North Texas Daily

Veteran goes from the barracks to golf academy

Veteran goes from the barracks to golf academy

April 02
23:03 2013

Caren Rodriguez / Contributing Writer

Eladio Garcia never imagined golf being a part of his life. He also thought he would never join the U.S. Army.

But Garcia, who goes by “Junior,” has a way of surprising himself and those around him. The 24-year-old joined the U.S. Army on a “spur of the moment” and found a love for golf after a buddy, who is still in the service, challenged him to a round.

Now, Garcia is attending the Golf Academy of America in Dallas and plans to become a golf instructor. He said he plans to obtain his golf complex operations and management applied business associates degree in December.

Garcia started playing golf about a year and a half ago. Kevin Duncan, Garcia’s best friend who’s still in the service, introduced him to the sport. Garcia said he thought golf was silly, but was amazed to find out he enjoyed it after playing a game with Duncan. He’s still “trying to figure out” why he likes golf so much.

“I just think it’s really fun to play,” he said. “On Fridays we take like a 12-pack of beer, we have our phones playing music and we’re just out there having fun, hitting golf balls.”

Garcia’s road to a career in golf began in Wylie Texas where he was born, though he spent most of his life in nearby Garland. After graduating from Rowlett High School in 2008, he enrolled in Richland Community College at his parent’s recommendation. After half a semester, Garcia decided he wanted to do something else with his life.

“I tried doing the whole college thing right when I got out, but I didn’t like it, so I enlisted,” he said.

Joining the Army so suddenly upset his father, but his mother and brother were supportive.

“He [my dad] didn’t want me to join the Army, he was like, ‘You’re going to die,’” Garcia said.

Three months later, Garcia would be on his way to Fort Jackson, S.C. for basic training and would find himself in Iraq just six months later after only being in the Army for nine months.

David  Castro, a friend of Garcia for 17 years, feared for his friend’s life when he headed to Iraq, but also felt respect for him.

“I thought it was brave because it was something I wish I could do, but know I would never have the guts to,” Castro said.

Garcia said his deployment was a frightening prospect.

“I was scared because I didn’t know anything about Iraq,” he said. “But then we all got there, and it ended up being, like, actually really fun.”

He was in the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division and in the Special Troops Battalion with the Alpha Company Agents. Garcia was an unmanned aerial vehicle operator. He said the UAVs he worked with were not combat-style, but for surveillance and battlefield intelligence. Garcia would control the camera on the UAV to help soldiers in the field.

Even though Garcia was not on the frontlines, he was aware he was in a war zone.

“I just kept hearing these booms,” he said. “It was my first week there. My roommate said the base was getting bombed.”

The attacks sounded like fireworks. He said he was frightened at first, but after two or three months of being bombed occasionally, he became accustomed to the noise. When the bombs got louder they would head down to the bunkers for safety. At one point, Garcia said the base was bombed while he was in the shower, but didn’t get out because he had heard the noises before.

Garcia associates his time in Iraq as a “long vacation.” He said all the units in the base created a flag football league to entertain themselves. They would also buy bootleg DVD’s and watch movies and multiple seasons of shows in a short period. Every Wednesday, the troops would have a salsa-themed party at the base’s hookah bar.

“I think it was basically to get our minds off of being in Iraq,” he said of the different activities.

After nearly a year in Iraq, he was sent to Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas. He said the next two years were like a long celebration. When they weren’t training or working, his platoon would travel to nearby cities like Las Vegas, Nev.; Albuquerque, N.M. and Ruidoso, N.M. After four years, he decided to not re-enlist, partly because he was bored with his duties, but mostly because he forgot to file the paperwork to extend his contract.

Garcia now spends his days on the golf greencourse. He is enrolled in a rigorous program at the  Golf Academy of America, which was voted as one of Military Advanced Education’s top military-friendly colleges and universities.

Garcia’s friend of 19 years, Jose Rodriguez, was taken aback when he found out his friend was attending a golf academy.

“It was surprising to me because we grew up playing soccer and baseball. I never knew he liked golf,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like he made the right decision by going to the Army because it taught him discipline and how to be responsible.”

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