On July 20, 1969—50 years ago—a team of about five American soldiers was surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of Vietnamese. As the enemy closed in, all the brave Americans could do was hunker down and wait for the inevitable—scared, as flashbacks of home and family no doubt filled their minds as they waited, most only 18 to 23 years of age.
Sooner than they expected, the enemy was upon them, when suddenly the team leader was informed the moment it happened: “The eagle has landed!” He must have figured if life was going to end, he was going to go out celebrating this great American feat. He stood up, danced around in celebration and repeatedly yelled out, “The eagle has landed, the eagle has landed!” Suddenly just as quick as the enemy approached, they backed off and left the area quickly. The team found that they had survived certain death.
Days later a few of the enemy were captured. As the story goes, when interrogated, one enemy soldier told a story of a crazy man yelling something they couldn’t understand, but what he was certain that they all knew was that they were walking into an ambush, so they backed away carefully and quietly.
One lifelong resident of Gilroy was a member of that team and has shared this story many times, his emotions felt deeply every time he tells it. It is only fitting that the community knows that this one special day in history touched the life of one of our very own in a very special way. To all of our service members past, present and future and Gilroy’s lifelong resident Joe “Seferino” Garcia, thank you for your service and “Welcome Home.”
Leonard G. Sandoval, nephew