BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — "The way the towers were coming down, he could not believe it. That's all he talked about for about two weeks, 'mom those poor people, their families," said Maria Garcia, the mother of Alberto Garcia who died in action while serving for the U.S. Army in Iraq.
The events of 9/11 shook the nation in many aspects, but for some, the impact was so hard, they chose to fight for justice and enlist to serve our country.
"I said 'You know there's war going on, that's where you're going to end up' and he said 'I know mom.' And I said, 'Aren't you afraid to die out there?' And he said, 'I could die here in a car accident or a heart attack'," Garcia said.
Garcia is just one of the mothers of the 27 post-9/11 Kern County veterans featured in the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery in Downtown Bakersfield. Each with their own unique portrait in their memory.
"They put country before themselves they knew the sacrifice and they went ahead and did it when so many don't even consider volunteering for their country and my son was one of them that volunteered to do that," she said.
Alberto Garcia, was born and raised in Bakersfield and enlisted in the army in 2004, his dream was to serve in Germany.
"He goes, "Mom I get to go over there," and I said "Good for you," and he was excited. And then after a year, he came home and he told me mom I'm being deployed to Iraq."
Alberto served in Iraq for nine months. He was 23 years old and a month away from returning home when he died in action.
"I was always listening to the news and I heard about to casualties and before I walked out the door I tapped on the TV to turn it off and I said that's not my boy," Garcia said.
Now, in a gallery of portraits, Alberto Garcia's portrait stands out as one of the most youthful faces to have served from our community.
heWn asked if she would have it any other way, Maria said she hopes her son's legacy will live on long after she is gone.
"We always spoke on the phone every chance we got sometimes he was happy sometimes he was sad so no, nothing was left out, but I do wish I was there holding his hand and saying everything is going to be ok."