When Army Spc. Gabriel “Gabe” David Conde was deployed to Afghanistan, his father, Robert Conde, Jr., cherished his 22-year-old son’s prolific writings that included short stories and poetry. Today, they mean even more than words can express.
On April 30, 2018, while providing cover fire, Gabe was killed in action.
“They chose to support a Green Beret combat mission when he was killed,” the Gold Star father said. “Gabe was excited about it and knew he was going to do some good. When he was killed, he was on top of a roof where he was protecting American and Afghan soldiers. He was calling out enemy positions and providing cover fire as the men were coming. We didn’t realize how critical it was. He could have covered behind the wall, but those men wouldn’t have made it if he hadn’t shot and shot. It was a single shot that got him in the back, and for a year we thought he was shot in the front. He was taken off his feet and fell on his back. The autopsy showed that he was killed by a small caliber sniper or stray shot that missed his body armor and got his jugular and carotid artery, dislocating his vertebrae. He died instantly. He stood there defending so the guys could make it back. He was a good man.”
Robert recently released a collection of his son’s writings in a new book called “And Evil Shall Be Vanquished: A Warrior’s Anthology of Original Poetry and Other Writings,” which also includes his own anecdotes along with those of his wife Donna (Gabe’s mother), and Gabe’s two sisters, Olivia and Priscilla.
While preparing the compilation of Gabe’s writings, although extremely difficult, Robert admits it has helped him along the grief process.
“Before Gabe was killed, I would talk to him often about some of his writings,” he said. “He would email different short stories right up to the time of his death. After he died, I started going through his writings on his computer. It took me about two years to get through them all and put them into an anthology. Some of his writings are almost prophetic in nature and are an interesting look back on his life.”
When Gabe was just a baby, a woman at his parents’ church said to them, “This beautiful boy will become a warrior, but his heart will be soft.” Robert said this was an accurate reflection of his infantryman son.
“He was a great kid and strong willed with a good heart even as a little kid. When Gabe was about 8 or 9 years old, there was a single lady who didn’t have the tools to clean her backyard. I decided to help and Gabe wanted to as well. She came out after we were done and handed him a $5 bill and said he was a hard worker. He said he couldn’t take it ‘because a person shouldn’t get paid to do the right thing.’ Those moments were just awesome.”
The Colorado father would like for combat service members to have the opportunity to read the book.
“I think they would glean a lot more out of it than the average person like me. It’s pretty dark in places when he talks about killing the bad guys, but in person, he was kind and respectful and hopefully that all comes out in the book. Near the end of his life, he felt God was calling him to help combat human trafficking. He was starting a business plan when he was killed,” Robert added.