CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Ordinarily, the sound of buzzers and a bunch of Marines getting haircuts would just mean another Sunday-cut before the work week, but on May 5, 2014, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., that sound held special meaning for Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, General Support Motor Transport Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group.
Nineteen Marines with 2nd Platoon shaved their heads with Garcia to show their support for his cousin who is a cancer patient at University of California San Francisco Children’s Hospital.
“He sent out a mass text just letting us all know that he shaved his head, and he would be holding a fundraiser for his little cousin who has leukemia,” said Lance Cpl. Rocco Carrino, motor transport operator, 2nd Plt. GSMT Co., CLR-1, 1st MLG. “I told him I would go ahead and shave my head too. My mother had a struggle with breast cancer about a year ago, so I know kind of how he feels. It was like a chain reaction. Everyone started volunteering to shave their heads.”
After his cousin’s parents got divorced, Garcia helped raise Diego Romero, now 16-years old.
“I helped shower him, feed him, stuff like that, when he was just a couple years old,” said Garcia, of Stockton, Calif. “He isn’t just a cousin to me. It’s like a father-son relationship. He is special.”
Garcia chuckled as he recalled his cousin worrying about being bald for prom.
“I just told him chicks dig bald guys,” said Garcia. “Shaving our heads will help show him that being bald isn’t a bad thing.”
Before Romero was hospitalized for his leukemia treatments, he was in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, a federal program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces to familiarize high school students with military discipline.
“I was his inspiration,” said Garcia of his cousin who wants to be a Marine. “It hurts to see a kid with that drive and that energy to just be lying in bed with tubes sticking out of him.”
During his time of need, Garcia’s platoon came together to support him and his cousin through this hardship, highlighting the band-of-brothers bond that Marines share with each other.
“In the Marine Corps, if you have a brother that is struggling, you have to go back and help pick him up and struggle with him,” said Carrino, a native of Boston.
Garcia and his Marines will continue to support Romero as he faces his illness head-on.
“That my Marines came up with this idea, and are willing to do this for my little cousin who they have never met, is truly amazing,” said Garcia. “It’s the best feeling. I’ve been in the Corps for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It is unforgettable. I will never forget, they will never forget, and I know my little cousin will never ever forget their faces and names and what they did here today.”