Matthew GonzalezGlobal War on Terror and Afghanistan War veteran Major Matthew Gonzalez, (p/c) United States Marine Corps pilot was born on July 23, 1981 in Naples, FL and is a graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Gonzalez was first deployed on the USS Boxer, a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in the Mediterranean. He participated in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips who had been kidnapped by Somali pirates when there was an attempted hijacking the Maersk Alabama in 2010. Gonzalez flew members of the Navy Seals in by CH-46 helicopter (p/c). These snipers who parachuted into the sea with inflatable boats, were picked up by the USS Boxer and carried out their mission to eliminate the hijacker’s threat and rescue Captain Phillips.

MapIn Afghanistan, Gonzalez flew an Osprey (p/c), and defended his unit when Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion faced enemy fire 3 days after the US Mission in Benghazi was attacked and burned in 2012.

The squadron’s Chief Warrant Officer, Millage Wilson, “whose nickname was ‘War Hammer’ had a southern drawl, and he improved our situation. Outside the base was not under our control. He decided, because he was attacked and was badly injured before, that we needed to start making improvements…we were gathering wire and things for making barriers. He built up the security of our own squadron. He got mocked for doing so, but he saved our lives. He had been in Afghanistan before and knew….

ChopperThat day we incurred the largest single day loss of aircraft since the Vietnam War. 15 heavily armed Afghans got on base, they divided into three teams of five, one to us, one to the Harriers and one to the skids.

It was a stupid thing to do, there were 15 guys they huffed paint and got high. In the Muslim religion, drugs are forbidden, they had US Army military uniforms and they snuck on base. This happened about a half an hour before I had to go to work at midnight.

Chopper grThere was a controlled detonation, but on September 14, a few days earlier Benghazi happened and the Ambassador and two soldiers were killed…I had a 9mm gun tucked into bed in front of me and a BOOM wakes me up. There was a machine gun fire from the enemy and I got up and yelled, “Small arms fire!”

ShipThe Maersk Alabama in the port at Mombasa, Kenya, where crew members celebrated after hearing of their captain’s release. Credit Antony Njuguna/Reuters

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