U.S. Soldier To Be Buried With Full Honors After Dying From Wounds In Iraq 20+ Years Ago

(FiveNation.com)- A soldier who died after sustaining severe wounds while serving in Iraq in 2004 has been laid to rest with the utmost respect accorded to an armed forces member.

According to a report published Wednesday by the Associated Press, Terry Masterson spoke of his friend, the former United States Army Sgt. Joel Gomez. “I learned a lot from Joey, but the thing I learned most was how great the human spirit is,” Masterson said.

Gomez, age 42, passed away earlier this month due to pneumonia and kidney disease complications. The horrific injury the former soldier sustained while fighting in Iraq nearly two decades ago left him with quadriplegia. He had been living with the condition ever since.

In 2004, while on a combat mission to capture enemy soldiers who had been firing on his base, the armored vehicle in which Gomez was riding plunged into the Tigris River, which resulted in the Illinois native breaking his spine in two places. The mission’s objective was to capture enemy soldiers firing on his base.

Despite suffering severe injuries, Gomez kept his sense of humor and drove to keep learning, according to family and friends who spoke during a prayer ceremony held for Gomez on Monday.

However, Gomez spent his last days wishing he could return to the accessible home built for him by the community of Wheaton, Illinois, where he grew up. He also asked for his longtime caretaker, Elva Cuahquentzi, who was forced to return to Mexico after encountering immigration issues and could not return to the United States. Gomez passed away on April 15, 2018.

Gomez moved into a nursing facility not long after Cuahquentzi left, and it was there that he swiftly contracted pneumonia, the illness that ultimately led to his passing. On Tuesday, his funeral and burial took place in the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.