Tradition of service: Springfield military family to be featured on History Channel
SPRINGFIELD — When Gumersindo Gomez’s father returned home to Puerto Rico after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he rarely spoke about the atrocities of war.
“He was very reluctant to talk about it, but occasionally if he had a few drinks with my uncles I would hear him tell stories,” said Gomez, remembering his father Ismael Gomez, the man who started the Gomez family tradition of military service.
“After him my older brother, Ismael Gomez Jr., went into the Army and I did too. We both served in Vietnam,” he said.
Gomez married an Army veteran, Eva Gomez. His oldest son, Giovanni Gomez, served in the Army for 25 years. His grandson Tyler Rodriguez is serving in the Army. His granddaughter Adrianna Hernandez had just been sworn into the Army in 2017 when she was killed in a car crash.
The family will be featured on the History Channel in November as part of a series on military families across the country.
“We were looking for families with multiple generations who served in the armed forces and the VA pointed us in Gumersindo’s direction,” said Kathleen Williams, a producer for the History Channel. “Many veterans give back to their community, but he does it on a bigger scale.”
Williams said the series focuses on what motivates families to serve.
“The History Channel is really looking to highlight those reasons why so many generations from one family would make that commitment to the armed forces and also to highlight how so many veterans don’t stop their service when they come home, they just keep giving,” she said.
Gumersindo Gomez is executive director of the Massachusetts Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center in Springfield, an organization that helps veterans with everything from employment to housing and health care. He was also instrumental in the construction of a $2.8 million housing complex for 20 homeless veterans named the Sergeant Gomez Veterans Campus.
“The military has shaped my life and in turn the lives of my children and of all of the people we serve at the center,” he said.
Gomez lost his father in 2001 at the age of 78. He lost his brother several years ago due to complications from Agent Orange, a herbicide widely used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to deprive enemy troops of food and cover.
“We thought they were spraying it to kill the mosquitoes, but no, it was landing on all of the foliage and we were breathing it in,” he said.
The family was interviewed for the History Channel at the Bilingual Outreach Center, where Gomez spends most of his time.
Eva Gomez, a Springfield native, recalled joining the Army Reserve in 1981 when she was 18.
“I remember my recruiter Mr. Roland actually went to the house to meet my parents to ask their permission for me to join,” she said. She said served as a clerk for a year and then as a “paper pusher” for five years.
“I always believed that anything a man could do I could do too, and once I was in I felt confident in my abilities,” she said.
Eva Gomez also has a history of service in her family, with a dozen first cousins and several uncles who were in the military.
“I was always so proud of them and so happy when they came home because not everyone came home,” she said.
For Giovanni Gomez, the decision to join the military was an obvious one. “I always wanted to be like dad,” he said.
Giovanni Gomez did three years of active duty and then went to work as a civilian for the Department of Defense for 22 years.
“I have seen the world. I’ve been to Iraq twice, I went to Qatar, I worked in Germany for 10 years. I’ve worked for different branches of the Army including the Corps of Engineers, Medical Command, the Warrior Training Unit and my last job was with Human Resources Command out of Fort Knox and that was the pinnacle of my career,” he said.
Gomez said his father always told him if he went into the military he should learn a trade.
“When I joined the Army it was the first Gulf War and he was very nervous, but I did not deploy. My father always told me if you are going to join, get a skill. When I went to enlist I chose to be medical maintenance,” he said.
He said he is proud of his military service.
“I was blessed, as a civilian I got to see the world and deal with a lot of soldiers from privates to generals. I loved it,” he said.
The youngest family member to serve is Tyler Rodriguez, 21, a specialist who enlisted in the Army nearly four years ago. He is in the communications department at Fort Hood in Texas.
“Everything in my family revolves around the military, Vietnam and Puerto Rico,” he said.
Rodriguez struggled in school and decided the Army might be a way for him to mature before attending college. He has since served in South Korea and is now in Texas.
“I still have a year left and then I will probably go to school to study business. I have been under people for the past three years so it would be nice to be my own boss and do my own thing,” he said.
After posing for a photo with his family, Gumersindo Gomez took a moment to reflect on the impact the military has had on his family.
“I am proud of my family. I am proud of our service to this country and I am proud to be able to serve other veterans from any war who come through these doors and need our help,” he said.