Iraq War 1
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To My Dearest Family
Some things I'd like to say,
but first of all to let you know
that I arrived okay
I'm writing this from Heaven
where I dwell with God above
where there's no more tears
or sadness there
is just eternal love
Please do not be unhappy
just because I'm out of sight
remember that I'm with you
every morning, noon and night
That day I had to leave you
when my life on Earth was through
God picked me up and hugged me
and He said I welcome you
It's good to have you back again
you were missed while you were gone
as for your dearest family
they'll be here later on
I need you here so badly
as part of My big plan
there's so much that we have to do
to help our mortal man
Then God gave me a list of things
He wished for me to do
and foremost on that list of mine
is to watch and care for you
And I will be beside you
every day and week and year
and when you're sad
I'm standing there
to wipe away the tear
And when you lie in bed at night
the days chores put to flight
God and I are closest to you
in the middle of the night
When you think of my life on Earth
and all those loving years
because you're only human
they are bound to bring you tears
But do not be afraid to cry
it does relieve the pain
remember there would be no flowers
unless there was some rain
I wish that I could tell you
of all that God has planned
but if I were to tell you
you wouldn't understand
But one thing is for certain
though my life on Earth is o're
I am closer to you now
than I ever was before
And to my very many friends
trust God knows what is best
I'm still not far away from you
I'm just beyond the crest
There are rocky roads ahead of you
and many hills to climb
but together we can do it
taking one day at a time
It was always my philosophy
and I'd like it for you too
that as you give unto the World
so the World will give to you
If you can help somebody
who is in sorrow or in pain
then you can say to God at night
my day was not in vain
And now I am contented
that my life it was worthwhile
knowing as I passed along the way
I made somebody smile
So if you meet somebody
who is down and feeling low
just lend a hand to pick him up
as on your way you go
When you are walking
down the street
and you've got me on your mind
I'm walking in your footsteps
only half a step behind
And when you feel the gentle breeze
or the wind upon your face
that's me giving you a great big hug
or just a soft embrace
And when it's time for you to go
from that body to be free
remember you're not going
you are coming here to me
And I will always love you
from that land way up above
Will be in touch again soon
P.S. God sends His Love
While serving as a Rifleman for 2nd squad, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Private First Class Juan G. Garza was killed in action on April 8, 2003 while engaged in offensive combat operations against Iraqi enemy forces in the city of Hasan al Hamzah, Iraq while on a mission to secure the near side of a bridge in order to allow follow-on forces from the 5th Marine Regiment to enter into Baghdad.
While fighting from an entrenched position in a small enemy stronghold which had just been secured by 2nd squad, PFC Garza moved from a covered position, exposing himself to enemy machine gun and sniper fire, in order to gain a vantage point from which to engage the enemy. While acquiring targets, PFC Garza was struck from behind and fatally wounded by a bullet from an unknown location.
You are gone my Brother, but not forgotten.
Your Squad Leader,
Sergeant Lott, Zachary D.
To tell the story of Pfc. Juan G. Garza, killed by enemy fire near Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, three Marines offer their thoughts on the events of that fateful morning of April 8, and the void Garza left.
The father figure in the Marine infantry squad is usually the squad leader. He is known for giving guidance to his Marines, whether it is about the Marine Corps or life.
Sgt. Zachary D. Lott, squad leader with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, played that role for Garza.
"From day one I was Garza's squad leader," said the 21-year-old. "He was one of the most motivated and loyal Marines I ever met."
Marines might have a reputation for being the toughest and strongest, but according to Lott what was strongest about Garza was inside him. "He had a huge heart," said the Salt Lake City native. "He wasn't the biggest kid, he had skinny arms, but he would put up a fight with the biggest guy.
"When you were around him, you could call his name and he would be ready to do anything."
From the seat of a Humvee, Lott explains what he saw on the morning of April 8.
"The mission was to secure the near side of the bridge near Hassan Al Haza so forces with 5th Marines could safely move across the bridge," said Lott. "We where shooting at people 180 degrees around us. Garza was in a fighting hole near us. He lifted himself up to see where the rest of the squad was firing from and a sniper shot him from the back."
There was no scream from Garza, there was no panic.
"When he got shot he grabbed his chest and quietly said, 'I'm hit," said Lott.
According to Lott, the squad was still faced with the uncertainty that there were enemy in the area and the squad wasn't about to let its guard down.
"For the first couple of days everybody was in the fighting mindset," said Lott. "Then [his death] hit us real hard.
"We had a memorial service for him and that brought some closure," said Lott.
What he remembers most about Garza is that he was always talking about his wife. Always the father figure, Lott, who has been married for two years, gave Garza pointers on his own marriage.
Within the family of a Marine infantry squad, team members rely on each other as brothers. Lance Cpl. Charles W. King, saw-gunner with 1st Bn., 4th Marines, played that role in the fighting hole where the shooting happened.
"We volunteered to be in the fighting hole for security for everything behind us," said the 19-year-old from Greensboro, N.C. "We just volunteered, we never knew why at the time."
As the shooting around the Marines started, and before Garza made the fateful gesture of looking over the fighting hole, the rush of being in battle began to take over the squad. Looking back on that day, King knows why they raised their hands.
"We volunteered because our adrenalin was pumping. If staff sergeant says he needs two volunteers and you are the two closest, you volunteer whether you like it or not."
When the bullets started flying, Garza inspired the other Marines.
"As soon as his adrenalin pumped in, he was wired," said King. "He was a scrapper. When we were in that sand-bagged bunker, we never really felt threatened," he said. "He was always looking out for me."
King remembers Garza talking about is his relationship with his mother, and how he'd been trying to contact her over the years. "He moved out of his house and moved to Michigan with his aunt and uncle," said King. "He lost contact with his mom, and would always talk about how his wife found her."
While in Iraq, he learned that his wife had made contact with his mother. It was apparent to those around him that, in his heart, he was reunited with her, however he would not get the chance to see her again.
Perhaps the most important person in Garza's military family is Pfc. Cesar Gonzalez, rifleman with 1st Bn. 4th Marines.
Marines are well known for their camaraderie, and the friendship between Garza and Gonzalez was a close one.
Neither would know the impact of each other's friendship when they met at the School of Infantry in Camp Pendleton, Calif. According to Gonzalez, they slept in bunks next to each other and pretty much kept to themselves, until Garza introduced himself one day.
"We didn't have anyone to talk to," said Gonzalez. "He would call his wife and I would listen to music."
Garza would tell his friend about his childhood - how his mom left him at the age of 13, and how he lived on the streets. He talked about how his aunt and uncle put him through military school. He spoke to him about how he missed his mother and he vowed to see her again.
His promises exemplified his values.
"He said if he ever had kids he would never leave them," said Gonzalez.
This partnership would follow them through to their first duty assignment, known in the Marine Corps as "the fleet."
"Once we got to the fleet, we had to stick with whom we knew," said the 19-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas. "If there was a working party, we would both be on it."
According to Gonzalez, the two would meet everyday after their final unit formation and on the weekends. They would prove inseparable, confiding in each other their failings and accomplishments.
When the orders to head for Iraq came, it caught them both off guard.
"We both thought, "we are really going to do this," said Gonzalez. When we got in [the fleet] we thought, "maybe in a couple of years, but not after five months."
The unit would embark on a journey that would liberate a country, but at a heavy price.
Gonzalez remembers how close he was to being next to his best friend during Garza's last day alive.
"When I saw him in the fighting hole, I asked if I could go over there and be with him," said Gonzalez. "Sergeant Lott told me, 'yeah go ahead.'"
As it turned out, fate intervened and left Gonzalez to watch it unfold. "I started to get up and go and then Sergeant Lott said, 'no you would be safer here'." Said Gonzalez.
"Ten minutes later, Garza got shot," he said.
"How can I go home and not bring my friend home with me," Gonzalez asked. "How is his wife going to feel?"
Remembering Garza, his best friend summed up his thoughts on him. "He was actually like my brother," said Gonzalez. "My other brothers are in college and I don't get to see them much. He was like another brother."
Even more, Gonzalez looked for a higher power to explain the impact that Garza would have on him.
"It was more like God made Garza my best friend in the whole world."