Garcias proudly display family’s military heroes on ‘Wall of Honor’
Isabella-area resident Gary Garcia feels honored to be part of a red-white-and-blue family that includes at least 26 members – children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and in-laws – who have served in the military. In the home he and wife Jan built last year on County Road 829, pictures of the family heroes are proudly grouped in a Wall of Honor display he built last year with the help of neighbor Michael Timbel.
Gary and his four brothers comprise the top row of the display: Danny and Don Garcia, who served with the Navy during World War II; Dick, who served in the Navy at the end of the Korean War; Dean, who served in the Army; and Gary, who served with the Navy during the Cold War and Vietnam era.
Beneath Danny Garcia’s photo is his son Danny Jr., Army; and his grandson, Nick, Navy; his son-in-law, Doug Poe, Navy; and Doug’s son-in-law, Steve Slate, Army.
Don, the second of the Garcia brothers displayed on the top row, was a master chief in the Navy whose 30 years in the service ranged from World II through Vietnam. Under his photo are displayed other members of the family who served: Wally Garcia and Danny Anselmi, both Navy sailors who served in the Gulf War; Cory Cochran, Gary and Jan Garcia’s granddaughter’s husband who served in the Marines; and then Jim Thomas, Jan’s oldest brother, who served in the Marines during the Cold War.
Beneath the photo of the third Garcia brother, Dick, are displayed pictures of David Duncan, a former relative and now a friend who served with the Marines in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star “and all kinds of other medals,” Gary said. Then there’s Patrick Moody, the Garcias’ unofficially adopted son, who served with the Army during the Gulf War. Next is nephew Richard Stacey, Army, Gulf War; and Jan’s brother Bob Thomas, Marines, Cold War.
Dean Garcia, who served in the Army, is pictured “in the dirt in Vietnam,” Gary said. Under his photo is a picture of his son, Tony Garcia, Navy; his grandson Mark Garcia, Marines; his granddaughter Rachel Bottazzo, Navy; Jan’s favorite cousin Ron Thomas, Navy; and Jan’s brother Dave Thomas, Marines.
Under Gary’s Navy photo are pictures of his sons Skip (Abraham) Garcia, Navy, and Gary J. T. Garcia, Navy, Gulf War; grandson Joseph Andrew Garcia, Navy, Gulf War; and his great-grandson’s wife Amanda Hardcastle, Army.
The photos on the wall, all beloved family members, are a point of pride for the Garcias. They put the display together last fall. “I thought it would be an honor to all the people in our family who served,” said Gary, whose Navy career included “circling Cuba on a carrier for a while. It was the most sharks I’ve seen in my life.”
The Garcias are Illinois natives who met in high school but weren’t high school sweethearts. “We didn’t get together until after I got out of the Navy,” Gary said. “We met at a bowling alley.”
They’ll celebrate their 52nd anniversary this year.
After the Navy, Gary worked in the Merchant Marines, including as chief engineer on the Illinois River, in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Mississippi River. As Gary’s retirement neared, Jan and her best friend, Vicki Duncan, made a trip to Texas to visit Jan’s mother. At the same time, Gary and Vicki’s husband, David, made a driving tour of the Ozarks, looking for a place they could live on a lake. The Garcias bought their Isabella-area property in 2012 and spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between Isabella and Illinois until they finished their house and moved here permanently last year. The Duncans eventually settled near West Plains.
The Garcias have three children. Tracy Rentfro, the oldest, has two children and lives in Sherman, Texas. She plans to marry Bernie Howe on the Garcias’ property in September. The Garcias’ son Skip Abraham lives in Dennison, Texas. And their son Dr. Gary Garcia lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Cara, and their four children. They also have a stepson, Patrick Moody, whose photo is also included on their Wall of Honor.