ENCINITAS, Calif. — On a breezy Wednesday afternoon last month, Marine Corps Sgt. Michel A. Garcia stood tall alongside his color guard teammates during a ceremony honoring World War II veterans at a retirement community here.
"It's a great experience," said Garcia. "I really appreciate honoring those who came before us."
Garcia is a heavy equipment mechanic with 7th Engineer Support Battalion and has been a Marine for almost eight years. He said he began his military career before he even stepped on the famous yellow footprints.
"I'm a military brat," Garcia said. "I always knew I was going to join the Marine Corps."
He said his family has always been involved with the military in one form or another. Aside from having several family members in the U.S. military, members of Garcia's family have also served in another nation's military.
"My uncle is in the Army," Garcia said. "One of my cousins is also in the Army and another cousin is in the Air Force. Every male on my mother's side of the family has been in the military, to include the Guatemalan National Army, so I just knew I was going to join the armed forces."
Garcia hails from Newport News, Virginia. He said he was an avid wrestler in high school and had planned to enlist immediately after graduation, but some members of his family were not too keen on letting him join.
"I wanted to join the Marine Corps right after high school," he said. "But my mom convinced me to try the college route. I did the whole school thing and it really wasn't for me. I even tried the nine-to-five routine."
Time for Change
Civilian life — same old thing, day in and day out — had no appeal to him, he said. And he said it got worse when all of his friends started coming home from college.
"I'll never forget," he said. "All my friends were coming home from school with their degrees, and every time I saw them, the conversation eventually led to what I am up to these days."
Garcia said he remembers when he worked at a grocery store and felt like he didn't have much of a future. Even the thought of moving up into management had no appeal to him, he said.
"I just said to myself, 'Hey, I'm not getting any younger, and enough is enough. I need to join the Marine Corps,'" Garcia said. "My mom wasn't too fond of it, but once I graduated recruit training, I had never seen her so proud. She was just bawling her eyes out."
In April, it will be eight years since Garcia walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
"This is my second enlistment," he said. "And I definitely plan on enlisting for a third time. I want nothing more than to someday be a drill instructor. I want to make Marines."
Garcia's memories of recruit training are positive and he feels his drill instructors were the epitome of the Marine Corps. He said it takes a truly dedicated Marine to be able to train and make other Marines.
"Eight years later, I still remember all of my drill instructors' names," said Garcia. "They just made such a dramatic impact in my life and I someday want to be that person for somebody else."
Being a drill instructor may be Garcia's ultimate goal, but he said he feels blessed to be a part of the color guard.
"Getting to do color guard and the chance to meet a lot of veterans means the world to me. I feel like it shows respect to the Marines who came before us," he said.
Garcia said he feels very proud of the things he has accomplished in the Marine Corps, but that none of it would have been possible without the love and support of his wife, Chelsea.
"She's my rock," Garcia said with a smile. "Whenever I get out of line she makes sure to put me back in my place."
When asked whether or not he and his wife plan on raising any future Marines of their own, Garcia just laughed and said, "We already have two kids, Rocky and Maya. They're both Siberian huskies and they're both a handful."