Johnny Garcia continues to serve Craig, country
Craig resident Johnny Garcia will never forget the battles he fought in Vietnam, and he won’t forget his commitment to serving the American people, either.
“We took an oath, and we said we would serve our community,” he said. “It didn’t just say for three years — it’s a lifetime commitment.”
Enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1967, Garcia said he had no doubts about what he wanted to do for his country. After completing basic training, Garcia was sent to Germany and later the Czechoslovakian border.
But Garcia enlisted to serve and he wanted something more, so he asked his commanding officer how he could get to Vietnam.
“I came in to do something,” he said. “I want to go to Vietnam. That’s where I will be able to do something.”
Sure enough, Garcia found himself in Vietnam a couple weeks later. Despite being trained as a tank mechanic, he served as an infantryman and patrolled the jungles of Southeast Asia.
“I can’t forget any of the battles,” he said. “I can’t forget the people… I can still remember the smell of blood. I can still remember the stench.”
Garcia said he and his comrades lived in a constant state of fear but soldiered on and fought the battles necessary for survival.
“If you wasn’t scared every second you were out there, you wasn’t doing it,” he said. “You just mention battle to any Vietnam veteran and they’d know.”
Upon returning to the United States, Garcia’s reception was less than pleasant. Protestors were awaiting the soldiers, hurling insults and far worse.
“I almost made it into the port, and I got hit with a piss balloon,” he said.
The incident left a lasting impression on Garcia, especially considering the fact that it was likely someone his age — one of his peers — who launched the vile projectile.
“To this day, they tell me forget,” he said. “You don’t forget.”
But, despite the American public’s reaction at the time of his return, Garcia has never turned his back on the people he signed up to serve.
As commander of Craig’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, Garcia is responsible for organizing and coordinating numerous events that Craig’s veterans put on for the community.
Thanks to Craig’s veterans and Garcia’s leadership, the community has a parade on the Fourth of July, services for deceased soldiers on Memorial Day, cookouts with police officers and youth over the summer and much more.
Garcia said the VFW’s success in serving the community comes down to effective leadership and the camaraderie between veterans.
“I have no power whatsoever other than what the members give me,” he said. “I don’t do anything without letting the members know first and they decide.”
Mark Wick, VFW Post 4265 quartermaster, said Garcia has “taken the bull by horns” as commander and exemplifies what a veteran should be.
“Just one of those dependable guys that gets it done,” he said. “He exemplifies what a true veteran should be — he’s active in his community, he’s active in his church, he’s dedicated to his family, he is all the things a veteran should be. He sets the standard.”
John “Johnny Moe” Garcia, Garcia’s son, said he is absolutely proud of his father, especially after getting involved with the VFW’s community service efforts as an auxiliary member.
“He definitely commits a lot of time to it,” he said. “It’s truly an honor to be involved with them, even if it is in a support role.”
Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.
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