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Now and Then

| Community | October 31, 2019

Joe Gomez: Air Force cold war veteran, defense contractor, War on Drugs agent, retired LA. Police officer, Pakistani taxi driver – wait, what? Yes, that undercover role was just one of many identities Joe assumed as part of his service with the military, the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the L.A. Police Department.

Joe’s father, who served his country proudly during the Korea and Vietnam wars, not only passed down his patriotism, but the wisdom and family values of their Comanche Indian philosophy to his son. It is not surprising then, that Joe joined the Air Force right out of high school at the age of 17. He served in the military for 10 years, spending part of those years supporting Intelligence collection operations on Russian Military activities during that country’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Much of his time in the military was spent supporting the United States Intelligence Community, which he parlayed into 10 years of service as a defense contractor after leaving the Air Force. That included work with the Drug Enforcement Agency, as a part of the war on drugs covering the United States border from Florida to Southern California.

While in California, Joe worked out of an unassuming business park, complete with volleyball court in the back of his office. The majority of the work involved investigating cartel money-laundering schemes.

Always eager to explore new avenues of service, Joe left his years of tracking “people, places, and things” related with drug trafficking, to join the Los Angeles Police Department in 1990. During his time with the department he took on a variety of assignments including Vice, Gangs, Traffic, Fugitive Warrants, Narcotics, Rifle and Tactical Shotgun instructor, and Youth Services coordinator.

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“I am especially proud of the work I did with youngsters,” explains Joe. “It’s so rewarding to run into them today and discover that they have become school teachers, police officers, and firemen.”

It is ironic that, after years of service in so many dangerous venues, it was a car accident in 2010 that forced him into retirement from the police department in 2017. The accident not only caused the loss of a lung, but serious injuries to his back and right arm. Joe credits the spinal research methods developed for injured veterans with getting him back on his feet and functioning well enough to pursue his latest venture as owner of the Commando Military Surplus Store on Main Street in Downtown Newhall.

The non-profit store is a labor of love for Joe and his wife Angelica. It serves not only as a place to purchase survival gear, but as a non-threatening environment where returning veterans can assemble and share experiences. The couple purchased the store through their corporation, Tango Down LE, Inc.

“I have always wanted to make a difference and to have my life count for something,” says Joe, “and this is a way for me to continue pursuing those goals. As store owner and co-founder and CEO of Tango Down, I’m learning a whole new science in helping those who have returned from combat, broken and lost. The store and Tango Down give me and Angelica the chance to create a home for vets and a place where they can find resources to help with relationships, drug, and alcohol problems.”

Reaching out to the local veteran community, Joe and Angelica have found a way to augment the services provided by the Veterans Administration. That includes not only putting them in touch with counseling and medical resources, but building handicap accessibility for homes nationwide as well.

The store offers discounts for vets and charities and also donates supplies for areas touched by disasters.

A disabling car accident may have curtailed some of Joe’s physical activities, but he still gets out and runs, just at an easier pace than when he was working out with the LAPD. He is also content to cheer on wife Angelica, who has become a proficient runner in her own right. She will be running in the New York Marathon to raise funds for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Those who wish to support Angelica in her fund-raising efforts or learn more about the Gomez’s veterans outreach, may call (661) 259-7440 or visit the store at 24319 Main Street. There is also a website: donate.java.org/team227692.

Joe and Angelica, who married in 1997, live in Sand Canyon with their 13-year-old daughter, Natalia. In his remarkable life journey, Gomez has played a number of important roles (even being recruited during his years with the police department as an advisor and actor on hit television shows like “24” with Kiefer Sutherland). Nevertheless, he credits family activities and his work with returning Veterans as the most rewarding.

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About Linda Pedersen

Linda Pedersen is a 50-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley. She has alternated being a columnist and feature writer with volunteering in the community.

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