Sunday, July 15, 2007

Victor Garcia remembered by friend's father

My wife and I met Victor Garcia when we visited our son Jonathan in Tacoma, Wash., in May 2005.

Jonathan was excited because "Garcia" - as Victor was known by his fellow soldiers - was his roommate. They had been at Fort Knox together for boot camp and were part of a selected group after tanker school who were assigned to the Stryker brigade that was being formed for 2nd Infantry.

Victor was a soft-spoken, skinny 20-year-old boy. It struck us then that it was so ironic that here were two guys with such different backgrounds who had become good friends.

Our son was a Kansas kid who went to a rural high school with fewer students in the whole school system than Victor had in his high-school class.

Their friendship continued to grow as others joined their new brigade at Fort Lewis. We remember Jonathan calling us and telling us about Victor being selected to attend language school. He was proud of Victor's ability to master Arabic. They would help each other study and quiz each other over the details they needed to know for their daily work as soldiers.

They loved to tease each other and had a passion for college football. Jonathan cheered for his Kansas State Wildcats and Victor was loyal to his USC Trojans. It wasn't hard to find them on Saturday afternoons in the fall because they would be watching college football with their other Notre Dame and Ohio State friends. Eventually they were able to move off post and into their own apartment, which made their football Saturdays that much bigger with friends coming over for a weekend break from their daily duties.

Jonathan and Victor reminded me of an old married couple when we would call because we would ask a question to Jonathan and he in turn would ask Victor, "Garcia, how many do you think were at that ceremony yesterday?"

"Hey Garcia, do you know how much they wanted for that car?"

"Garcia, how far is it the airport?"

To Jonathan, his best friend always seemed to have the answers.

We were particularly touched when we spent time with them at Fort Lewis just before they deployed. We helped them with their apartment, fed them leftovers from their freezer and hauled out trash so they could get ready for their building manager's final inspection.

Victor shared with us that he was planning to get out of the Army as soon as his enlistment was up. He said he wanted to go back home and go to college. He talked about his family and California with a great deal of affection.

During those few hours, we couldn't help but think about how much the two boys had grown during those two years, not just physically but also mentally. They had turned from post-adolescent boys to grown men with a purpose and a mission in life. They had learned how to work with others and how to achieve greatness through selflessness.

On April 4, the day before they deployed, we had the privilege to be there for Victor's commendation for his service. The company's captain took special time as he shook his hand and congratulated him on completing language school. As we congratulated him after the ceremony, Victor smiled and shrugged his shoulders and made it seem like it was just another day.

I showed photos of Garcia and Jonathan when they first arrived at Fort Lewis. Everyone laughed about how much they had changed and how big they had gotten over the course of 24 months. Suggestions were hinted that their size had more to do with the beer they drank than the food they ate.

It was a beautiful day with lots of sun in Tacoma when Company B shipped out. As we had an opportunity to take pictures and visit with Jonathan, Victor and their fellow soldiers, we noticed a quiet confidence about them. As soldiers gathered rifles, equipment and duffel bags, they were taking care of themselves and one another.

In the midst of this organized chaos with platoons forming up, bags being thrown into trucks and girlfriends kissing their young men goodbye, Victor came over to us just as his platoon was forming up to march off. He stood there with his huge smile and said, "I wanted to tell you both goodbye." We told Victor that we loved him and we both got a huge bear hug from a gentle giant.

Jonathan called us the day after we received word Victor had been killed by a sniper. He told us that they had teased each other last Sunday morning in the latrine as they were shaving and getting ready for their day's mission. Jonathan wept on the phone as he told us, "I wish I had taken the time to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I love him."

We assured Jonathan that Victor knew, but deep down his statement reminded us that no one does a very good job of telling people we care for how much we love them.

Another soldier?

Not to my son, and certainly not to Victor's family.

From the San Bernardino Sun

Related Link:
Victor Garcia remembered

Related Link:
Victor A. Garcia dies 'of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire'