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Minnesota National Guard
From Mexico to Minnesota, Guardsman finds a new home

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn- For one Minnesota National Guard Soldier, it was a meandering series of events that brought him from working nightclubs in Mexico City to chasing family and career obligations around the Midwest before finally becoming a full-time member of the Minnesota National Guard

With the goals of finishing his education and starting a family, Staff Sgt Cesar Garcia, the medical readiness non-commissioned officer for the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, left his home country in 2000 He landed in Minnesota, where he attended Southwest Minnesota State University and earned his degree in communications, specializing in radio and television He then spent the next four years working with KARE11 in Golden Valley and CBS2 in Chicago, Ill, raising three kids along the way Once those stints in the television business ended, however, Garcia faced the reality that a career shift was on the horizon

Turning his career path on its head, Garcia committed himself to becoming a firefighter in Chicago By excelling throughout the application process, Garcia sat in the top five percent of his class of fellow applicants However, when veteran's preference points came down, Garcia just missed the cut

"I thought, 'what am I missing?'" Garcia said "Whatever traits that were getting those vets jobs, I wanted"

And with that, Garcia began taking a serious look at the Minnesota National Guard After making his decision, he chose to mirror his parents' careers - his father, a doctor, and his mother, a nurse, in Mexico City - by becoming a combat medic

Again, Garcia pushed himself and, after three years working in the Minnesota National Guard's Office of the State Surgeon, he submitted an application packet, and was eventually selected for, a medical readiness NCO, Active Guard/Reserve position with the 34th CAB For most people, the challenge of fighting for a job would have ended there, but as a Hispanic-American, Garcia had to continually fight the perception that he had been legitimately offered the job

"I believe in the best man for the job, which is why I got the job I have today," Garcia said "But there are people who think I'm here to meet diversity goals, and I feel the need to prove that I was selected because of my merits"

For Garcia, those merits include embracing his heritage He cited several examples of how being a Spanish-speaking Soldier has benefitted his unit, including in Croatia, where the similarities between the Italian-speaking Croatians and Garcia's Spanish allowed the two sides to understand one another And, in combat medic school, where the Spanish language's Latin roots helped Garcia understand derivative medical terms, he was able to grasp concepts more quickly and help his classmates to do the same

Garcia is now a United States citizen, and doesn't plan on returning to Mexico permanently anytime soon, but he does try to visit at least once a year to see family and friends For now he is concentrating on his family here in Minnesota, and believes he made the right career choice and shares that belief with others

"I encourage people to join the Guard," he said "It's one of the most diverse places to work"

March 4, 2014
by Sgt. 1st Class Ashlee Lolkus and Staff Sgt Patrick Loch
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs

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