Another New Year Upon Us – 2018

Time to Reflect

As the New Year is upon us makes me reflect on the things I dreamed of5k Thompson Park in Memory of SPC. Michael L. Gonzalez for Michael.  I never imagined when Michael was born that one day he would join the military or even fathomed he would die in a war.  As the new year rolls in Michael's 30th birthday is right around the corner January 22.  If things were different maybe I would be a grandmother now and babysitting so Michael and his wife could bring in the New Year.

5k Thompson Park in Memory of SPC. Michael L. Gonzalez

But.... Things are not different life takes paths that no one can explain. Instead we honor Spc Michael L Gonzalez's memory and legacy with fundraisers Dinner/Dance in the spring and a 5K at Thompson Park in the fall to support other veterans that call Michael their Brother in Arms. 2018 will be our 10th Annual dinner dance and our 6th 5K.  All of this can not be done without all of our sponsors , donors and those who continue to support us.  Click HERE to view the companies that sponsored the 2017 5K. With a grateful heart we thank  all of our sponsors, donors, runners and dancers!!!  Wishing all of you the best in 2018!!!!

Organizations we supported in 2017:

Hoof Prints on The Heart:  https://www.hoofprintsontheheart.org/

ARMS :   https://supportarms.org/

Courageous Healers: https://www.courageoushealers.org/

Amazing Grace - Operation Safe Haven: https://opsafehaven.com/

Characters of his life……

The Boy before the Soldier

Photograph by Rob Wilson Photography

Teddy the blanket, Winnie the Pooh, “Go Go” Power Rangers, all things Disney, Ninja Turtles and Doug just to name a few.

His favorite character of all was Teddy the blanket. Michael’s maternal grandmother who died when Michael was 3 years old made the Teddy blanket for his baby shower. They shared so much in 3 short years living next door to us. He would go out in the morning and bang on her door “Mom-Mom let me in.” They ate black olives together and he would read The Fire Engine Book to her. Making all the sounds, “ssssss goes the hoses”. He carried Teddy everywhere with him and needed it to sleep at night. On Monday nights his dad and him would watch MacGyver together and play Toro. Michael pretending to be a bull and his dad the bull fighter with the Teddy.

One memory when his mother and her friend went shopping to a large mall in Pennsylvania. Some how the Teddy got lost in one of the stores. In a panic they backtracked to all the stores. Fortunately it was found on top of a clothes rack.

He finally stopped carrying and sleeping with the Teddy around 11 years old and put it away in a box in his closet by then it was not even worthy to be a rag.

Just as the Teddy comforted Michael all those years it comforted me during his funeral. After the funeral I gave the blanket to Reverend Ribbans to be cremated with Michael. My original dreams for Teddy the blanket was to find one identical and recreated it for my first grandchild's baby shower with the old Teddy tucked inside the gift.  Teddy most certainly was a good comforter for all.

This American flag was draped over Michael's casket during the viewing and funeral service. At the end of the services in Arlington it was handed to his family. It represents the final honor for his dedication to the United States of America and the United States Army. This was the final good bye to Michael.

The Boy before the Soldier

Do They Know……

A Washington Post photographer captured this private moment of Sgt Brian Scott paying respects to Spc Michael Gonzalez on Memorial Day of 2010. When this picture was placed in a Memorial Day article on the Washington Post website it became very public.  The picture has circulated on Facebook post and placed in Meme’s, liked, loved, commented on and shared thousands of times. Good, bad or indifferent makes me smile to see it shared.

Do people read his name on the headstone? If yes, do they Google to see who he was? Do they read the dates of birth and death? Do they understand that Operation Iraqi Freedom means he was KIA in Iraq? Do they know that BSM means Bronze Star Medal and PH means Purple Heart?  Was it noticed that “In God We Trust” is the last line on his headstone?

Why are the words “In God We Trust”

Why are the words “In God We Trust” the last line?  On September 10, 2008 is the day Michael was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. Before the service at his gravesite we were sat down in a cubicle with a notebook of symbols and examples of what we could chose to put on Michael’s headstone. If you can imagine for one moment of the fog we as a family were in at that time. We chose the cross at the top and the rest was the same with BSM and PH spelled out with Purple Heart being the last line. About two weeks after the services in Arlington I had an overwhelming feeling that Michael’s headstone needed to say “In God We Trust”.  Immediately I called Arlington to speak with to the head person to see if I could change the headstone. He said “Ma’am the headstone maybe done already. What did you want it to say?”   I told him and he said he would do the best he can and he did.

The Seal of Honor Facebook Page

The most recent post was on the Seal of Honor Facebook page on September 26, 2017. With the post reading,  “To those who gave the last full measure of devotion, may we endeavor to be worthy of your sacrifice.”

The word “endeavor” stuck out for me what does it mean “endeavor to be worthy” for me it is exactly what Butterfly Circle of Friends has been successful at accomplishing since the founding in October 2008. We strive to honor Michael’s memory by supporting others.  Being part of making the difference in veterans, military and civilians’ lives.

Spc Michael Gonzalez

Memorial Day Reflections…

Michael is laid to rest in Arlington Section 60 8735. Pedro and I do not go to Arlington on Memorial Day to many people for us. So we look for local services. This year we went to Sarasota National Cemetery since I thought their was a service today. But we were two days late and a dollar short. They have these beautiful monuments there and I took pictures of the 3 that struck me the most. Sacrifice, Conflict and Resilience, when I read the words they touched my soul. Sacrifice is what Michael has done. Conflict is the everyday struggle of the emotions that come with grief. Resilience being able to climb out of the darkness and find the fire inside!!

Michael giving his all for others.

Sacrifice - Michael giving his all for others.

Conflict - the everyday struggles of the emotions that come with grief.

Resilience - being able to climb out out of the darkness and find the fire inside!!!

“2016” We Did It!!!

As 2016 comes to an end, Butterfly Circle of Friends is grateful for all of our sponsors, donors, those who attend our fundraisers and our volunteers. This was one of the best giving years yet for BCOF.

Besides helping individual veterans and their families thru out the year. We were able to reach our goal to endow the Spc Michael L Gonzalez Scholarship at Middlesex County College. With all of your help WE DID IT, in April the scholarship was endowed to continue for many years to help veterans and current military personnel.

As our 5K in October approached we discovered Amazing Grace Ministries - Operation Safe Haven, a housing project for homeless and at risk veterans. The new goal was to raise enough funds for a home in memory of Spc Michael L Gonzalez  (The Gonzo Cottage). With all of your help WE DID IT!!

With Much Gratitude Butterfly Circle of Friends, Thanks all of You For Being Part of Keeping Michael's Memory Alive!

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MCC Scholarship Reception, October 27th, 2016. Pictured is Board Members April Kelly and Troy Gonzalez with Albert Coppola the first recipient of the Spc Michael L Gonzalez Scholarship. Albert is currently in the Marine Reserves stationed in NJ. He is pursuing a degree at MCC in Liberal Arts-Physical Education. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors!!!.

gonzogottagesign

Sign to be placed on the home at Operation Safe Haven, Franklinville, NJ

The Gonzo Cottage – Safe Haven Micro Housing for Veterans

The GONZO Cottage

The Gonzo Cottage Safe Haven Micro Housing for Veterans

A beautful 65 acre lake on the property that is loaded with fish.

Thank you to all who attended our 4th Annual 5K in spite of the cold and rainy day. We appreciate your continued support. This year the funds raised at our 5K will be donated to Amazing Grace Ministries towards Operation Safe Haven Micro Housing for Veterans in memory of Michael L. Gonzalez. (The Gonzo Cottage).

Rob Wilson and I visited the Safe Haven property in Franklinville, New Jersey on Friday October 7, 2016. Donnie the founder and Tony the Director gave us the grand tour of the 277 acre property. The property was originally a campground so it is all nature, woods, dirt trails and creeks. There is a 65 acre lake all I can say is serene. The micro housing for the veterans will be set away on 60 acres of the property with the hopes of having 65 homes that are 300 sq feet. All have kitchen, living room, bedroom and a bathroom. There will be campgrounds for family to come and visit.

Amazing visit and the site is awesome they have many ideas implemented already and working hard on their vision. There is already electric and sewer in place. A larger company is going in to help clear some of the campsites and also restore showers and bathrooms. Also providing job placement for the veterans. January 2016 is when they acquired the property with hopes of completing all housing by 2018. All of the veterans who live there will be required to help maintain the property.

There will be counseling, VA services, employment services, educational services and equine therapy. They will have livestock and agriculture. Fresh eggs from chickens I never tried a fresh egg. Donnie was gracious enough to share a dozen with me.

BCOF vetted them before we went to visit the site. When I stepped on the property I knew that it was perfect place for veterans to find their way back into the civilian world. When Rob and I were walking out we talked that it is something we are definitely going to so we went back in and I said “I think I just bought $10,500 eggs” In my heart I know that the “Gonzo Cottage” will be a healing place for many. What an awesome way to honor Michael’s memory.

Click HERE to learn more about this project.

Below are some pictures from our visit. Click on an image to view the gallery.