Hector Becerra

07 October 2004

Excerpted from “Mother’s faith battered by death of Marine son / She’s still a believer but no longer talking to God,” by Hector Becerra, published in The Houston Chronicle, August 20, 2003.

LOS ANGELES — There was a time when Rosa Gonzalez could tell several stories about God granting her blessings, and she expected to tell another one about her son coming home from war.

Don’t worry, Rosa wrote to her son, as he prepared in the sands of Kuwait for war in Iraq. God has always pampered me. You will come back.

God, it seemed, had never failed to listen to Rosa. There was the time, years ago, when she stood under a lemon tree in her backyard and asked God to protect her husband, a long-distance trucker, on the road. On that cold night there wasn’t a hint of rain, but lightning flashed and the sky conjured up a warm breeze, sweeping her face.

“I feel you, God. Thank you,” Rosa remembered saying. “Everything is going to be fine.”

But her second child, 20-year-old Jorge, died in battle, leaving Rosa to ask how God could take away her son. It’s a question mothers have always asked in war, and Rosa, 47, is now struggling with her faith, wrestling with God.

She bristled when parents of other soldiers said in television interviews that they knew why their children had returned safely — because of God.

“Didn’t my prayers mean just as much?” she asked.

Since Jorge’s death, she has questioned her government, questioned the motives for the war. She has questioned the wisdom of leaving Mexico for the United States — whether her adopted country betrayed her. The cold shoulder, however, she has saved for God….

…Rosa was raised by her paternal grandmother, whom she called Mama Maria, and her Uncle Miguel. They were attentive and affectionate, but Rosa ached for her mother and father.

She wept for the father she never knew and asked why he had been taken from her.

Mama Maria told her tearful granddaughter that, if she had faith, God would reward her later, that one day she would not be so lonely. The old woman’s words came true.

Rosa eventually left Mexico and met Mario Gonzalez, another Mexican immigrant, in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte. They married.

They had crossed the border as illegal immigrants, but in time he became a citizen and she a legal resident. Their firstborn was Mario, followed only 11 months later, in 1982, by Jorge, the one who would grow into a strapping Marine….

…Jorge’s enlistment in the Marines as a 17-year-old had not seemed a blessing to his mother. He convinced Rosa that the family could never afford college, and she consented to let him enlist, even though she worried that he might die or find himself in a spot where he might kill a child.

When he deployed for war in January, Rosa walked into St. Catherine of Siena Church in Rialto and told God she would dedicate a Mass to her son every day.

On March 23, Rosa and Mario were watching the news when they saw an Iraqi soldier lift a dead American toward the television camera. They were convinced it was Jorge.

Early the next morning, the couple went to church again. When they returned, two Marines were waiting in the living room…

— Sorry, Revealer readers: that’s as much of Hector Becerra’s 1300 word story as we can legally reproduce here. To read the rest, look at The Houston Chronicle’s Aug. 20, 2003 edition.