By Tony Parra
Manuel and Esperanza Garcia feel that every moment spent with their children is precious. Those moments are magnified when one of those children is visiting between stays in Baghdad.
Army Capt. Lupe Garcia, 35, has been in Iraq since August, assigned to the multi-National Security Transition Command and the civilian police assistance training team at Adnan Palace. He is scheduled to return on March 22.
“It’s tough not knowing how he’s doing,” Manuel Garcia said. “I was extremely happy to see him (on Saturday).”
Manuel and Esperanza live in Portales, while Lupe lives in Las Cruces when he’s not deployed.
“I was anxious to see him,” Esperanza said. “I was worried he wouldn’t come back.”
Esperanza said she was surprised when she first got the news that her son would be deployed to Iraq.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Esperanza said. “I was sad. But still, we supported him and we support all of our children in their decisions.”
Lupe is responsible for equipping and training Iraqi guards who provide security for the national buildings, banks, schools and ministries.
“You always have to be aware of your surroundings because your life is in your hands,” Lupe said. “It’s intense.”
Lupe grew up in Portales and graduated from Portales High School in 1988 and from Eastern New Mexico University in 1992. He then worked as a New Mexico probation and parole officer in Clovis from 1994 to 2001.
“It’s awesome to be here,” Lupe said. “I’m ecstatic. We’re a close family. You miss everyone while you are there (Iraq). It’s tough to go from a war zone to a family. You go back to reality as you knew it.”
Lupe arrived in Portales on Saturday, greeted by happy family members with hugs and kisses.
Lupe’s sisters and brothers were happy to see him and are proud of him. Joe Garcia was full of smiles on Saturday, joyful to see his younger brother in Portales.
Carmen Pena, Lupe’s sister, keeps in constant contact with Lupe through e-mail and phone calls.
Pena said she has coffee with Manuel and Esperanza frequently to keep them up to date. She also keeps in touch with the rest of the sisters, too.
“I have mixed feelings,” Pena said. “We’re all so proud of him, but I wish he didn’t have to go back.”
Lupe said he is receiving a short break from serving in Iraq and was in Las Cruces for three days before arriving in Portales on Saturday.
Manuel and Esperanza have nine children and Esperanza said most of them live nearby, but it’s terrifying to have a son living in a dangerous environment in Iraq.
Lupe has two children, Michael and Melissa who attend Las Cruces Onate High School.
Lupe said he won’t get to see his son graduate from Onate High School in May. According to Lupe, his tour is scheduled to end in August, but that could change. Lupe said some members of the military have been stationed in Iraq for more than two years.