North Texas Soldier Awarded Medal of Honor Years After Death

By Randy McIIwain and Leah Johnson
|  Friday, Jun 13, 2014  |  Updated 5:56 AM CDT
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The body of Sgt. Candelario Garcia Jr. was re-interned to reflect his being recently awarded one of the most prestigious awards given for bravery in battle, the Medal of Honor.

Randy McIIwain, NBC 5 News

The body of Sgt. Candelario Garcia Jr. was re-interned to reflect his being recently awarded one of the most prestigious awards given for bravery in battle, the Medal of Honor.

Family and friends gathered at the DFW National Cemetery Thursday to bury their son and fallen soldier for the second time.

Sgt. Candelario Garcia Jr. was honored in a ceremony not often seen, a re-internment, his body was moved from one gravesite to another to reflect his battlefield bravery and was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor posthumously.

It was a mixture of pride and sadness at the gravesite. The recognition appreciated by the Garcia family, but a sense it came too late. Sgt. Garcia died in January 2013, President Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor last March for his actions in December of 1968.

His family believes his race may have delayed the award, but they said the timing does not diminish the meaning.

"I got a big lump right here," said Garcia Jr.'s younger brother Manuel."I can't explain how I feel about it."

Garcia Jr. grew up in a segregated America, nine brothers and sisters, not a lot of money but somewhere in his life, a spirit of patriotism was forged. His dream was to join the U.S. Army, the draft expedited that dream and he was headed to Vietnam,

“He loved his country," said his sister Mary Garcia-Conner. “He always wanted to do this and he would get made if you didn't honor your country."

Pinned down in an ambush and taking on heavy enemy fire, Garcia Jr.'s unit were sitting ducks with nowhere to go until Garcia Jr. launched a single-handed attack. That attack took him to the edge of enemy bunkers, dodging gunfire and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Garcia Jr's sister stepped away from family before today's ceremony to touch the new headstone that will mark her brother's gravesite, a stone with the Medal of Honor insignia on it.

"I told him …it's terrible that you're here and not home with us," said Garcia-Conner. "I loved you and I'm proud of you."

The Garcia's said the award is not just for the family but also for the country, that a child born into segregation looked past hatred to serve his country with honor and his country has now publicly said thank you, in the most prestigious way possible.

Garcia Jr. is only the second soldier to be buried at the DFW National Cemetery to have earned the Medal of Honor.  

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