A Soldier to All

AAA Uniform Picture

Captain González in his office in the Air Force ROTC in the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez wearing his Air Force uniform. He wore this uniform for an Open House in December 2012 because he needed to formally represent the Air Force at the recruiting table.

By: Marcos J. Barreto

BUZZ.BUZZ.BUZZ. An alarm thunders at 4:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. “Morning already?” mumbles a yawning Francisco González. He quickly gets out of bed and races to do all the necessary tasks to start his day and get from Quebradillas to the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) at 5:30 a.m.

He gets out of his car to adjust his green digital patterned uniform and climbs the stairs of the campus’ Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Building to leave his equipment in his office. He encounters his commanding officer, stands in attention, and salutes; the Major returns the salute.

“Good morning, Major Burris,” expresses González.

“Good morning, Captain González,” Burris returns the favor.

Captain Francisco González’s first duty in the United States Air Force is being a chaplain, a person who provides space for soldiers to exercise religion, but he accepts working as an Instructor in the ROTC.

His busiest days of the week are Tuesday and Thursday, where he must supervise physical training (PT) at 5:30 a.m., be an instructor for Aerospace courses, instruct the leadership labs (LeadLab), fill in paperwork, correct student assignments and tests, and provide mentoring and ethics instructing everywhere in between. The only difference from the other weekdays is that there are neither PTs nor LeadLabs.

“You would think I would have a lot of free time if I work a period of 5:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but in reality, there is always something that keeps me busy,” says González while tidying up his desk full of papers.

And you would think that a person this stressed from a long week of work would use all of his weekend time doing personal stuff or having a blast, yet, he has something different in mind. During his weekends, he uses his time to attend another devotion, being a pastor.

“It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is what keeps a connection between me and the Lord.”

Reverend Francisco González’s duties can vary between counseling, preaching, visiting the sick, providing comfort for the loss of loved ones, and arranging weddings. He is also in charge of a church in San Sebastián, the town where he was born and raised a small part of his life.

“This other time I got out from my ROTC duties at 5:30 p.m. and I had to drive to Ponce to visit someone that just had an open-heart surgery.”

As a pastor, he wears semi-formal clothing with a clerical collar and always shows a happy smile. As you enter his small church, you are filled with greetings from anyone you approach; everyone seems happy to see you. As González enters the church, everyone receives him with gratitude and respect.

Reverend González saying a prayer at the podium of his church.  He has been serving this community for about four years.

Reverend González saying a prayer at the podium of his church. He has been serving this community for about four years.

A few little children sprint towards him and start jumping around. González taps their heads and says: “It’s nice to see you all; you know I love you kids a lot!”

A big grin breaks from the children’s faces.

The session starts with some music and González jams to the beats of the drums; he jumps as high as he can to hit his imaginary drum cymbals as the song concludes.

“I’m not like the other pastors, I have a lot of energy to go around; besides, my crowd prefers this energetic style than a boring, formal one.”

To conclude the ceremony, Jonathan Cintrón, a 25 year old dialysis patient, gave a testimony about his life, and mentioned that González influenced his life. “I’ve known Francisco for about four years now, and I can say that he is a very responsible and committed person to what he loves doing,” said Cintrón, “he has inspired me to become a better person and friend…he has inspired me to live on.”

Mildred Quiñones, one of the founders of that church 15 years before González’s arrival, said that González’s energy has captivated everyone that has entered that church. “Before he came, things were a little bit harder in our church because the last pastor was very formal with his job,” said Quiñones, “Francisco’s inspiring personality gets to the heart of our group, even children and teens.”

Despite the happiness that this group of people has shown, there is some sadness in their hearts because González will be deployed for six months, leaving the pastor position empty until he returns. “Francisco is always there for us, now it’s our turn; he needs us to pray for him as he journeys to South Asia until he returns,” exclaims Cintrón.

González receiving a farewell hug from some of his congregation members.  Jonathan Cintrón suggested that it would be best to give the pastor a warm sendoff before being deployed.

González hopes to make a safe return from his deployment so that he can continue changing the lives of those who need him and wishes to keep his position as instructor in the UPRM.

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