In Garces family, Veterans Day is a family holiday
This Nov. 11, the Garces family of Quincy will be busy celebrating not only Veterans Day but the commitment their family has made to this country.
Baldemar Garces Sr. said he may take a trip down to the Quincy Valley Veterans Memorial to reflect on his own service in the U.S. Army as well as that of his late father, Refugio Garces, and his son, Rick Garces. Baldemar also plans on attending a veterans assembly at one of the local elementary schools.
As for Rick, he will be marching with friends on Nov. 11 in the Seventh Annual Veterans Day Parade in Ephrata.
“Our family is all military, there’s no doubt about it,” Baldemar said. “We feel that it’s our obligation to (serve).”
In September, commemorative plaques for Refugio, Baldemar and Rick were added to the Quincy Valley Veterans Memorial at Memorial Park, just off of Highway 28 near the chamber of commerce.
Their plaques are among the nearly 420 names on the wall. In September, nearly three rows of new names, or 33 plaques, were added to the memorial, built in 2004.
The Garces family has been a longtime member of the Quincy community. Baldemar has lived in Quincy 49 years, arriving in 1965 when his parents moved to the area. Rick, who lives in Ephrata today with his family, graduated from Quincy High School in 1995.
When asked what he likes about Quincy, Baldemar said, “Everything.”
He enjoys living in a small, close-knit community where he knows most of the people here, explained Baldemar, who retired from the Washington State Employment Office about 10 years ago.
Baldemar’s late father started the family’s military tradition when he was drafted into service during World War II. Refugio served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946. He spent 18 months fighting in the Philippines and Okinawa, Japan, with the 96th Division of the 11th Bravo Infantry. He was hit with shrapnel in the knee during combat, earning him a Purple Heart.
Four of Refugio’s six sons would later serve in the military. Refugio passed away in 2010.
Baldemar served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1973, serving during the Vietnam War in Phu Loi, Vietnam, which is west of Saigon. He was an aircraft armament repairman, fixing machine guns and rocket launchers on helicopters.
When he left for the Army, Baldemar and his wife of 44 years, Gloria, had been married only three months. Their first child, Joann, was born in late December and Baldemar, who was overseas, didn’t get the news until February.
Only 22 years old then, serving in Vietnam was scary at times, Baldemar said. He recalled crashing in a helicopter when its tail rotor broke while landing. Everyone walked away from the crash, he said.
Enlisting in the U.S. Army straightened him out as a young man, said the 64-year-old Baldemar, who described his younger self as a “rebel without a cause.” The experience taught him how to be a responsible person, he said.
“It does put your mind into perspective,” he said.
As for Rick, he followed his father and grandfather into the U.S. Army in 1996, shortly after graduating from high school. Rick served until 1999, working as a Patriot missile crew member. Now 37, Rick continues to serve in the National Guard, serving in the 1161st Unit out of Ephrata. He plans to retire from the military in three years after nearly 20 years of service.
In the U.S. Army, Rick served three tours to the Middle East – two to Iraq and one in Saudi Arabia. However, it wasn’t until after his first deployment when he really had a sense of pride for his family’s service, said Rick, whose wife Heather Ledgerwood also served in the U.S. Army and is on the memorial wall.
Veterans Day today is an active holiday for his family, Rick said. With Veterans Day also comes a sense of camaraderie with his friends who have also served, he said.
And seeing the turnout for such projects as the veterans memorial wall is a sign of the support the community gives its veterans, he added.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, QVPR editor