Soldiers in uniform decorated the courthouse while children, sitting with parents and grandparents, waved miniature American flags. Across the courthouse lawn, bikers were grouped together, dressed in patriotic leather vests, and elected officials shook hands with each other and local residents. Boy Scout troops searched for relief from the heat under shade trees and patriots both local and from out-of-town sat in lawn chairs, waiting patiently to honor the men and women who served this country so that all can all enjoy freedom today.
In particular, many were there to pay tribute to local resident Sgt. Candelario Garcia Jr. for his service and heroism to America and witness the unveiling of a bronze, life-size statue made by artist Lisa Perry in Garcia’s image.
As the May 30 Memorial Day program kicked off at the Navarro County Courthouse, Mayor Chuck McClanahan paid homage to veterans everywhere.
“As we gather today, we do so in solidarity, paying tribute to so many, who have given their lives ... the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy freedom,” said McClanahan. “Today, while we memorialize, give thanks, and honor all soldiers, we also give special tribute to one of our own — Sergeant Garcia, who did portray selflessness and great courage ... a task very few of us would attempt. He is an example we should all be willing to follow.”
Although many veterans were present and all were recognized, most of the day’s ceremony referenced Garcia, who passed away in 2013 before receiving the Medal of Honor, which was awarded to him by President Obama in 2014. Garcia was a Vietnam War veteran whose acts of bravery over 45 years ago are still being talked about today. Friends called him Spider, family members called him Junior, and Vietnam Veteran comrades called him Sgt. Cande, but they all refer to him as being selfless and brave in the line of duty. At home, he was known as a humble man who enjoyed a simple life.
The statue is now on display on the Navarro County Courthouse lawn, next to the Veterans Memorial at 800 N. Main.
U.S. Representative, Joe Barton offered an apology to the family of Garcia during his address at the event.
“On behalf of the United States Congress, the American people, the United States Army, the United States Government, and the United States of America, I want to apologize to you personally that it’s taken so long for your relative to receive the Medal of Honor,” said Barton. “He should have received it while he was alive.”
According to Barton, Garcia is the 90th Texan to receive the Medal of Honor, and one of only 15 to receive it for service in the Vietnam War.
Also in attendance at the event were Texas Senator Brian Birdwell, State Representative Byron Cook, platoon members who served with Garcia in the Vietnam War, members of the Garcia family, and the United States Army Honor Guard from Ft. Hood, which performed the presentation of colors and the 21-gun salute.
County Judge, H.M. Davenport also spoke at the event and seemed to capture the sentiment of the afternoon with his humble request to the crowd.
“We need to remember what Memorial Day is all about,” said Davenport. “It is to honor those who have served their country, and lost their lives in doing so. Please say a prayer for them, please say a prayer for their families, and please say a prayer for America — that we will forever be free.”