The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, SFC Jose Garcia, who died in the service of his country on November 10th, 1968 in Pleiku Province, Vietnam. The cause of death was listed as Multi-Frag. At the time of his death Jose was 30 years of age. He was from Los Ebanos, Texas. Jose is honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel 39W, Line 43.
The decorations earned by SFC Jose Garcia include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.
(This amazing story was written by Pete Birrow who played a key role)
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM THE PAST
"How do I get SFC Garcia's rosary to his family? It was sent home with my husband's things when he was wounded 36 years ago. Jose Garcia was my husband's platoon leader. He said he was a really good man. He is listed on the wall at Panel 39W, Line 43. Please help. Shirley Caudill, Chadwick, Mo. Phone 1-417-XX-XXX."
It all started with such a simple plea to our webmaster on December 5th. Nine short days later, The 35th Infantry Association would be able to proudly quote Sgt. Preston of the Yukon: "Well, King, looks like this case is closed!"
SFC Jose Garcia (A 1/35) was killed in action on November 10th, 1968 on the outskirts of LZ Vera. If you look at his memorial page on our website you will notice that he was from Los Ebanos (pronounced "ebbennosz") Texas. This town is half a mile north of the Rio Grande and, according to "Mapquest", does not even have a hotel. There are only 403 people in town, no churches, gas stations or restaurants. If there are dozens Garcia families there; they must own the whole town!
During the 1920s and 1930s Los Ebanos was popular as a crossing for smugglers, who brought alcohol from Mexico. Its population remained at 200 in 1946, when one business was reported in the community. A ferry connecting Los Ebanos to Ciudad Diaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas, was established in 1950. At that time it was (and still is) the only government-licensed hand-pulled ferry on a United States international boundary. In 1964 Los Ebanos had a population of 100 and four businesses. A colonia formed in Los Ebanos during the late 1960s and early 1970s, had 150 dwellings and an estimated population of 825 by 1976; by 2000 it had decreased to its meager population of 403 and still, a US Post Office!
US Postal Service - Los Ebanos: Rosendo Benavidez Street Los Ebanos, TX 78565 Phone 956-485-2262
There it was staring out of the Internet search engine yearning to be called! The hunt for SFC Jose's family would be over in a few short minutes. This Postmaster must know everybody in a small town the size of Los Ebanos and everything about everybody. The postmaster answers the phone on the first ring; he must not be too busy today--or yesterday--or tomorrow.
"Hola" he answers. "Raoul speaking".
"Buena manana, mi amigo Raoul........ I am trying to locate the family of Sergeant Jose Garcia who died in Vietnam in 1968. Could you help me?"
"I really do not know, sir, as I have only been here as postmaster for less than a year, besides that I have come from far away for this job."
"Raoul, I hope that you do well in your new position. Do you know anything about Jose Garcia?
"All I know is that there is a street in town named after him."
"Thank you, Raoul. Is there a VFW or an American Legion in town?"
"No sir, there is not, but there is one in La Joya a few miles away. I think that it is a VFW, but I am not sure."
"Gracias, Raoul. Buenos dias."
Almost a dead end street, but there is always one more avenue to approach.
While surfing all over Southern Texas on the Internet, the Hidalgo County site was found, there were many links available but none led to our man named Jose. One link was for a grave location site:
I found your name on the Cemeteries of Hidalgo County site. Our association (www.cacti35th.org) is trying to locate the gravesite of SGT Jose Garcia who was killed in action 11/10/1968. He was from Los Ebanos. We would like specific directions to the cemetery and within the cemetery if possible. Thank you for your locating skills and devotion to history."
One more seed has been planted. It could very well be the seed of hope that turns into the flower of joy.
Manuel Garza VFW Post 3895, 1 mile East of Highway 93, La Joya, Texas
Time to plant some more Cacti seeds! Let's call the VFW and ask our questions:
"Charla a m"
"HUH?" (so much for high school Spanish lessons)
"Great! Do you know anything about SFC Jose Garcia? He was from Los Ebanos, and was killed in Vietnam in 1968. They even named a street after him. We are trying to locate his family so that we can return his Rosary beads to them after all these years."
"Gee, I really don't know, but let me write all this down and I will give it to our Master at Arms. We will call you when we find something out."
"Thank you so much for your assistance and interest in our hunt. Buenos dias amigo."
Shirley Caudill: Time to give her a progress report. (SITREP?)
Good evening Shirley,
Thank you for being such a considerate Cacti wife and a good Christian. I have recently been researching the internet to try to find the correct Garcia family in Los Ebanos Texas. There are so many Garcias in this small town of 403 people. No doubt, after all these years, you possess a precious, sacred link to the past for this family.
So far, I have called the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office in Sullivan City, the Postmaster of Los Ebanos, and today I left a message at the VFW in nearby La Joya. From all these leads, we should be able to find a relative. SFC Jose was 30 years old 36 years ago so the chances of finding a parent are now slim as his parents would be at least 86 years old today.
I did find out that there is a main street named after SFC Jose. I have also emailed a person who is the cemetery grave site locator for Hidalgo County so that we will know where he was laid to rest. It is our custom to visit as many Cacti graves as we can find.
No doubt, it is just a matter of time until I have an answer for you. Our association has the resources, if you wish, to make a personal presentation of this valuable treasure that you have kept all these years.
Thank you again for thinking of one of the many fallen brothers that we share with your husband. Please consider joining us at our next reunion in Louisville the coming July, 2005.
Manuel Garza VFW Post 3895: The flower of joy (or is that La Joya?)
Much to my surprise, the VFW in La Joya returned the phone call a few days later. And, as Paul Harvey would say: "And now for the rest of the story":
Bob Gonzales, Master at Arms of VFW Post 3895 did some research for us. He went to ask our questions in Los Ebanos as he thought there were only a few old Garcia people left there. Over the years, he said, many residents with the name of Garcia moved to Sullivan City (pop. 3998) which is 6 miles away.
He started asking around town and an hour later found one of the long term residents, a 90 year old abuela grande (great-grandmother). She remembered the family very accurately and had this story to tell: SFC Jose came across the border by himself from Mexico when he was a young boy. One of the many Garcia families that used to reside in Los Ebanos and was childless, adopted him. Somewhere along the way of life he enlisted and got married, in no particular order. Somewhere along the way of his marriage, he had two daughters. Somewhere along the way of his enlistment, she left town with the girls.
Abuela does not know if his wife left before RVN, during RVN, or after SFC Jose was KIA. But the facts today are that the parents are long gone and so are the wife and the two girls. Master at Arms Bob will continue to ask around for any clues that point to the wife, daughters or any cousins. He seems very sincere about helping us and interested in the cause. A follow up call is planned for after Christmas.
Shirley Caudill answers back with more "for the rest of the story".
"Can you contact us at 1-417-XXX-XXXX about PFC Jose Garcia today? The family will be getting the rosary today." Carroll Caudill
"We have to go get wood for heating, cold spell coming. The family of PFC Garcia should get the rosary by mail today (12/14/04). At this holiday time it would be so kind if you were to contact them if possible. Mrs.Garcia's phone # 956-XXX-XXXX. Cell# 956-XXX-XXXX. Daughter Yolanda Gonzales phone # 956-XXX-XXXX. We would like to know where is grave is. We feel close to this family. God Bless to all. Thank you." Caudills
These two e-mails were 40 minutes apart. Something has happened to these seeds of hope. The urgent call was made and we talked for over an hour. Shirley, or was it Carroll, had made contact with Mrs. Garcia and one of the daughters. Shirley has been working diligently for the last eight months to help Carroll, her Cacti Husband, to find the Garcias. She has used many, many avenues to try to complete this circle. One of these avenues was the Vietnam Veterans of America. Somehow, the VVA came up with the Social Security Number for SFC Jose which led to the discovery of Mrs. Jose Garcia. Mrs. Garcia has been drawing a military widow's pension all these years, so SSI was able to notify Mrs. SFC that Shirley was looking for her.
Mrs. Garcia now lives in Rio Grande City, which is 25 miles northwest of Los Ebanos. She immediately phoned Shirley and they talked for welll over an hour. She does have two daughters, one being Yolanda who was in on the call. Carroll told me that yesterday was THE day of his life as a big burden had been lifted from his shoulders. The rosary beads were mailed to them immediately as the Garcias were very anxious to have them back before Christmas. Cacti Carroll, now a 21 year postman, mailed them off posthaste. He said that they are still brown with Pleiku dirt. That stuff never goes away - does it?
The two families now want to get together someday. A suggestion was made for Carroll to join our association and then attend the reunion. A sincere effort to convince the Garcias to come to Louisville also is in the works. We have their phone numbers and will call them with sympathy, caring, and a sincere invitation to our next reunion.
Now, here is where it really gets interesting. Carroll Caudill is not "Louis" Caudill who shows as a non-member in our database. Louis lives in Kentucky and Carroll is in Missouri. Both were in 1/35; "Alpha" for Carroll, "Charlie" for Louis. Carroll was wounded three days after SFC Jose was KIA, and was in-country only eighteen days when he was dusted off and then evacuated to Japan. If you look at our history, you will see that 11/13/68 was a terrible day for 1/35 on LZ Vera. There were five KIA that day to include Dale Rollins, a Distinguished Service Cross awardee. Out of all of this, Carroll remembers no names at all from his 18 day Cacti tour except for SFC Jose.
Mrs. Garcia? From Los Ebanos?
The phone call is made and Mrs. Garcia is so happy to hear from our 35th Infantry Regiment Association. She also tells me that she received the Rosary beads today, the 14th of December and is so thankful to have them again. Her husband, she testifies, was not only a good soldier and good husband, but just a very nice man. We heartily agree; so nice a man that he made a life-long impression on a very young soldier who only knew him for a few short days. It is a speedy but very exciting nine days that have just passed in our quest, but a long 36 years for Carroll Caudill.
Now that all these decades have passed, Sgt. Preston can say, one more time: "Well King, looks like this case is closed!" Cacti Forever, SFC Jose Garcia. May you rest in peace.