LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock family will spend Veterans Day remembering their fallen husband and father, sharing his story through programs offered by Covenant Medical Center’s Operation Military Appreciation Committee.
With donated display cases, the OMAC recognizes the service of caregivers or patients by allowing them to place military mementos inside. It’s known as the “featured fighter," one of many OMAC programs. Ahead of Veterans Day, the Garza family arranged photographs, uniform patches and more items belonging to their loved one, Army Specialist Israel Garza, who died in an ambush in Iraq in 2004.
“[The items] have a deep meaning,” Israel’s wife Lupita said. “It shows the last day we were together we were able to hug, kiss. He was able to hold his boys for the last time.”
Lupita is a Clinical Program Assistant for Covenant Health Partners. She was nominated and selected by the committee to share the story of Israel through the display case.
“I think it’s a blessing and an honor and privilege to have the hospital continue his story and honor him like this,” Lupita said.
OMAC will unveil the display case during a Veterans Day celebration at Covenant Medical Center on Monday.
“We want to honor them in the best way we can and we do that in different ways,” OMAC Chair Connie Gonzales said “It’s to make sure they know that we appreciate what they’ve done for our country.”
In 2017, National Geographic aired a miniseries about Israel and his platoon called the Long Road Home. A book about the series, as well as the helmet used in the film will be in the display case.
“For us as a family, it’s sad but at the same time it’s an honor to have his story stay alive,” Lupits said “I know my sons love that we get to still talk about their dad and his spirit is still alive. They see that his sacrifice wasn’t in vain. It meant something.”
For Israel’s son Michael, he holds pictures and stories of his father close. He was very young when is father died.
It is tough not having a memory of him, not knowing what he looks like but that’s why we have the pictures and good stories," Michael said.
Israel’s namesake son, Israel Jr., will carry on his father’s sense of service. He just recently enlisted in the Marines.
“I honestly feel like he would be really happy seeing me filling out the papers to enlist,” Israel Jr. said. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me. I wanted to achieve something that was high.”
Lupita says seeing her son enlist is bittersweet.
“There’s fear because when Israel left, it was just a peace keeping mission,” Lupita said. “We never thought it would happen and, of course, no mother wants that for their child. But, I am proud of him. I’m happy he’s following in his dad’s footsteps. His dad was the same. He had no fear.”
The “featured fighter” display case will be in the lobby of Covenant Medical Center.
“We have sacred encounters with our patients but we also like to have them with our caregivers,” Gonzales said. “It just brings meaning to what we do here in the hospital, taking care of others and serving others.”