By Dr. G (Colton City Councilman)
Four generations of family and friends gathered, or rather, socially-distanced in the front yard at the home of local WWII veteran and Hometown Hero Mr. Ray Gomez on August 3, who recently turned 95.
In addition to the large amount of food and chairs, including EZ-ups, the event was highlighted by the very best drive-by parade salute I’ve ever seen. Starting with our very own Colton Fire Department, every relative and close friend we could think of, came by in their car or truck to offer Ray a warm congratulations, gifts, cards, photo ops, and lots of cheers. At one point, Ray got my attention so I could say “hi” to his younger brother, Angel Gomez, who himself was in the parade. Of course, I had to take a picture of the two “nonagenarians.”
Having a birthday on a Monday evening was no problem for the organizers of the event, Ray’s daughters Cynthia Martinez and Debra Gomez, who basically care for Ray on a regular basis.
“Ray looked great,” smiled Dr. G who is a good friend and knows the entire family. “I was honored to be invited to take part in the festivities.” In addition to the 30-40 family members, neighbors from both sides of the Gomez house also came to offer their cheers and congratulations.
According to Ray, he was born in San Bernardino, served in the Army during WWII, and upon his return, worked two career jobs; first 20 years with the Santa Fe Railroad, and then 20 years with the County of San Bernardino. Ray bought his house in 1957, and was married to his beautiful wife, Cora for 65 years. She passed away in 2018.
When asked about her father, Cynthia reminisced, “Dad has always been there for us…I’m so proud of him.” Similarly, daughter Debra added, “Dad worked hard, and always took care of us growing up. He gave good advice.”
Several of the grandchildren swarmed “grandpa” for pictures throughout the event, but at the same time, were reminded to keep a safe distance. Antonio Martinez, age 40, one of the older grandkids, stated that, “Grandpa was always my superhero growing up.”
Dr. G met Ray years ago, when someone mentioned to him that Ray Gomez was a WWII Veteran, and lived on C Street. Going up and down the street knocking on doors Ray was found sitting in his usual spot out in the front yard, in his favorite chair, which is still there. After spending considerable time discussing his military experiences, the friendship began. Ray’s military background and experience was carefully recorded and added to Dr. G’s new book, “Veterans of WWII Living in Colton, 2014.” The book was completed and published that same year by CITY TALK w/Dr. G. One final comment offered by Dr. G was, “It’s great to honor our Hometown Heroes, and Ray is an awesome soldier, family man, and citizen.”
The following are a few excerpts from “Veterans of WWII living in Colton, 2014” by Dr. G (Dr. Luis S Gonzalez)
NOTE: these are memories from Ray Gomez’s military service, in his own words.
“I remember…one night we were holding the line, and I was asked to relieve a fellow soldier who was located about 200 yards ahead. I started walking through this open area with no brush, no trees, or large rocks. About halfway there, the Germans shot out a flare and everything was lit up. Then I froze, all alone in the middle of this wide open area. I knew this was the end for me. I prayed and prayed, then slowly knelt down to the ground cuddling my rifle. Expecting to be shot dead at any time, I prayed and prayed. Still out in the open, I was on my knees, and then cuddled down. No shot ever came!
“I remember…I was wounded at the border of France and Germany, which was called the Siegfried Line. The line was made up of concrete pillars called “dragon teeth” which were in place to keep out the tanks. On the German side were bunkers with machine guns, and behind those were mortars. Our division attacked and we were under fire. After crossing the Siegfried Line I was hit by mortar shrapnel.”
“I remember…after being injured by mortar shrapnel, I was flown to a hospital in England. I stayed there 3 months. After that time, they were going to send me home, and even gave me American money. After four more days nothing happened, so I asked the Lieutenant about my plane back home. He said I wasn’t going back to the United States, and was instead being sent back to the war.”
For more information about CITY TALK, or any of the online live-stream programs, contact Dr. G @ 213-3730. Questions and comments are always welcome.