Pictured: Retired Sgt. Juan Garcia, 72, of Houston, is traveling by foot from his hometown to Brownsville to honor the soldiers of current and past wars. He travelled south of Alice Tuesday. Photo by OFELIA GARCIA HUNTER
Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal
Retired Sgt. Juan Garcia, 72, hit the pavement for seven days to honor the military as he walked through Alice on the shoulder of Highway 281 about 12 miles south of city, heading to Brownsville.
"These young men give their lives for our freedom," he said as he put the P.O.W. and U.S. flags down to take a short rest. "People need to support the troops."
Garcia began his journey in Houston, where he lives, taking each step for the heroes of the military service.
Garcia makes the pilgrimage about every two years.
This year he and other Korean War veterans, along with the P.O.W. M.I.A. Patrol, started their walk on Highway 59 and Highway 6.
Veterans along the route joined him on and off, but he continued to walk alone on Highway 281 towards Brownsville in memory of Kristian Menchaca, a war prisoner for three days who lost his life in Iraq.
Once Garcia reaches his destination on Sunday, he and other veterans will be escorted to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral where a Mass will be held in honor of military men and women who are missing in action and those who have lost their lives in service in Iraq, World War II, Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam.
Garcia said on his way through Robstown, he was able to speak with family members of Anselmo Martinez, the latest soldier who died in Iraq from the Coastal Bend.
"We met with the family and talked to his sister and two brothers," Garcia said. "We left them a flag."
Garcia is escorted by his wife, Hermelinda Garcia, who drives behind him pulling a black trailer with 14 different flags symbolizing different wars with a U.S. flag posted in the front of the trailer.
The side of the trailer reads, "freedom is not free."
Cars and trucks pass them by, honking and waving at Garcia. He said individuals will stop and hug him and bring him to tears.
Garcia served in the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1955 and said supporting the troops is important.
"My legs are not as young as they used to be," he said. "But instead of being out there protesting, this is what we need to do."