Felix Garcia was serving in the Marine Corps in 2001 when the suicide bombers attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “When 9/11 happened it was 5 a.m. for us on the West Coast,” Garcia said in a 2020 interview with The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes. “I was just getting ready to go out for a run when I got the news… It was very hurtful to see the troops from the East Coast go off to war while we were left here. Finally, in 2003, my unit was sent to Iraq.”
Garcia served as a squad leader and a platoon sergeant in 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
During his three tours in Iraq, Garcia was wounded twice. At the Battle of Fallujah, he received shrapnel wounds and a concussion from a roadside bomb. In November 2004, he was hit again by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade, resulting in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“My guys were getting hit right and left,” Garcia recalled. “We medevaced them out and then the fight got really intense. Snipers were firing on us. We could not get artillery or air support. We tried, but they said no because we were in the firing zone.”
He returned to the U.S. to recover and was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in June 2005. For his service, Garcia received three Purple Hearts and a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V.”
After leaving the service, Garcia struggled to adjust to his new life life and cope with his experiences. But things changed when he joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH). He became active at MOPH posts in California and New Jersey and founded a post in Palm Coast, Florida. According to a profiling of Garcia from the MOPH website, Garcia’s chapter established the Purple Heart Monument in a Palm Coast park, honoring injured Veterans of the community.
Garcia was also active in Texas chapters of the MOPH, serving as senior vice commander and commander. In July 2019, he became the organization’s first post-9/11 combat-wounded Veteran to become commander at the MOPH’s national convention.
“It was hard for me coming back to get acclimated to peacetime,” Garcia stated. “But I figure if I… have a problem, it’s okay. You have to deal with it for your children. Today, I do a lot of volunteer work with other guys who are wounded. I can reach them because I know what they are going through.”
Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editor: Elissa Tatum
Fact Checker: Hannah Bundschuh
Graphics: Chalsi Lee