15 February 2005:
Special Forces GI dies of illness after Iraq visit
Courtesy of the Tucson Citizen
It is one death, but many losses.
Tucson lost a native, Salpointe Catholic High School lost a star of its class of '94, the Air Force Academy lost an alumnus and the Third Battalion of the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, lost a leader shortly before it deploys to Iraq.
The family of U.S. Army Captain Gilbert A. Munoz lost what one relative called its “center of the circle.”
Munoz died last week of a staph infection, two weeks after returning from Iraq and two days after his first wedding anniversary. He was 29.
He will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Arlington special guard unit he served with four years ago will take part in the burial.
His wife, Emily, remembered yesterday what she had, more than what she now must do without, as she pushes on with her life in North Carolina.
“I feel like I lost so much,” she said. “But it's so hard to feel anything except thankful for such an incredible individual to have been in my life.”
Munoz was set to lead a Special Forces team into Iraq to help train Iraqis to take over security of their country, necessary before the withdrawal of the American military, his wife said.
He left in January for a short scouting mission of the location where he would lead his men and returned home January 28, 2005.
On February 6, 2005, he went into the hospital with flulike symptoms and three days later was dead, his wife said.
Now his troops have taken on a new mission, helping the Munoz family coordinate his memorial service today and burial Tuesday. His mother, father, and two sisters in Tucson flew to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, yesterday.
Emily Munoz said his soldiers' reaction underscored what her husband was all about: a natural leader who set an example contrary to ruthlessness.
“Machiavelli would have been absolutely stumped by someone who could have inspired so much respect and such love and such military bearing just because he expected it from himself,” she said.
His mother and sisters took to North Carolina rosary beads, said Munoz's brother-in-law, Brian Imblum.
The beads are for the funeral and are similar to ones Munoz's mother, Mary, prayed with every day for her son's safety.
“He was the center of the circle,” Imblum said. “There were always a bunch of his awards and pictures up in the house.”
Tucson neighbors remember Munoz as the kind of kid who did things kids don't often do.
“He would come all the time and ask us for permission to have some friends over for a party,” said Margarita Hoyos, 65, who has lived next to Munoz's family, near West Broadway and Greasewood Road, for the past 15 years.
15 February 2005:
A Special Forces Captain from Tucson died of a bacterial infection last week after he returned to Fort Bragg from a pre-deployment site survey overseas, officials said.
Captain Gilbert A. Munoz, 29, a detachment commander assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, died at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville of systemic organ failure at 5:45 p.m. last Wednesday, the Army Special Operations Command said.
Spokesman Major Rob Gowan said Munoz recently went on a site survey to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. Officials would not say specifically where Munoz had been, but Central Command is running operations in and around Iraq and Afghanistan.
Munoz “sought medical attention after he returned,” he said. “(We're) not sure if he was feeling ill while deployed.”
Gowan said it was unclear how Munoz contracted the infection.
Munoz was admitted to Womack Army Medical Center on February 7, 2005, with flu-like symptoms. He was transferred to Cape Fear for dialysis the day of his death.
The cause of his illness has yet to be determined.
Gowan said pre-deployment site surveys are a routine way of checking out an area where a unit is scheduled to deploy. He said normally about a dozen soldiers will go on such missions.
Munoz, a native of Tucson, Ariz., was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant after graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1998. He began Special Forces training in 2002.
Munoz is survived by his wife, Emily.
16 February 2005:
The Army is investigating how an elite Special Forces detachment commander from Tucson contracted a bacterial infection and died.
“I would say within Special Forces command here, that's very rare,” said Major Rob Gowan, a Special Forces spokesman. “In fact, I can't think of any case in recent history.”
Captain Gilbert A. Munoz, a 29-year-old native of Tucson, returned from a mission overseas on January 29, 2005. Family members said he'd been in Iraq.
He felt ill February 6, 2005, at his base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and sought medical treatment for flulike symptoms on February 7 at Womack Army Medical Center.
His condition deteriorated with systemic organ failure. Last Wednesday he was moved to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for kidney dialysis. He died there that day.
An autopsy disclosed he died of pneumonia stemming from an unidentified bacterial infection, Gowan said Tuesday.
Army officials said they weren't sure whether Munoz felt ill while he was on a mission known as a pre-deployment site survey. Typically, that involves three to 12 soldiers who go into an area to check it out in advance of other soldiers.
Officials would not specify where Munoz had been deployed, other than that he was in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. That includes Iraq, where a cousin said he had been deployed recently after training troops in Colombia.
“The logical conclusion is he would pick up something foreign overseas, but we don't know and we can't answer that,” Gowan said.
Army officials are awaiting lab test results to determine the cause of Munoz's illness. He is believed to have received excellent medical care at both medical centers, Gowan said.
Munoz is survived by his parents, Gilbert C. and Mary V. Munoz of Tucson, and by his wife, Emily.
“Tuesday was their one-year wedding anniversary. And then on Wednesday he died,” said Connie Catalano, a cousin.
“He was a beautiful person, a very religious person,” she said. “He would tell his troops, ‘You have to go to church today,' and he would take them all to Mass.”
Munoz graduated from Tucson's Salpointe Catholic High School in 1993.
In 1998, he earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
Munoz did a tour in Korea and spent two years with the 3rd U.S. Infantry before he began Special Forces training in November 2003.
At Fort Bragg, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.
His decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
A memorial service was to be held today at Fort Bragg.
16 February 2005
Wife says cause of Special Forces soldier's death a mystery
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina – A Special Forces officer who died last week from pneumonia felt ill after returning from a trip to Iraq and had a weakened immune system that couldn't fight the bacterial infection, his wife said.
Captain Gilbert A. Munoz, 29, was a detachment commander assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. He died February 9, 2005, of pneumonia, according to an autopsy report.
Pathology reports aren't complete and it is a mystery for now why her husband's immune system was compromised, Emily Munoz said Tuesday.
Munoz said her husband began feeling sick February 4, 2005, a week after he returned from a short deployment to Iraq.
“He was feeling fine when he left,” Emily Munoz said. “He was feeling fine when he returned.”
Munoz said her husband first experienced chest pain and pressure. He had a fever the following day and went to Womack Army Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with bronchitis.
Gilbert Munoz was admitted to Womack on February 7, 2005, after he coughed up blood and had trouble breathing. He was transferred to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center for dialysis treatment on February 9 and was pronounced dead after organ failure that day at 5:45 p.m.
Emily Munoz said her husband's immune system was “completely destroyed,” but credited Army doctors with trying everything they could to save him.
“Why did he have no immune system?” she asked. “I don't know. No one seems to know.”
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Munoz was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant after graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1998. Emily Munoz said he chose the Army because “there wasn't enough mud” in the Air Force.
Following duty in Korea and the 3rd U.S. Infantry at Fort Myer, Virginia, Munoz was selected for Special Forces training in mid-2002. They were married last year.
Emily Munoz said her husband always wanted to be in the Special Forces and was looking forward to going to Iraq because he hadn't been there.
The 7th Special Forces Group scheduled a private memorial service Wednesday at 2 p.m. He will be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, his wife said.
MUNOZ, GILBERT ANTHONY
- CPT US ARMY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 08/03/1975
- DATE OF DEATH: 02/09/2005
- BURIED AT: SECTION 66 SITE 2673
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard