Proud World War II Veteran Naturalizes at Age 96
After having lived in the United States for over 90 years, Felix Garcia officially became a U.S. citizen at age 96 this past month. Born in Mazatlan, Mexico in 1917, Mr. Garcia's parents brought him to the United States when he was just 3 years old.
He always felt himself to be an American, and served as a decorated gunner on a B-24 Liberator during World War II. He served on bombing missions over Italy, France and the Balkans in some of the most dangerous and terrifying combat roles imaginable. As a gunner, he was locked into a round glass turret protruding from the bottom of a large, lumbering aircraft flying in formation thousands of feet over enemy territory.
World War II: Felix Garcia (circled) at Gunnery School
"We had to fight German airplanes because they were attacking us." "We also got hit by flak…I had so many friends that I lost." "Our plane had guns on the top, bottom, front and side…you are so scared at that moment for yourself and your fellow guys who are up there." On one mission, a fellow gunner in one of the glass turrets was struck and killed instantly by enemy fire. Still in midair, young Garcia had to replace his fallen comrade, despite the blood and fear all around. On another mission, his plane was damaged so badly that it was forced to crash-land. After the war, Mr. Garcia found it difficult to ever board another aircraft.
Felix Garcia in Uniform
When asked how it felt to be an American citizen, Garcia replies: "To me, I always felt like an American, and I belong here and I was ready to do anything for the United States. If I had to do it again - at my age 96 - I would do it again - right away."
After the war, Mr. Garcia came home and worked as a truck driver and in a foundry. His daughter Irene recounts how he once broke his ribs in a work accident. Unable to pay for medical care, he just taped up his ribs, endured the pain, and kept going to work to support his wife and children.
As a retired senior over 90 years of age, and with a lifetime of work and service behind him, his family realized that he had never received his citizenship documents during the war. They were able to piece together his wartime service records and get his citizenship application processed with help from USCIS officers and other government officials, despite important records having been lost to fire. During his naturalization ceremony, he received special recognition as a veteran, and finally became a citizen of the country that he so loves.
Felix Garcia, with a Copy of the “Naturalization Oath” and Flag in Hand, a Proud U.S. Citizen
When he talks of his family, Mr. Garcia beams with pride: "My grandchildren are beautiful, and my great-grandchildren all of them!"
His wife, Josephine, who passed away last year and did not live to see him become a citizen, is remembered by him with great adoration, "she was beautiful, intelligent and always supported me."
Felix Garcia with His Wife Josephine and Black Chevy after the War
He calls the American flag his own. Near his home, there is an American flag and a California state flag flying beneath it on a flag-pole. "I call them mine. I go every morning, I sit under those flags, fold my hands, and I talk to my wife. I tell her hello, I still love her, and she is a beautiful woman."