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24-year-old soldier earns Bronze Star
Garcia with the division chain of command
Pfc. Sixto Garcia stands in the middle of the division's chain of command. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
It has been said that it is hard to make a grown man cry, especially one who is Army strong.
But when Master Sgt. Stan Balcer thinks about the day one of his soldiers helped save his and nearly 60 other lives, his eyes quickly swell with tears.
“I think about it often, but it still amazes me that no one was killed that day,” he said.
The day Balcer so vividly remembers was in March 2007 and it involved one of his youngest, lowest ranking soldiers, Pfc. Sixto Garcia.
Garcia and his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, were doing routine tasks, securing an area in the Anbar province in Iraq.
That’s when a vehicle that appeared to be “a manned improvised explosive device,” otherwise known as a suicide bomber, came racing at them.
“It was a common occurrence to have some type of contact … however, that day was a little more intense,” Balcer said.
Parts of Garcia’s regiment, which has “speed and power” as its motto, were immediately threatened by enemy combatants.
Everything, according to Balcer, seemed to “slow down,” almost to a blur.
But the one thing he said he remembers the most “is that no one was killed” thanks to the actions of 24-year-old Garcia.
“There’s very few people who can say they have participated or done something bigger than themselves, and the actions of Spc. Garcia, I think, speak highly of himself, and several others,” Balcer said. “Had not he done what he did … a lot of people might not have come back to their families.”
According to several division leaders, Garcia thwarted the attack by shooting several rounds from his M240B machine gun at the advancing vehicle, throwing it off course and allowing medical personnel an opportunity to remove those who had been wounded.
On Monday, in Fort Stewart’s Marne Garden, Garcia received the Bronze Star with valor for what the division’s commander called “natural,” life-saving instincts.
During the pinning, he quietly had words with his soldier.
“I was telling him, ‘Sixto Garcia, you deserve this for a bunch of reasons, not only for your incredible calm under fire, but he had the presence of mind to report everything that was happening to his non-commissioned officer in charge,” Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo said. “Clearly, he is well trained, well disciplined, but it was his presence of mind under fire that I particularly congratulated him for.”
Garcia could not find many words to comment.
“I was just doing my job,” he said.
To Balcer and others in the division, it was a job well done that they will forever be thankful for.
“He is the picture of what today’s soldier is,” Balcer said. “Every one of them does their job. They don’t do it for the money, they don’t do it for the glory, they do it for each other and they do it for their country.”
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