By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ Staff Writer
When Helen Garcia Trujillo observes Memorial Day, she can’t decorate her older brother’s grave.
The grave of Joe C. Garcia, along with thousands of others, is located in France, not far from the location where he died on D-Day while the 101st Airborne Division was parachuting out of the skies as part of the invasion of Nazi-held Europe.
Trujillo does have a photograph of the grave, however, marked with a simple cross in the American cemetery in Normandy.
“A cousin of mine went to France and looked up his grave and took pictures,” Trujillo said. “I have my brother’s Purple Heart, and I just wish he was here with us. All his friends returned.”
Trujillo keeps the Purple Heart award in a special box along with a miniature photograph of her brother’s girlfriend from England, where he was stationed in preparation for the assault on Normandy.
Trujillo said her brother didn’t wait to be drafted into World War II. He actually wanted to enlist earlier, but he didn’t turn 18 until 1942 and their parents refused to allow him to join the military until he turned 18 and was no longer under their authority.
“As I remember everybody telling me, he was very popular and very handsome,” Trujillo said. “He was young when he went into the service. He wanted to go, and he joined the paratroopers.”
Garcia left many memories behind him in Curry County. He had dropped out of school after grade school to go to work, which was fairly common in that day, but was known as a rugged and handsome athlete who loved swimming and was a lifeguard at the local pool.
That contributed to a decision by members of American Legion Post 117 to name the post in her brother’s honor after the war, Trujillo said.
Trujillo said she looks forward to participating in today’s Memorial Day ceremony and spending time with the members of Post 117, where she belongs to the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
“They were the ones who asked me to be here for Memorial Day to unveil the monument they got their names on,” Trujillo said. “I don’t want them to forget my brother. I just feel if they know who I am they will think more of my brother.”