Local veterans talk about military service while remembering their Hispanic heritage

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From world wars to current conflicts, Americans have always stood strong, serving in the United States military.

According to Pew Research Center statistics released in 2017, both the country and the U.S. military have become more ethnically diverse. Minorities making up 40 percent of the defense department active-duty in 2015, up from 25 percent in 1990.

As sons of American immigrants, Jorge (George) Sandoval and Hesuardo Garcia grew up dreaming about serving in the United States military.

Hesduardo Garcia says, ” Seeing that uniform on TV how cool it looked, to be honest. Always something I wanted to be.”

Jorge Sandoval says, “It’s always been that goal of mine to be in the military.”

Both men enlisted in the Army Reserves. Sandoval as a California teenager, Garcia, a Storm Lake, and Iowa Central graduate, was the only one to make it.

Sandoval says, ” I couldn’t join right out of high school because they said I had too flat feet. I have flat feet. It broke my heart.” But he wasn’t deterred.

Sandoval says, “I still had that dream, a personal goal.” So at age 30, and transplanted in Storm Lake, Sandoval enlisted and was accepted.

“They said what do you want to do. I said infantry. They said are you sure? Yes, I am sure. I was the oldest one out of that whole group and of course, they called me grampa,” said Sandoval.

Along with more than a million other Hispanics and Latinos in the armed forces, the two men have combined on 22 years in the Army Reserves. Both the first in their family to join the military.

Garcia says, “Coming from Mexican parents and being really proud of being here and serving, doing something for this country feels good. These are all the medals I earned when I was overseas. That’s why I joined the military, to give something back and to show I’m thankful for being here.”

Sandoval says, ” The family was against it. Very against it. Why am I going to go fight a war that’s not ours? Ya know what? It is ours. For one I am a citizen, I was born here.”

Garcia, a fueling specialist with Sioux City’s 960th Quartermaster Company, helped train the Iraqi people. He says, “At the time we also taught the Iraqi Army how to be independent in a sense. Adding, Thank God, never had to face the situation that I’ve had to be in a combat situation.”

Sandoval was on the ground in Afghanistan as part of Storm Lake’s 334th Brigade Support Battalion. His parent’s worst nightmare nearly coming true.

Sandoval says, ” Ten Oclock in the morning we hit an IED. A pretty big one. It took us out pretty good. I was the gunner and got injured and I was hurt pretty bad.”

Sandoval received a Purple Heart and returned to duty only to have a knee injury end his service with a medical discharge.

Garcia remains active, but newly married he says his time in the reserves may be ending. He knows he’s not the last member of the Garcia family to serve.

Garcia says, ” My little brother did join so I know that I am starting something. My family, it keeps going generation to generation.

It’s patriotism and love for America both men say they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.

Garcia says, “I take pride in what I did over there. It’s something that really makes me feel a part of something big.” Sandoval says, ” It’s a good sense of pride. Wearing that uniform it’s the proudest thing I’ve ever done.”

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