CAMP HURRICANE POINT, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Friends Miguel A. Bautista and Christopher J. Gonzalez from Dallas chose to take the road less traveled after graduating from North Dallas High School in May 2004.
The two patriotic 19-year-olds enlisted in the Marine Corps and dedicated four years of their lives to serving their country.
A year after raising their right hands and swearing to support and defend, Bautista and Gonzalez find themselves together here as lance corporals supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
“It’s good being here together,” said Gonzalez. “We get to see each other and talk.”
The two became acquainted their junior year of high school and built on their friendship their senior year, said Gonzalez.
“He was in my English class when we were seniors,” he recalled. “We’d play basketball together after school and would hangout on the weekends.”
“I would either be at his house or he would be at mine,” said Bautista. “He’s got a good personality. He’s goofy, smart and outgoing.”
Though they live on the same camp, Gonzalez and Bautista lead entirely different lives. Gonzalez is a food service specialist for Headquarters and Service Company and Bautista is a rifleman with Company A.
Gonzalez spends the majority his day at the mess hall preparing and serving food to hungry infantrymen like his friend Bautista.
“I work a 12-hour shift, and my job isn’t that bad,” said Gonzalez. “Before I came here, though, I heard stories about how bad it was. I’m safe where I’m at, but God bless the Marines who go out the gate and into the city.”
Bautista is one of those Marines.
“I’m the point man for my squad,” said Bautista with 1st Squad, 4th Platoon, Company A. “We’re always on the go.”
Bautista and his fellow infantrymen conduct daily missions in the Al Anbar capital city here to root out the insurgency and restore its infrastructure. As the point man, Bautista is the Marine located in the front of the patrol formation and often the first to make enemy contact.
“He’s brave and has a big heart for a little guy,” said Gonzalez of Bautista, who stands five and a half feet tall and weighs 150 pounds wearing all his protective gear. “He’s an honest friend and will tell me just what he thinks. He speaks his mind.”
The two friends often get together to reminisce about the past and discuss how each other’s day went. Given their different jobs, the meetings are usually brief.
“I talk to him every time I go to the chow hall,” said Bautista.
“We joke a lot and talk about all the crazy things we did in school,” added Gonzalez. “He’s always on the go, so we make the most of it.”
Gonzalez and Bautista arrived here in March. They’re scheduled to leave and return to Camp Pendleton with the infantry battalion in October, which will mark the end of its OIF deployment.