Memorial Day Reflections: Capt. Jose Rafael de la Garza

Captain Jose Rafael de la Garza Captain Jose Rafael de la Garza was born in 1838 to a prominent and wealthy San Antonio family with deep Texas roots. Jose was well educated at St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky. One of his teachers described him as a young man of "fine disposition… very mild and cheerful, always in good humor and someone who never utter an improper word."

After the secession of Texas in February, 1861, Jose was one of 90,000 Texans who joined the Confederate Army, in which he was appointed captain in Company K, 6th Texas Infantry. De la Garza was later a company commander in the 17th Texas Infantry. Jose was killed leading his company in a charge against Union forces at the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana on May 8, 1864. He was 26 years old. A letter relaying the details of his death is below.

-Compiled by the Texas Military Forces Museum

 

Headquarters Waul’s Brigade
Walker’s Division, in the Field
Apl. 19, 1864

 

Friend Bart,

Having a few leisure moments, I thought I could not better employ them than by writing you. Our command having been halted at this place to give the men an opportunity to wash and clean up generally as they have been marching and fighting for the past month without rest.

I have some painful news to communicate to you. It is that Joe Garza fell while gallantly fighting at the head of his company at the battle of Mansfield on the evening of the 8th inst. He was shot above the knee with a shell and died soon after. This I was told by a number of his company who had assisted at his burial. Joe spent the greater part of the day with me the day before the fight and was in fine health and spirits…

I have had a pretty rough and hard time since I reached this command, as it was falling back from Marksville where we were going and the Yanks pursuing. As I had to relieve the then quartermaster of this brigade and everything being in confusion, I had a pretty rough time. I did not get into the battle of the 8th, but did in the 9th. It was a hard fight, but we whipped the Yanks badly. I think it was the most complete victory of the war. We had but about 8 or 9,000 in the first day’s fight and in the second about 12,000. The enemy had not less than 30,000 in the first, and were reinforced on the second day by a fresh corps. They were completely routed, losing about 300 wagons and trains, wagons loaded with stores, between 80 and 100 ambulances, 16 pieces of artillery with everything complete. All of these fell into our hands and were saved. They also destroyed quartermaster stores without number. Small arms it would be hard to estimate numbers, as all of our gun supplies and Enfield rifles that were left on the battlefield and there were wagon loads hauled off. As far as I was able to see and could learn from the parties sent out to bury the dead, theirs was at about 5 to 1 of our dead. And hundreds were reported laying in the woods, the men not taking the trouble to bury when there were none of our men killed.

In prisoners we got between 4 and 5,000. Our loss in officers has been terribly severe. We have to mourn the loss of Major General Tom Green, Brigadier General Mouton, some 9 or 10 colonels in the same proportion. After the two days fights we were ordered on the march. Where we are going is “Quien Sabe” but am inclined to think Arkansas is the point, unless [Union general Frederick] Steele happens to fall back too rapidly that there would be no chance for us to catch him…

 

H.B. Adams

Memorial Day Reflections

Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall visits Camp Mabry in AustinCommentary by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Photo By Michelle McBride

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall visits Camp Mabry in Austin, every year during the annual Texas Military Forces Open House and American Heroes Air Show. It’s one way the event pays tribute to those that went before us.

This year a Vietnam veteran came to see the wall, with a long list of names. He knelt before each name and spent a few moments with each of his brothers who never came home. He said that whenever the wall comes to Texas, there he is, visiting his friends.

Each year during the same event, a wall honoring those lost in the Global War on Terror is set up as well. And each year that I attend the event, I too, go to the wall and seek out my friends.

To some people, the name Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins is a name on a list, just one of many service members who lost their lives in a war. To others, the name symbolizes the price we pay for the freedom we enjoy. To an even smaller group of people, the name represents a life lived.

When I see the wall with my friends’ names on them I remember the lives I was so blessed to share.

 I think of how Travis convinced my husband to ask me out on our first date, how he welcomed me into their group of friends and I think of the wedding photos that will always have a hole where the best man should have stood.

Then I think of Capt. Joshua Lawrence. I think of basmati rice and jelly donuts. I think of the time he accused me of “being allergic to man,” after I informed him that I did not appreciate the smell of Brut cologne that the guys had sprayed all over the office. I think of how every time stupid seemed to happen, which when you are working 20 hour days, seven days a week, does seem to happen often, I could just look at him and roll my eyes. I think of his combat toothpicks – a reshaped paperclip - and his oath to change the brigade headquarters company’s call sign to Honey Badger, after taking command. I think of carrying his body to a Blackhawk, just weeks before he was scheduled to take that command. And I think of the empty desk that sat next to me for what seemed an eternity.

For many of us who have worn the uniform, things like the Vietnam Memorial Wall and days like Memorial Day are so much more than a tribute, or a day to barbeque with family. For us, it is a time to stop and remember the lives of our friends, our brothers and sisters in arms – the ones who never came home as well as those that came home, but are no longer with us.

It doesn’t matter when we served, or what combat theater we served in, we are all connected by those we’ve lost – perhaps the deepest battle wounds we carry.
It’s true what they say – Freedom isn’t Free. It has been paid for by the blood of so many. But each man and woman, who paid that price, first lived a full life; they did not just have a death. 

This Memorial Day, as we roll out the grills and enjoy the beginning of summer, may we all pause to remember those who went before and those who never came home to their families. Take a minute to remember their sacrifice and toast the lives they lived.
 

TAG Talks: LTC Les Davis

LTC Les Davis, Deputy Director CFMO, Texas National Guard, talks about Camp Mabry and its relationship with the local community in a TAG Talk at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Growing up Army (Part 3)

returning to Texas where my sister and ICommentary by Michelle McBride

One of the best parts about moving was the amount of time I got to spend with my parents. It was time together I will never get to have again as an adult living in a different city from my parents. There was less traveling so it was more time than I had ever spent with my parents and we were able to connect and form a bond that we may not have done otherwise.

By the time I graduated I was having serious thoughts about going to a university in Colombia.  However, I had reconnected with an old friend in Texas and we were making plans to be together.

My parents stayed in Colombia for a few more years while I was in college before returning to Texas where my sister and I both still live. It was strange being so far away, and I missed them all the time. 

As an adult, I have a deep appreciation for our service members as well as their families. In fact, I now work for the military as a civilian.

In high school, I thought moving around would negatively affect my relationships with people but instead it did the opposite. It made me enjoy meeting new people and getting to know their quirks. It’s nice having friends around the world, especially when traveling (not having to pay for a hotel doesn’t hurt either). I have also managed to stay in the same relationship with the guy I reconnected with in High School. He even went to Colombia to visit me and attend my high school graduation ceremony. We then went to the same college and have been together ever since.

My dad is a contractor now, working in Iraq. I think for people like my dad it is a lifestyle that is hard to let go of. He still gets up and runs every day, still keeps in touch with his Special Forces buddies and he still likes to share his old war stories (especially when my boyfriend comes around).

My parents always did what they had to do for us and now, as an adult, it’s my turn to do what I need to do for them. I thank my parents for raising me as a military child. I wouldn’t be me if they hadn’t. 

(Part 3 of 3 documenting my experience as the daughter of a soldier in honor of the Month of the Military Child. If you or someone you know is a military family member in need of support please contact Family Support Services at their 24/7 hotline 1-800-252-8032 or visit their website at https://tmd.texas.gov/family-support-service)

Religious Support Teams keep the faith abroad, at home

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: April 26, 2015

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Staff Sgt. Kelly Lee, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) chaplains' assistant, talks with 1st Lt. James McCann, 625th Network Support Company during annual training, April 19-25, 2015, at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Staff Sgt. Kelly Lee, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) chaplains' assistant, talks with 1st Lt. James McCann, 625th Network Support Company during annual training, April 19-25, 2015, at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas - It's no secret that war is hell, but the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) can face frightening and disturbing situations during disasters at home, too. After long days and nights spent helping communities after hurricanes or other disasters, even the most resilient personalities benefit from the cheerful smile and caring presence of Staff Sgt. Kelly Lee.

Lee is a key member of the Unit Ministry Team, ready to step in to help take a load off worried minds. Emotional support is absolutely critical in homeland missions, said Lee, the brigade chaplain's assistant. “We're trained to see military personnel put in harm's way,” she said, “but the defense support to civil authorities mission is working with American citizens and we train hard for America's worst day.”

Working a disaster scene can be different from training, said Lee, due to the intimate relationship between Texas citizen-Soldiers and their communities. 

“You can't train for Soldiers to have to deal with mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa and Fido,” she said, “and that can cause folks to break down.”

To help mitigate that stress, the brigade chaplain works a comprehensive religious support plan in to the overall standard operations guide. Ideally, that plan includes a chaplain and assistant who have worked together and know their Guardsmen, said Lee. Working and resting alongside those under their care makes sure the religious support teams, formerly called unit ministry teams, are positioned to be responsive and effective in times of need.

“Best case, we've got one cohesive UMT with the each part of the brigade,” said Lee, “including chaplains in the staging areas.” 

Multiple chaplains also help take care of each other, in case one chaplain is injured or needs support as well.

“This is spiritual care at the tactical level,” said Lee.

Even as other brigade members have “go-bags” ready, the UMT makes sure they're ready at a moment's notice too. A “go-box” with Bibles, religious books, communion supplies and prayer tokens is part of the field packing list.

“They're gestures to show we care, because our entire job is those troops,” she said.

RST care isn't just pastoral or religious, though.

“Being there for someone doesn’t mean you have to be a pastor, or chaplain,” she said.

Going over the events of the day can help Guardsmen put events in perspective.

“What did you do, what did your buddy do? What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What did you hear, or see or smell? That's all important too,” she said.

Learning skills to help other Guardsmen cope is an important part of the training. Traumatic event management courses allow RST members to help both individuals and groups in the field. Those skills, the “ministry of presence” is at least as important as overtly religious support, allowing Lee to be “just there, listening and comforting.”

The biggest challenge for Lee is logistical.

“There are whole lot more of them than there are of us, but we do everything we can to make sure we're out here for them,” she said, but that challenge doesn't deter Lee or any of the RST members.

“When I see a smile on their face,” said Lee, “that's all the reward I need, and they don't even know they're giving it to me half the time. I just don't need anything else.”

Minuteman Brigade, inter-agency training at Disaster City

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: April 26, 2015

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson As the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) capitalized on the chance to work with other military and civilian agencies during their annual training in Austin, Camp Swift and Disaster City, April 19-25. The nine-day training period was the latest in a long line of exercises to build partnerships and skills to help more Texas communities survive another hurricane season. Soldiers and Airmen transitioned from home station armories to a field environment, testing their response time and mobility capabilities. By responding to a full scale "disaster" and deploying their suite of lifesaving capabilities both civilian and military responders got the opportunity to truly see what each other agency was capable of. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson
As the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) capitalized on the chance to work with other military and civilian agencies during their annual training in Austin, Camp Swift and Disaster City, April 19-25. The nine-day training period was the latest in a long line of exercises to build partnerships and skills to help more Texas communities survive another hurricane season. Soldiers and Airmen transitioned from home station armories to a field environment, testing their response time and mobility capabilities. By responding to a full scale "disaster" and deploying their suite of lifesaving capabilities both civilian and military responders got the opportunity to truly see what each other agency was capable of. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

DISASTER CITY, Texas - The “Galveston Hurricane.” Celia. Rita. Katrina. Ike. All of them were large-scale, deadly Atlantic hurricanes that touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of Texans; many of them triggering disaster responses across multiple military and civilian agencies to care for the communities in harm's way.

As the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) capitalized on the chance to work with other military and civilian agencies during their annual training in Austin, Camp Swift, and Disaster City, April 19-25. The nine-day training period was the latest in a long line of exercises to build partnerships and skills to help more Texas communities survive another hurricane season.

Soldiers and Airmen transitioned from home station armories to a field environment, testing their response time and mobility capabilities. By responding to a full scale "disaster" and deploying their suite of life-saving capabilities both civilian and military responders got the opportunity to truly see what each other agency was capable of.

The National Guard outfit, also called the “Minuteman Brigade,” is the custodian of the Federal Emergency Management Agency homeland response force mission for FEMA Region VI, supporting local, state and federal assets throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. This mission means the Round Rock-based unit can, and does, partner with agencies from all over the region and country.

"This is great preparation for hurricane season. It really exercises the complex nature of a large-scale disaster," said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander for the Texas Military Forces’ Domestic Operations Task Force. "There are numerous inter-agency partners here. For some, it's the first time they've seen what we do."

“Mobilized” at the request of the governor and local civil authorities as “Hurricane Matthias” barreled down on Houston, the troops refined their life-saving techniques and improved inter-agency communication, ensuring that if disaster strikes, all support elements will be prepared to integrate seamlessly with units and personnel outside of the Texas Military Forces.

“It’s just so great for our Soldiers and our Airmen to get a chance to work with all of those different entities that they would see in a real world situation,” said Col. Lee Schnell, the commander for JTF-136 (MEB).

Saturday, April 25, was the day for the Guardsmen to truly stretch their legs. Some worked with Texas Urban Search and Rescue to search for and extract casualties, while others went deep under collapsing structures to share shoring and rigging techniques with the Texas Task Force 1 structures crew. Experts from Texas A&M Veterinary School passed along canine decontamination procedures while medical teams practiced triage and treatment on a variety of “wounds.”

According to Texas A&M Engineering Extension service, the agency in charge of Disaster City, more than 900 personnel took part in the exercise. These first responders were in turn supported by the 560 members of the Minuteman Brigade, bringing specialized military capabilities to the overall lifesaving efforts.

“In this particular scenario, really one of the highlights is working with our civilian first responder partners,” said Schnell. “Wednesday, we worked with Austin Fire Department, Williamson County Hazmat, Austin Hazmat, Austin Fire Department, Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, and on Saturday, we got a chance to work with the Texas and Utah Urban Search and Rescue team.”

At the end of the day, the depth of knowledge gained by hands-on time with diverse partners allows everyone involved to better serve their communities and fellow Texans.

"Working with the Texas National Guard is one of the best parts of my job,” said Brett Dixon, TX-TF1, Helicopter Search and Rescue Program manager. “We all have a genuine shared interest in helping the citizens of Texas."

Growing up Army (Part 2)

honor of the Month of the Military Child. Commentary by Michelle McBride

The summer before the start of high school was a big turning point for me. I had spent many years swimming competitively and training with swim coaches year round. That summer I tried out for the High School team, and made it. I was beyond excited. A lot of my friends from around the city were going to be joining me and I felt like I found my place. On top of that, it was the longest we had stayed in one place and the stability was comforting.

A week after making the team, my parents dropped the bomb. We were moving to Colombia at the end of summer. On top of that, my sister, who had just graduated from the high school I planned on attending, would not be moving with us. I felt alone and I was devastated. The news turned me in to a person neither me nor my parents recognized- a whiny brat refusing to accept change.

I did everything I could to fight it including attempting to guilt my parents in to letting me stay. I had to accept it though, and the move happened.

I ended up living in two different cities, attending two different high schools. Each school presented its own unique challenges. The first one, in Santa Marta, was mainly Spanish speaking. There were a few people who spoke English and among them I did make some very good friends who I still keep in contact with, but I struggled. I was failing my classes and had to have three different tutors for the different subjects. This did not last long.

The next year, my dad was able to move us to Barranquilla where I was placed in an American school.  The school was the exact opposite of my previous one. Everyone spoke English, everyone traveled to the U.S. regularly and everyone was very wealthy. There also weren’t uniforms, which was a plus for me. The downside, however, is that this group of kids was extremely tight knit and not as open to newcomers. I was very different from them. Having spent a lot of my time alone for the past year, I spent all of my time reading and writing. I felt dark and angry and if people did not want to accept me, I wasn’t going to accept them.

This all changed of course, as it always does. Eventually, I became part of the group and made some lasting friendships. I will always look back at my memories of Colombia fondly and with gratitude. How my parents dealt with me at the same time as dealing with their marriage and all the changes they were dealing with is beyond me. When my parents made the decision to move to Colombia, my dad had already been going back and forth for a couple years. They spent most of their marriage long distance at that point and I was too selfish to accept what they needed.

(Part 2 of 3 documenting my experience as the daughter of a soldier in honor of the Month of the Military Child. If you or someone you know is a military family member in need of support please contact Family Support Services at their 24/7 hotline 1-800-252-8032 or visit their website at https://tmd.texas.gov/family-support-service)

Texas State Guard signal unit prepares for emergency response

Story By: Capt. Esperanza Meza

Posted: April 24, 2015

Courtesy Photo Cpl. Christopher Parrish, 19th Regiment signal unit, Texas State Guard, conducts a radio exercise during part of a communications exercise conducted at California Crossing National Guard Armory in Dallas, Feb. 6-8, 2015. The exercise tested communications at great distances, operations management and how to provide support to the communities and officials involved during a natural disaster. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza)
Courtesy Photo
Cpl. Christopher Parrish, 19th Regiment signal unit, Texas State Guard, conducts a radio exercise during part of a communications exercise conducted at California Crossing National Guard Armory in Dallas, Feb. 6-8, 2015. The exercise tested communications at great distances, operations management and how to provide support to the communities and officials involved during a natural disaster. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza)

DALLAS - With natural disasters a constant threat, coordinating emergency response efforts is important to provide assistance and resources to communities. 

The Texas State Guard, 19th Regiment signal unit conducted a three-day field communications exercise at the National Guard armory in Dallas, Feb. 6-8, 2015. 

The exercise tested the unit’s ability to communicate over great distances, as well as across the local community to effectively manage operations and provide support to the communities and officials involved.

“During actual emergencies, there is a strong likelihood that the Texas State Guard will be working hand-in-hand to pass emergency radio traffic and digital messages back and forth,” said Maj. Glen Fowler, the regiment’s communications officer. “This means that establishing relationships in advance preparation is a good idea.”

Guardsmen worked with communications equipment powered by an 8,000 watt generator, emergency battery backups, and digital equipment that enabling high frequency messaging capabilities, for both near and remote locations, without the need for Internet access.

Guardsmen were able to connect with other state emergency resources without internet or phone communications, using mobile dual band very high frequency and ultra high frequency transceivers with vertical antennas and high frequency transceivers, something that is often needed in the event of a disaster, said Fowler.

The field exercise involved voice and digital modes, using high frequency and very high frequency transceivers, communicating with other military stations and Military Auxiliary Radio System volunteers across Texas and several other states. 

MARS volunteers are amateur radio operators, licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and trained by the Army to operate as government auxiliary radio stations on the high frequency spectrum provided by the Department of Defense. The 19th Regiment has three Army MARS station licenses issued by Army MARS headquarters in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“The Texas State Guard has its own communication systems, but they need to be closely connected with other regional, state and national communications resources,” said Fowler. “Such interoperability helps to ensure that we can reliably communicate over great distances as well as just across a local community to be able to effectively manage our own operations as well as provide support to the communities and groups that we serve.”

The regiment’s signal team sent digital messages between Dallas and Austin using high frequency messaging modes, during the three-day exercise, and made numerous voice and digital communications connections with components all over the state. 

Warrant Officer 1 Lew Thompson, Texas Army MARS Texas Military Forces liaison officer, worked one on one with the regiment during this exercise, providing additional technical support and remote communications test message reception and transmission.

“The exercise was used to further the communications capabilities and individual knowledge and skills of members of the signals unit and to show that long-range high frequency communication is a valuable resource for the Texas State Guard that should not be overlooked,” said Fowler. “It allows various components of the Texas Military Forces to be able to communicate state-wide to serve as the voice of command and carry out our important and diverse disaster and community support missions.”