More than $180,000 has been raised over the past week for the family of an Army major and his two daughters who died in a car crash over Memorial Day weekend.
Army Maj. Agustin “Augie” Gonzalez, 36, and his daughters died in the crash. He is survived by his wife and two sons, one of them a newborn.
Gonzalez was an infantry officer with four tours in Afghanistan who had just finished a master’s degree at Duke University through the Downing Scholars Program, a competitive education opportunity for mid-level Army officers through West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, Army officials said.
Gonzalez had just celebrated his graduation from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and was on his way to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as part of a new duty assignment when the car crash occurred, according to a GoFundMe page created May 26.
He had been hand-selected to serve as the executive officer for 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson officials said.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Maj. Agustin M. Gonzalez and his two daughters Noelle and Gwendolyn," Col. Monte L. Rone, commander of the Stryker brigade combat team who Gonzalez was slated to work under, said in a statement. "We want to send our heartfelt condolences to the Family and Friends of the Gonzalez family. We will continue to support his family during this tragic time and honor Agustin’s legacy as a father, husband, son, and Soldier in the U.S. Army.”
Gonzalez and his two daughters, Noelle, 6, and Gwen, 2, died when they were heading south on I-65 near Bonnieville, Kentucky, state police told CBS affiliate WKYT, which first reported the news. Gonzalez’s 8-year-old son, Nicholas, was also in the vehicle, but survived, the station reported.
Police said Gonzalez rear-ended a stopped tow truck, which he failed to see was partially in the left lane assisting with a roadside incident, according to WKYT. The driver of the tow truck was not in the vehicle at the time of the collision and was not injured, the station reported.
“All the members of the Sanford community are greatly saddened by the tragic news of the passing of Augie Gonzalez and his two precious daughters," said Judith Kelley, dean of the school, in a Facebook post. "Augie was an exemplary student, deeply engaged with life in our school, and it was with great pride that we congratulated him and his family on his graduation just two weeks ago when he was accompanied by his wife Melissa and their children. Our thoughts go out to his family during this trying time.”
Gonzalez’s wife, Melissa Gonzalez, and their newborn son, Gabriel, were in the air on a flight to Colorado Springs when the accident occurred, the fundraising page stated.
The fundraising initiative was started by friends of the family who knew Melissa through her previous job as an elementary school teacher.
Gonzalez was commissioned into the Army in August 2006 through the ROTC program at Rutgers University, according to his biography on West Point’s CTC website. His first assignment was as a rifle platoon leader with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
After completing the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, Gonzalez took command of Charlie and then Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He also would serve as Delta Company commander at 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
Gonzalez deployed four times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Resolute Support, and once to the Republic of Korea as the commander of a special operations task force, his biography states. Over his career, he received two Bronze Star Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with four combat stars, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Ranger Tab, according to Army records.