At 21 years old, Roberto Gonzalez was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam, serving for only a few months when he was shot and left paralyzed in 1970.

He spent the rest of his life raising and training horses with his wife, Rosario Gonzalez. He is one of just a few disabled licensed horse trainers in Texas, Rosario told CNN. The horses are Gonzalez’s heart and soul.

For a while, he feared he might have to die without them.

Gonzalez, now 71, was admitted to the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in San Antonio ten months ago for a wound in his back, Fox News reported. But soon afterwards, doctors learned that his liver and kidneys were failing. Month after month, he remained in the hospital.

As Gonzalez’s condition worsened, he told Rosario that he had just one remaining desire: to see his horses again.

The hospital was happy to oblige, as Gonzalez was one of the facility’s first patients when it opened in 1974. Last Saturday, on the 46th anniversary of his injury, Gonzalez got his wish.

After being transported more than 150 miles from Gonzalez’s home in Premont, Tx., the horses, Sugar and Ringo, approached the veteran’s bedside and nuzzled him in turn. Gonzalez’s eyes fluttered open, his mouth remained slightly ajar. His family and horses surrounded him as his body’s rhythms slowed.

Gonzalez’s current condition is not known, but Rosario said the reunion was a gift.

“Horses are his life…When the horse came up to him he actually opened his eyes,” Rosario told reporters. “They came up to him and I think they were actually kissing him.”

She told KSAT that Gonzalez “never let his injuries slow him down. He loved ranching and farming. He was proud to serve his country.”

On its Facebook page, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System called Gonzalez “a great American and Audie L. Murphy icon.”

“[The doctors] are not very optimistic,” Rosario told KSAT. “But we never give up hope. We have faith, so we put everything in God’s hands.”

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