Faces of Christmas

Be it food, housing or a tank of gas, he helps fellow veterans with a ‘hand up’

Vietnam veteran Bill Gonzalez, a board member with the Central Valley Veterans, carries a box of food to be donated to families in need at the Hospitality House in Fresno.
Vietnam veteran Bill Gonzalez, a board member with the Central Valley Veterans, carries a box of food to be donated to families in need at the Hospitality House in Fresno. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

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Faces of Christmas

The Fresno Bee's 12 Faces of Christmas is a tribute to unsung residents in the central San Joaquin Valley who make it their mission to help year-round.

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The basics: Bill Gonzalez, 67, is a Vietnam War veteran who serves as a board member of Central Valley Veterans. He has two adult children.

What he does: Gonzalez has been active with Central Valley Veterans for nine years, working on providing housing and meals for fellow veterans in need. Gonzalez also helps veterans with dental and medical care.

Why he does it: “It’s rewarding to me to help somebody else,” Gonzalez says, who served in the Vietnam War from 1970 to 1971 as a combat engineer. “Because when I needed help, somebody was there to help me. So it's my turn to pay back. It's not a handout – it’s a hand up.”

The turning point: Gonzalez said after returning from Vietnam he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and was in combat counseling. His counselor asked him to help another veteran get over an addiction. Gonzalez said that helping another aided his efforts to get over his own addictions, and inspired him to serve fellow veterans.

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Vietnam veteran Bill Gonzalez, a board member with the Central Valley Veterans, donates much of his time to the group. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Details, details: Gonzalez coordinates different events for Central Valley veterans, along with helping to put together meals and food boxes to give out to veterans’ families on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2017 Gonzalez was awarded the Red Cross Hero award.

What others say: “He’s got a huge heart for veterans,” said Deb Riordan, board president of Central Valley Veterans. “He continues to give and give back to the veterans in our community. We get calls when veterans get stuck without gas getting to the VA – Bill goes out to help fill their tank. He also helps to keep up the Hospitality House and helps get veterans to live in the property. He’s a hard hard worker with a good heart.”

How you can help: Gonzalez said that people make donations and volunteer. Go to centralvalleyveterans.org for information.

Larry Valenzuela: 559-441-6084, @larryvalwork

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