American Forces Press Service
Jan. 25, 2008 - Joining the Army more than four years ago helped Sgt. Dominic Garza achieve some of his personal goals and improve life for his new family. Before Garza joined the Army, he didn't have a high school diploma, was working two jobs, and he and his wife had just welcomed a new daughter into the world. He knew it was time for a change, he said, and all it took was a little convincing from his aunt, who had recently joined the Army.
"I figured it was time to do something quick and something that I know provides structure and gives me focus back into the key aspects of life," Garza said.
Garza is now touring the country as part of the Defense Department's "Why We Serve" outreach program. The program, now in its sixth iteration, takes servicemembers who have recently deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and sends them to various community, business and veterans groups to tell their stories.
Garza's aunt helped convince him that the military didn't live up to many of its negative stereotypes, he said, and once he decided to join, he had new motivation for getting his high school diploma. He already had a General Educational Development credential, or GED, which would have allowed him to join the military, but he said he felt he needed to get his diploma. "It was just a personal goal of mine to get a high school diploma before I joined the Army," he said.
Garza got his diploma and joined the Army in 2003 as a motor transport/heavy wheeled-vehicle operator. Almost five years later and after two deployments, he said he couldn't have made a better decision.
"There's been a lot of ups and downs, but I look around me and I see my family is well taken care of, way better than if I would have kept those two jobs. They're living a lot better than that," Garza, who now has a son as well, said.
"Not only have I grown through the Army values and I'm comfortable with the atmosphere, I actually look forward to going to work and being mentors to all the soldiers that are younger than me," he continued. "I have no regrets at all. I also know that this is just the beginning for me. There's a lot more I have to learn, and there's a lot more things to see out there and a lot more experiences to be involved with."
Garza's most recent deployment was to Camp Anaconda, in Balad, Iraq. His unit's mission was to escort and provide security for logistics convoys transporting supplies between military bases. He and his fellow soldiers would sometimes spend up to 24 hours on the road, he said, so they developed strong ties with each other and learned a lot about the country.
Garza recalled an incident when he was driving a truck containing 7,500 gallons of fuel, and a truck driven by an Iraqi came straight toward him without slowing or moving to the side of the road. Right away, Garza perceived this truck as a threat, and was forced to try to slow down his truck and swerve to the side of the road to avoid a collision, he said.
Despite his best efforts, he wasn't able to stop fast enough. He hit a car in front of him, and the truck clipped his fuel tank, causing fuel to spill into the street. Luckily, the convoy he was in had a wrecker truck to contain the fuel spill and a security team to secure the area, he said.
"After that, I realized that we had our stuff together," Garza said. "We had people out there trained to the top of the line. We were pretty confident on the job that we were doing."
Later in his deployment, Garza volunteered to be a gunner for a .50-caliber machine gun, providing security for convoys. He said it was great to have a new experience, and he was able to learn a lot, especially when escorting Iraqi supply convoys.
"A lot of those guys, they had a lot of respect for us. They knew what we were out to do, which was to make sure they got from one place to another safely," he said.
Through the Why We Serve program, Garza said, he hopes to tell audiences about his experiences in the military and to convey to them that America's military members are glad to serve.
"Everybody that's in the military, they joined for a reason," he said. "They volunteered their services. Everybody has a personal little reason why they joined."
Garza said he plans on staying in the military and is aiming to become sergeant major of the Army one day. He knows his family is comfortable in the military lifestyle, he said, and he wants to make sure that continues.
"I see that my family's happy, so I'm not going to do anything to disturb that," he said. "I'm going to continue on doing what I have to do as a provider for my family."