The West Valley is mourning the loss of a Peoria native.
Pfc. Antonio Garcia, who was serving in the U.S. Army, died last week along with two other soldiers during a tragic accident at a military base in Georgia when his armored vehicle rolled off a bridge and landed upside down in a stream.
“I was saddened to hear of the tragic accident that took the lives of three brave heroes, including Peoria resident Pfc. Antonio Garcia,” Mayor Cathy Carlat said. “Whether training on home lands or away on foreign soil, our military faces dangers every day. I hope the Peoria community joins me in honoring the memories of these lives lost and honoring the values that these heroes stood for.”
A moment of silence for Mr. Garcia was held at last Friday’s varsity football game at Sandra Day O’Connor High School, where he graduated before entering the Army.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset, Oct. 22 to honor Mr. Garcia.
Mr. Garcia was participating in a training of the 1st Armored Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart when the tragedy occurred, 3:20 a.m., Oct. 20.
During the exercise with visibility low due the early morning hour, the Bradley fighting vehicle he and five others were riding in fell from a bridge and was submerged upside down in a stream below.
Maj. Gen. Antonio Aguto didn’t provide many details about the accident citing an ongoing investigation.
The training was leading up to a deployment to the national training center in Fort Irwin, California, a base where soldiers often prepare for deployment to the Middle East.
Mr. Aguto, commander of 3rd infantry division at Fort Stewart in Georgia offered his condolences.
The 3rd Infantry Division and a team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, from Fort Rucker, Alabama are investigating the incident.
The single vehicle accident at Fort Stewart also left two other soldiers dead — Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Jenkins, 41, of Gainesville Florida and Cpl. Thomas Walker, 22, of Conneaut, Ohio — and three injured.
“It is hard enough when you lose one soldier but when you lose three at one time that pain is amplified,” he said. “We are really feeling and sharing that pain across the division and across our entire community.”
During his service, Mr. Garcia earned the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
His father Roberto and mother Teresa released a statement about their son: “As a family, we are shocked and devastated by the loss of our beloved Antonio. While his time was far too short we are so thankful and appreciative of the time we had with him. He was the most brave, kind-hearted and loving person we have had the privilege of knowing. He loved his family, friends and his country. We love him with every fiber of our beings and we will cherish and celebrate his life and carry on his memory forever. We ask that others do the same, while also respecting the privacy and space we need to heal in such a heart breaking time.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or email@example.com.