While the tragedies of the war in Iraq have touched the lives of many in Ennis, there is hope, stories of homecoming and blessings to be counted.
One of those stories played out Saturday as the community welcomed home Capt. Jonathan Goza from his latest tour of duty in Iraq.
The event, attended by U.S. Congressman Joe Barton, local civic leaders, family and friends was held at La Galleria.
“From the day we heard the Gozas’ story we wanted to do whatever we could to help them welcome home their loved one,” said Isabelle Tant, co-owner of La Galleria with her husband, Bob. “Unfortunately, most of the stories we hear about concerning the war involve the loss of someone’s family member, so we were excited and honored to help share a message of hope to other families with loved ones serving their country. We started planning the event months ago, and I was on pins and needles because you just never know how things will turn out but Tracy’s faith was unwavering that her husband would come home so it has been our pleasure to be part of that celebration,” Isabelle said.
As part of the homecoming, the Tants presented the Gozas with a special, surprise gift.
“The first day I walked in to La Galleria, I saw a painting of the inn in Corsicana that our families stayed at the last time Jonathan was home on leave and I shared that story with Isabelle,” Tracy said. “So to receive it as a gift from them means the world to us. They have been very generous with all their help and support and we are thankful for them.”
For the Gozas, the celebration marks the end of a military career and the beginning of the next stage of their lives, but they know not everyone is as fortunate as they are.
In a message given by Barton, the standing room only crowd was reminded that while they celebrated the safe return of Goza, another young man with Ennis ties was being laid to rest for his sacrifice to the country.
“It is a much more pleasant occasion we are gathered here today for. While we welcome and give thanks for Capt. Goza and his commitment to his country, we are saddened for the family of Sgt. Chad Domino who was laid to rest today in Longview and the families of the other three soldiers from Ennis who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Barton said.
For Goza, the celebration of his return was both joyous and overwhelming.
“It is pretty amazing and I definitely did not expect such a large crowd or anything like this,” Goza said. “The people of Ennis have been very good to us since we moved here in 2004. Not all small towns are like this, Tracy and I feel fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community.”
Tracy said she could not have survived being on her own without the support and understanding she has received from the community.
“The duration of his tour was as good as it could have been for me. The first three months were really difficult as I adjusted to not having him with me,” she said. “You don’t realize how difficult it will be without them until you have to fend for yourself. The one thing that helped ease my mind was that I knew if I needed anything, the community was there to help me.
“It made a difficult time a little less tense and we are very grateful to our neighbors, church, work colleagues and families for all their help,” she said. “We realize that not all families get to celebrate like ours and we are thankful.”
As part of the celebration, Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas read a proclamation declaring June 9 as Jonathan Goza Day.