Recalling the Life of Army Spc. Adam Garcia

A combat engineer with the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, Spc. Adam Garcia, died in Iraq over the Memorial Day weekend. From member station KERA in Dallas, Catherine Cuellar has this remembrance.

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Texas is second only to California in the number of casualties during the Iraq War. Among those is Adam Garcia, a 20-year-old Army combat engineer, who was buried at Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery earlier this month.

From member station KERA, Catherine Cuellar has this remembrance.

CATHERINE CUELLAR reporting:

After Adam Garcia's father, Joe, retired from the El Paso Police Department, his family moved ten years ago to Irving, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Young Adam followed the football team in training, literally, riding his BMX bike behind them as they ran in his neighborhood.

He also started playing trombone in marching band during middle school, where he met his three closest friends, Brian Hecht(ph), Chris Flowers(ph), and Chandler Alstrin(ph). Chandler's mom, Jan Alstrin Bowman(ph), has a photo album at her desk filled with images of Adam, from a round-faced boy...

Ms. JAN ALSTRIN BOWMAN: There's one of their slumber parties. There's Adam on the couch. This is them being silly in the car.

CUELLAR: ...to a trim young man in uniform.

Ms. ALSTRIN BOWMAN: I had started a tradition. When we went to Adam's boot camp graduation, I put all four of them on the stairs and took their picture. So when Adam came home on leave, we were over at Adam's house, and I made them do the same thing and they were in the exact same order.

CUELLAR: During high school, Adam babysat Blake Cunningham's(ph) daughter, who was the same age as Adam's little sister, Danielle. He also house-sat when the Cunningham's went out of town. Cunningham, an Air Force veteran and Irving police officer, says Garcia was always responsible and had new focus after 9/11.

Mr. BLAKE CUNNINGHAM: I think he probably joined the military, almost for the same reasons I joined the military: because I couldn't get a job as a police officer until I turned 21. You can go in as early as 18 and get good police training with the military. Adam decided, I think, that's what he wanted to do, which took a lot of courage because in a time of war and joining the military -that's a very, very serious thing. I think it was the path he felt drawn towards. I think he had, just an inner direction that sent him towards service.

CUELLAR: Garcia was considered a well-rounded student at Coppell High School. In a corner booth at the local Dairy Queen, his chemistry teacher and mentor, Kelly Hayes(ph), says they kept in touch after his graduation.

Mr. KELLY HAYES (Teacher, Coppell High School): He gave me a hand-written letter when he graduated, just thanking me for getting to know them, for being there for him. And one of the last things he said in that letter was, I hope I made you proud about the career choice that I made going into the military. Of course, I keep that framed, and I do know that he was going to reenlist this go-round, and he was excited about that.

CUELLAR: One reason Garcia wanted to reenlist was to serve as a military police officer. Awaiting that assignment, and envisioning future work with a S.W.A.T. team, he worked as a combat engineer. After Garcia was shot in May, his father Joe remembered a poem Adam had written for a class assignment three years ago.

Mr. JOE GARCIA: (Reading) "He stands alone in the shadow of fear. He is leaving his friends and his family. The thought of war, in his mind, not so clear, for he has joined the United States Army. And he must believe in himself strongly, because in war, if he fights strong and dies, it will be known that he fought bravely. For death is the one thing he does despise, and if he dies, at home, there his body lies. They will pin his medals upon his chest, and his mom will remember his brown eyes. They will tell her he has done his very best. By facing his fear, his war has been won. Now he can call himself an Army of one."

CUELLAR: Adam's poem was distributed at his funeral, where his high school band mates performed. For NPR News, I'm Catherine Cuellar.

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