Flags at half-staff for N.M. soldier

Staff and wire reports

SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson today issued an executive order directing that flags in New Mexico be flown at half-staff to honor U.S. Army Pfc. Damian Garza.

Garza was killed Aug. 4 when his vehicle crashed into a river near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

“Our heartfelt sorrow and gratitude go out to Damian Garza’s family at this difficult time,” Richardson said. “We will always remember the sacrifice he made on behalf of his country.”

Garza, who has relatives in Clovis and Portales, moved from Portales to Odessa, Texas, after eighth grade. Garza enlisted in the Army in April 2004, one day after he graduated from Zion Christian School in Odessa. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based at Fort Benning, Ga., and was serving a second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

One other Ranger, Pvt. John Henderson Jr., 21, of Columbus, Ga., died in the incident. Two other Rangers escaped from the vehicle and are in good condition. An investigation is under way, officials said.

He was posthumously awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Flags should be flown at half-staff through Thursday in honor of Garza.