Fort Leavenworth, Kan. -- Sgt. Maj. Antonio Gonzalez, operations director with the Mission Command Training Program, was awarded the Medal of Military Excellence and a President Emeritus Myers coin by Kansas State University in a pre-football game ceremony between K-State and Tulane University at Bill Snyder Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., September 17, 2022.
Gonzalez is a K-State alum and former football player. Coincidently, he played under former K-State coach Bill Snyder, for whom the stadium is named. The university's president, Dr. Richard Linton, presented the awards to Gonzalez to recognize his outstanding Army career.
Snyder, who attended the game, said, "I've been most proud of what Tony has done since leaving K-State and getting invested in the service."
"It just goes along with his nature, wanting to do what is right and provide guidance for his fellow teammates and his country," said Snyder.
After graduating from K-State, Gonzalez enlisted in the Army as an infantryman, a job he said he loved in a recent interview with his alma mater. "I was training out in the woods – patrolling, shooting weapons, fast roping from a helicopter, and loving every second of it."
Later, he decided to challenge himself even further and joined the Army's elite Special Forces, where he found his ultimate calling and never looked back.
His initial expertise and work were in South and Central America. Eventually, he also became intimately familiar with Afghanistan, having spent four tours there.
In 2007, he earned the Silver Star Medal, the military's third highest honor, for defensive actions in Afghanistan against a deadly Taliban attack and for rescuing four Afghan soldiers under enemy fire.
Fast forward years later, Gonzalez has since been promoted to the military's highest enlisted grade and has inspired some of his family members to follow his legacy.
One of his sons is an Afghanistan War veteran. He also has a stepson attending K-State and is a cadet in their Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, training to be an Army officer.
Recognizing the long-term impact his time at K-State had on him, Gonzalez said, "being a football player under Coach Snyder with the discipline that he instilled into me, and the organization, and always thinking ahead helped me greatly during my career."
Undoubtedly, Gonzalez's gutsy willingness to move to the middle of the country from Los Angeles to play at K-State, and then join the military after graduating combined to advance him toward a distinguished and highly decorated career.
"Our military and national government have recognized him in being truly special in that regard," said his old coach, Bill Snyder.