteen minutes with this guy, and by the time we hung up, he knew all about my friend Hector Gomez. I didn’t sell my item, but I didn’t care as I wanted to talk with and remember Hector Gomez.
This blog is titled Viewing War Through Music and this story is important as I remember Hector Gomez and Delvis Godwin who we’re both teenagers with me in Vietnam and are no longer with us. Our connection, besides being Vietnam brothers, was music.
My Vietnam buddy Al Torsiello together with Ricki E. Bellos and myself wrote a CD of music based on our Vietnam experiences and song snippets can be heard at www.vietnamthereandback.com