Juan and Juana Reyes Gonzales immigrated from Leon, Mexico to the U.S. at the beginning of the twentieth century. They had eleven children—six boys and five girls. Five brothers- Leocadio Gonzales, Salvador Reyes Gonzales, Viviano Reyes Gonzales, Gabriel Reyes Gonzales and Alfonso Reyes Gonzales- decided to serve their nation, inspired by doing what is right and for love of God and their country, for their family and with pride of their Mexican American Heritage. The five brothers served honorably in the elite 82nd, 101st, and the 11th airborne Army Divisions. They served in World War II and the Korean War. Because of the inspiration and model that these men provided for their family including children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, the next generations have chosen to serve this country in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan within various branches of the military: Army, Navy, Marines, and ROTC programs. We spoke with Elizabeth Barranco, daughter of Alfonso Reyes Gonzales about her family legacy and contributions to the community. “My dad at a very young age had the vision to start his career through the military” said Elizabeth. Her father joined the military when he was 17 years old. Through the GI Bill, Alfonso was able to attend Washburn and Kansas State college and purchase his first home. “Growing in a military home there were a lot of values instilled in us: serving others and a great work ethic. My brother is a Topeka police officer and my sister is a social worker/teacher, I have another brother in the private sector and we all try to serve our community and do what is right in all that we do” added Elizabeth.
Alfonso Reyes Gonzales is currently 72 years old. The youngest of the brothers, Alfonso joined the military with his parents’ approval when he was 17 years old. Alfonso, was part of the 82nd Airborne Division Paratrooper. “To be certified as a paratrooper and earn your parachute wings, you had to make five jumps in one week; this was done after you had eight weeks of advanced extensive physical airborne training. The airplanes used to drop troops during WWII and the Korean War were the G119s called flying boxcars, gliders, C-46s and C47s,” said Alfonso. Alfonso’s son Roderick Gonzales served in the Army Reserve and grandson Matthew Gonzales served in the Army and served a tour in Iraq.
Leocadio R. Gonzales was born in 1921 and passed away in 2011. Leo, as their family called him, was the first brother to join the forces. He served in World War II as a paratrooper at the 82nd Airborne Division. He was awarded a Purple Heart, three bronze service stars, parachute wings, and a gold star for his combat jumps. His courage inspired the next generations. His son and several of his grandkids have served in the military fueled with Leo’s legacy of honor and service.
Salvador Reyes Gonzales was born in 1928 and passed away in 2011. Sal, a veteran of World War II, was part of the 82nd Airborne Division. Viviano Reyes Gonzales was born in 1930 and passed away in 2002. He was a veteran of the Korean War. He was part of the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division Combat Jump Paratrooper.
Viviano Reyes Gonzales was born in 1930 and passed away in 2002. He was a veteran of the Korean War. He was part of the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division Combat Jump Paratrooper.
Gabriel Reyes Gonzales was born in 1934 and passed away in 1999. He was a veteran of the Korean era; he was part of the 101st Airborne Division and the 11th Airborne Division Paratrooper. He had one grandson who also served in the military.
Joe Lowe Gonzales (a nephew) was born in 1942 and passed away in 1975. He was a Vietnam Veteran and part of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was awarded a Purple Heart for the injuries he received in combat; due to a mine explosion he lost his leg. He was also awarded the armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. His Mother was Felicia Reyes Gonzales Chavez.
Elizabeth learned, by growing with these exemplar individuals, to be thankful for the democracy and the many blessings that come with freedom. “There are many other families who sacrificed their sons and daughters to create a strong country. The compassion and the pride of freedom are on the faces of the men and women who serve every day. I am proud of my family. They exemplify service in the community. Having this family history fuels my desire to do things right for the community. They are silent heroes who ask for nothing and provide an everlasting impact in our lives,” added Elizabeth.