Sgt. Israel Garcia 01.19.84 - 07.13.08

This page is to honor the legacy that Israel left behind. Please remember Israel as an American Hero who gave his life for this nation. Israel will forever be in our hearts. Gone but never forgotten.


Honoring 'Heroes of Wanat'

November 13, 2008

I'm writing this on Veterans Day to highlight a recent example of American heroism under fire. You may recall breathless media reports last July about an American outpost in Afghanistan that was "overrun" (not true). The press focused on our losses, but there's much more to the story; go to for full details.   On July 9, paratroopers from C Company, 503rd Airborne Battalion were sent up the rugged Waygul Valley to the village of Wanat. This was a known enemy area, and they could all tell something was coming. On July 13, everyone was up at 3:45 a.m. donning full battle-rattle for "stand-to," In the pre-dawn quiet, they manned their posts and prepped their weapons. Minutes later, figures were seen on the high ground above. All hell broke loose.

Enemy fire erupted from the steep ridges surrounding them, from the village, and from just a few yards outside their perimeter. Bullets and rockets tore into their positions. They took casualties almost immediately, but the outnumbered paratroopers kept their heads, fired back and executed a well-conceived defensive plan.

At one corner of their patrol base they'd built "Observation Post Topside," a three-level strong point made of sandbags and rocks. Nine soldiers manned the structure, providing overwatch. The Taliban knew it was a key position, and trained heavy fire on it. In minutes, every man inside was hit, and enemy fighters crept to within hand-grenade range, yet the survivors kept returning fire.

"It was some of the bravest stuff I've ever seen," said Specialist Tyler Stafford. "Normal humans wouldn't do that É firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head."

The fight for OP Topside became the crux of the battle. Lt. Jonathan Bostrom led the first of three rushes to reinforce it. He gathered up Specialists Pruitt Rainey and Jason Hovater, and ran there to set up a machine gun, but all three were killed by enemy fire. Then four more men, including Sgt. Israel Garcia, saw the critical situation and moved under fire to the OP. There they gave first aid to the injured but were soon wounded themselves, Garcia mortally.

Finally, the third reinforcement succeeded. Sgt. Jesse Queck recounted, "When you ask for volunteers to run across an open field to an OP, and everybody volunteers, it motivates you. É Guys were putting themselves on the line so their buddies could have a chance." When it was all over, nine brave soldiers had died and 27 were wounded, with most casualties occurring in the tenacious defense of OP Topside.

There are many lessons from what's now called the Battle of Wanat. Among them are the nature of our enemies in Afghanistan, and the urgent need for more U.S. troops and a better strategy there. But this week let's remember those 48 American warriors who repulsed a determined, well-planned assault by 200 to 300 enemy fighters.

And let's never forget those who paid the ultimate price to defend their brothers - and our liberty.

1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Hawaii.

Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, Calif.

Spc. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Ga.

Spc. Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle.

Spc. Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tenn.

Spc. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Ga.

Spc. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, N.C.

Spc. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Mo.

Spc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Ky.

Tad Trueblood has more than 20 years experience in the U.S. Air Force and the national security community.