Friday, August 01, 2008

Army Pvt. Jair DeJesus Garcia

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pvt. Jair DeJesus Garcia, 29, of Chatsworth, Calif.

Pvt. Garcia was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Aug. 1, 2008 in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan, from wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed were 2nd Lt. Michael R. Girdano, Spc. William J. Mulvihill and Pfc. David J. Badie.

PORTER RANCH - Maria Luisa Avneri got a call early Friday from her son, U.S. Army Pvt. Jair De Jesus Garcia, stationed in Afghanistan.

"I'm OK, just going on a little mission now," the 29-year-old soldier told his mother. "So if you don't hear from me for a couple of days, don't worry, I'll be back."

That night, her heart filled with joy when she spotted a man in a green uniform walking toward her house.

Was it Jair? Was his "little mission" a surprise trip home to visit mom?

Hardly able to contain her excitement, she called to her husband to come to the door.

Just then, another soldier stepped into view. Within an instant, she no longer wanted to open the door.

"I knew what they were coming to say," Avneri said.

There was an explosion, they told her, and her youngest son was dead.

Jair Garcia was killed Friday by a roadside bomb in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan, along with three other soldiers.

On Tuesday, relatives remembered Garcia - who leaves behind a wife and a 9-year-old son - as a proud soldier and loving father who would do anything to please those he cared for.

"He really believed in what he was doing as far as being in the military," said 31-year-old Eddie Garcia, one of his three siblings. "We were very supportive of him. We understood that this is what made him the happiest."

"You couldn't be around him without laughing," his mother said. "He was always volunteering."

Garcia, a Birmingham High School grad, had told relatives he was upset about the state of the world and felt he had to do something about it. So he joined the Army last fall. In June, he left for Afghanistan.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags flown at half-staff over the state Capitol on Tuesday to specifically honor Garcia.

"Jair De Jesus was a brave soldier who fought courageously in defense of our nation's freedom. His sacrifice, service and loyalty to our country will never be forgotten," Schwarzenegger said.

`He loved the kids'

In the Army, Garcia was happy. Even though family members had tried to talk him out of enlisting last year, his enthusiasm infected them.

"You should have seen his face. And you could see it on his pictures if you could only see them," Avneri said. "He was very, very proud of what he was doing."

He always had a talent for reading people and relating to them.

Named after a Brazilian soccer star from the 1960s, Garcia was once an assistant soccer coach at Fulton College Preparatory in Van Nuys, said Eddie Garcia, who also coached the team.

He believed in the kids, and did everything he could to mentor them and keep them on a positive path. When he was with them, his brother said, he was able to fit in as one of the guys.

"The kids loved him, he loved the kids," he said. "The guys had a lot of respect for him, aside from being in the military. He had a lot of friends."

On Tuesday, the kids on the soccer team hadn't been informed that Garcia had been killed in action. A few are going to take it especially hard, Eddie Garcia said.

Soldier was close to his family

As a child, Jair Garcia had a keen interest in the arts. He loved opera and played several piano recitals. But when he entered Birmingham High School, he traded the ivory keys for the pigskin and joined the football team.

He and Eddie shared a bedroom for 10 years growing up, along with their most personal secrets and tidbits about each other's girlfriends.

"Him and I had this thing where no matter how upset we were, whenever we left a room, no matter how pissed off or how upset we were, the last thing we would say is we love each other," Eddie Garcia said. "That's just how he was, with everybody."

Garcia was always close to his family and made it a point to visit every Sunday until he shipped out.

His family has pulled together over the loss. In addition to his son, wife, mother and brother Eddie, Jair is survived by his father, his sister, and another brother.

Jair Garcia's son is too young to fully understand the concept of death, Eddie Garcia said.

The boy asked his grandmother if there's sushi in heaven, because his dad loved it. She told him there's all-you-can-eat sushi up there.

His mother reflected on her youngest son's childhood, when she took him to his first opera: "Madame Butterfly."

"He saw the part when the son is taken away from the mother, and he started crying," she said. "He was a beautiful baby. He'll always be a beautiful baby to me."

Army Pvt. Jair DeJesus Garcia was killed in action on 8/1/08.

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