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20-year veteran named 2012 Veterans Parade Grand Marshal
U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jaime Garcia
A 20-year war veteran — U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jaime Garcia — has been named the 2012 Porterville Veterans Day grand marshal.
Garcia, a member of the VFW, served more than 20 years in the armed forces after joining the U.S. Navy in 1964.
Originally nominated by his nephew, Richard Villareal, Garcia learned he had been chosen for the honor about three weeks ago.
“He had told me quite some time ago that he was going to nominate me and I really didn’t pay much attention to it,” Garcia said. “There are so many veterans. I never really considered the possibility of being picked.”
But then his nephew called him to give him the good news.
“He called me up about three weeks ago and said, ‘Uncle Jaime, guess what? You’re going to be the next grand marshal,’” Garcia said. “I didn’t know what to say. I was very grateful but surprised. I will give it my best shot in representing Porterville veterans.”
Villareal said he admires his uncle for the years of dedication he committed to the Navy, calling him a wonderful representation for the town of Porterville.
But the representation comes at a heavy price, Garcia said, as he talked about the Vietnam war.
“I know a lot of guys who served in Vietnam and a lot of guys who got killed in Vietnam — almost every one I went to high school with ended up in Vietnam,” Garcia said.
Garcia joined the U.S. Navy in 1964 with friend George Silva through the Navy’s “Buddy System” — a program that allowed them to attend boot camp together in San Diego.
“I was the one who enlisted them,” said U.S. Navy Chief Jim Davison. “I was real proud of him. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen back then and had graduated from high school in Mexico but didn’t feel he had enough education so he went to Porterville High School for another four years.”
Davison said he remembers needing to file additional paperwork for Garcia.
“I was real proud that he would try to advance himself so I wanted to do everything I could,” Davison said. “And once he got in, he never got out until he retired.”
His adventures took him from recruit training in San Diego to engineman school in Great Lakes, Ill. before joining a Pacific Fleet to Guam from 1964 to 1966. After amphibious training on Mare Island in Vallejo in 1966 to 67, he headed to Treasure Island in San Francisco before heading out to Qui Niian Republic of Vietnam on Oct. 2, in 1968. Staying in Vietnam through 1970, Garcia reenlisted on June 1, 1970 in Saigon and continued in Vietnam through August 1971. A brief stint in Fort Bliss, Texas followed before returning to San Diego and reenlisting and serving on the USS Juneau and USS Kitty Hawk. Garcia was also assigned to Special Boat Unit 13.
Garcia said he joined the Navy because of the draft. Had he not joined, Garcia said, he would have been drafted into the U.S. Army and he liked the idea of the professional training offered by the Navy. It was the right decision, he said, and something he was able to use after he retired from the U.S. Navy when he worked for the U.S. Border Patrol from 1997 to 2005. An injury forced him into a second retirement.
“He is the perfect person to be grand marshal. He is good to his family, to the United States, to America and to the U.S. Navy,” Jamison said. “I can’t think of a person more deserving. You will find many just as deserving but no one better. He loves his country. He loves this nation. He is very patriotic. I’m really proud of him. He deserves this honor. He has earned it.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter@Avila_recorder.