This is a going to be a weekly blog posted on Saturdays on why I served. I hope I am able to bring light as to why “I joined the Army” but more importantly the people who played a huge influence in my life. So the first one is my Grandfather, a World War II veteran.
I do not know if my grandfather enlisted or was drafted. I do know he served in World War II in the European theater as a logistician of some sort. Grandfather did not talk much about the War and he didn’t have to. It was just understood growing up, you really didn’t talk to him about those things unless he wanted to share them with you, which he did with me on a couple of occasions.
The first story he told me was this and occurred sometime after D-Day because they were in France. His commander came up to him and said, “Garcia, take my jeep and go down to that chateau we passed up and get some wine for us.” So PFC Garcia drove the commander’s jeep down to the chateau, found some wine, put them in the crate, placed them on the back of the jeep and drove back to unit. Of course, on the way back, the MPs had set up a checkpoint. So here they see a PFC, driving a commanders jeep, with cases of wine in the back. Someone is having a party. So the MPs questioned him and didn’t believe his story that the commander told him to go get the wine. Right about the time they were going to confiscate the wine, his commander showed up and said, “Hey what are you doing with my wine!?” The MPs were of course confused now and grandfather just smiled. Of course the commander had his wine along with his company.
The second story occurred in either North or South Dakota. Victory over Europe was already celebrated and now his unit was being reassigned to the Pacific Theater. So the unit had a lay over in one of those states and one of his buddies was from that area. He told my grandfather, “Hey Garcia lets go to town and grab a beer before we head out.” Grandfather agreed and off they went. They arrived at a local watering hole, nothing fancy but they served cold beer. PFC Garcia’s friend asked the bartender for two cold beers. The bartender wasn’t smiling because of PFC Garcia. He took one beer out, served it to PFC Garcia’s friend. His friend said, “Hey what gives? We are both in the Army, just got back from Europe and now heading off to Japan. Why can’t you serve my buddy here a beer?” The bartender said, “Because your buddy is Indian and when Indians drink they get mean.” PFC Garcia’s buddy laughs, “He’s no Indian, he’s Mexican!” Bartender said, “Oh well in that case here have a beer!” and served my grandfather a beer.
The last story was much later in life. We were flipping through some old photos of his and there was one when grandfather was in basic training. He was standing tall in his uniform wearing a campaign hat (round brown) and he had a MP chevron on his left arm while around his waist was a belt with a baton stick attached. My wife, Maria, asked, “Papa Nene, were you in the Military Police?” He responded with, “I was whatever they told me to be that day.”
I am named after my grandfather. He is the Junior and I am the third. They skipped a generation but technically, one of his sons is called Daniel Oscar Garcia. But my grandfather doesn’t have a middle name nor do I. We grew up calling him Papa Nene and that is what we did. After the War, I heard stories from the family that Papa Nene worked from sun up to sun down. He worked multiple jobs to keep a roof over the heads of three kids; my dad, my Tia (Aunt) Marta, and my Tio (Uncle) Oscar. Growing up, I knew he worked at The Monitor as a janitor when it was still located on business 83.
He drove on old 1950s 5 window Chevy Blue Truck which he called “la pinchirilla” (I really don’t know a good translation but it’s a term of endearment but I know it’s bad) because that truck drank oil like no ones business. After his retirement from The Monitor he kept working. In the late 70s, 80s and early 90s, you could see that old “Pinchirilla” driving up and down 2nd street (Now Col. Rowe Blvd) as he was out mowing yards. Come summer time, us grandkids would rotate to work with him.
And that is when I learned of the first two stories. I admired the adventure he had and I too had my share of adventures in Kosovo, Iraq and in Afghanistan. But I also learned the value of hard work and to never give up. After work, he would sit outside his house on his stairways and just watch traffic go by. If I was with my mom and we drove by, she would turn the car around and we would drop in for a quick visit.
Papa Nene passed away when I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba back in 1995. He worked every day of his life and that is what I really admired about him. And I attribute this work ethic to his time in the Army and coming home to raise a family. He worked until the good Lord told him it was time to come home at the age of 83 so he can rest. To this day, when I travel down to the valley, I still drive by the old house hoping to catch a glimpse of him.