Wounded Marine Visits Ketchikan with American300 Tours

Story by American300 Public Affairs - 7/25/15
Sal Gonzalez, couldn’t take his eyes off the casket of his good friend. It wasn’t the first of his friends to be put to rest with military honors, nor would it be the last.  But, this ceremony was unique.  Sal had placed his own purple heart on his friends casket and soon the two would be lowered into the ground.  

With the brass notes from Taps still echoing off distant tombstones Sal, felt once again like it should be his remains being lowered into the ground and his family members and friends mourning. 

Instead, as the service ended Sal did what he’d done countless other times, he went home and found the biggest bottle of whiskey he could get his hands on and started drinking.  Later that night, sitting alone on the front porch of his house, he cursed at God and everyone on the planet. With not more then an inch of sloshing brown liquid in the bottom of the bottle he found himself reflecting. 

“What would my friend think of my pathetic existence, drinking my life away because I lost my leg and lieutenant and felt sorry for myself, my buddy is gone, his life and dreams are gone...  his goal of a wife and kids, two cars and a white picket fence are gone.” 

As a young east Los Angeles, California first generation Mexican American Sal had been drawn to music.  At an early age he’d ‘borrowed’ a guitar and taught himself how to play.  As the trade towers crumbled on 9/11 he knew he’d join the Marine Corps. A few years later he did just that... dragging an old beat up guitar along for the Marine Corps ride to the middle east and a city called Ramadi, in a country called Iraq.  

“Country music wasn’t my neighborhoods favorite boom box selection, but my Marine brothers loved it so I learned it.  I had no desire to become a country music artist," says Sal, "...but I knew it made my brothers happy and that was what it was all about... taking care of my brothers.” 

Years later after that night of self destruction following his friends funeral service, Sal came up with a plan.  He’d pack a bag and head to the capital of country music, Nashville Tennessee and give country music a try. 

“I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, my family and friends thought I was crazy, but something told me it was the right thing to do.” he added.  

It didn’t take long for Sal to make friends in Nashville and within months he started getting invitations to play in clubs and at special Veteran’s events.  His dream of making a go of it in country music was taking shape. The only problem: the nightmares and heartache were still haunting him. 

Then one day he received a phone call from Lieutenant Colonel Mike Carrado, of the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment.  The LTC had been asked to go on an American300 Tour to Afghanistan with several wounded Marines, but couldn’t due to his role as the Regiment’s executive officer.  What Carrado did know was that Sal Gonzalez needed to meet Robi Powers, the founder of American300 Warrior Tours. 

That one phone call started a chain reaction that has brought Sal and Robi, to some of the most remote military bases in the world.  “Sal was pulling it together, he just needed a mission beyond entertaining people... he needed to be back with his own,” says Powers, adding, “all we did was provide an outlet of service to this wounded Marine, gave him a mission set that he could embrace.  His story is one not unlike thousands of others, but the way Sal is able to incorporate music into his personal life story is truly unique and very powerful... troops, families and communities just love meeting him and listening to him play, sing and share his stories.”

From Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan to the northern tip of Greenland just shy of the north pole and countless days on US Bases here at home... Sal has been sharing his personal story of recovery and personal growth with thousands of fellow service members and the communities that support them as part of American300’s mission to reinforce growth.

Today, Sal works as a spokesperson for another nonprofit: Wounded Warrior Project and volunteers his time openly to American300 Tours, the nonprofit that opened the door to something new for the wounded Marine back in 2012. 
  • Free Community Event- Sal Gonzalez will be performing live at the Arctic Bar on Thursday, July 30th at 9pm.  There is no cover charge and he’ll play as long as everyone is having a great time!  Semper Fidelis 
About American300 - the all volunteer nonprofit 501c3 was created by Army Veteran Robi Powers as a way of supporting the Department of Defense.  To date American300 has conducted over 450 base visits with special guests like Gonzalez.  Each tour provides a glimpse at how life’s ups and downs can be overcome and how even in the face of complete adversity individuals can overcome life’s obstacles.  

For more on American300 Tours visit:  www.American300.org 

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