Late one evening last week, I noticed that Andre, an old Army buddy of mine, had tagged me on a Facebook post. I don’t think he’s ever tagged me, so I’d assumed he’d found a picture, or he’d been hacked. Sadly, it was neither. He posted that Bobby Garza, our former sergeant and friend, was in ICU battling COVID for his life. Bobby and I were friends on Facebook, but I didn’t realize he’d been sick.
Just a short period of time later, less than an hour, I suppose, I picked up my phone to send him a text. I wanted to let him know that I was thinking about him and sending up prayers from “Sweet Home Alabama.” When I started to do so, I saw that Andre had tagged me once again. This time, however, the fight was over. His time on this earth was over. His duty was complete.
Bobby Garza was one of the greatest “Army friends” I ever made. He was a real friend, but there’s just something a little different and special about “Army friends.” I met Bobby at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.
Ft. Sill was not exactly my favorite duty station. My previous assignment was Landstuhl, Germany. Landstuhl (Army) Regional Medical Center was/is the largest U.S. hospital outside of the continental United States. I was a medic there, and we took care of “real-world” patients. The highlight of my tenure there was taking care of the Army Rangers injured in the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia.
When I got stuck at Ft. Sill, I was assigned to a Field Artillery Battalion. All I did was pull sick call for troops who didn’t want to do PT or go to the field. The job was not rewarding at all. My reward for being there was the friends that I made, and man did I make some good ones: Andre, Halladay, JP, Mahoney, Devore, Dunne, Banks, Anderson, and more, and, of course, Bobby and his ex-wife Leah. In fact, I lived with them for a few months in 1996.
One of the best things about living with Bobby is that he liked to cook, and he taught me to make deviled eggs. I was always around them at my grandmother’s and at church, but I’d never tried them. I tried his and learned to make them. I am now the king of deviled eggs. Thank you, mi hermano.
Bobby was from San Antonio. I attended medic school at Ft. Sam Houston there, so I’ve always loved that city. One weekend, I drove him home so that he could drive back an early seventies model Impala. He was really into fixing up cars and trucks.
When I first met him, he told me he had a truck. He assumed that being from Alabama that I would appreciate that, which I did. His truck was a little different than the ones I was accustomed to. His truck was a low-rider. He took such great care of it, too. One day, I was helping him wash it, and I asked him to pass me the “hosepipe.” I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone laugh so hard in my life. He’d never heard a hose called a “hosepipe.” We always laughed about that.
We stayed with his family in San Antonio in the barrio, which is Spanish for “neighborhood.” I’d met his mother, sister, and brothers when they came to visit Bobby in Oklahoma, so they took me in like familia. His mother Lupe and grandmother cooked for us, and it was about as authentic a Mexican meal that I’ve ever had, even to this day. His younger brother knew that I liked wrestling, so we had to wrestle some. He was a big kid, but I was wiry and whooped him, all in fun, of course. Now he’s huge, and I’m no longer wiry.
The funniest part of the trip happened on our way back to Oklahoma. The steering wheel came off of that old Impala, while he was driving it. Hilarious, isn’t it? Maybe not at the time, but since no one was injured that’s something that we laughed at for years.
I left Ft. Sill in 1996 but went back a year later before everyone started to leave. I wanted to see them all one more time. I’ve seen some of them over the years. I’ve stayed with some of them and some of them have stayed with me. It’s just an Army thing. Bobby makes the third one of the group who is no longer with us.
In 2009, I had a two-week class at Ft. Sam, so I was able to see Bobby and his new family a couple of times. He picked me up from the River Walk and took me to an authentic, hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. We went to eat at a Genghis Khan’s, too. My favorite place he took me to was Rudy’s BBQ, which is still my favorite place to stop when I’m in Texas. It’s a small chain, but it so good. We had some good times. Thank you, mi hermano.
We last hung out in 2013. That seems like forever ago now. He came to Columbus to his oldest daughter’s high school graduation. I met up with him, Leah, and the rest of their crew for lunch. It wasn’t a long visit, but it was still good.
He retired as a Master Sergeant, which means he was a great Soldier. He likely would have made Sergeant Major had he not been injured in an accident causing him to retire earlier than planned. Roberto Garza will be missed but never forgotten, so rest easy, my friend, my brother, mi hermano. Thank you for everything.