ARROYO SECO, N.M. (KRQE) – It was a Father’s Day gift one man never expected. A World War II veteran received a box of gifts he hadn’t seen since his time in combat. The vet returned with only two mementos from his time in battle – his cap and a Japanese flag from Okinawa. Yet, on a recent honor flight to Washington D.C., a stranger-turned-friend decided to change that.
Anthony Garcia has been waiting all week to give his grandfather his Father’s Day gift.
“Happy Father’s Day!” said Anthony, as he placed a cardboard box in front of Abe. “Open up your package!”
World War II veteran Abe Garcia recently returned from the first Northern New Mexico Honor Flight.
“It was very touching,” recalls Abe.
Little did Abe know, it wasn’t over yet. While in D.C., the pair met a man named Butch displaying World War II artifacts.
“Butch was very enthused with how my grandfather was telling him about these things and he learned a couple of things, as he said, from him,” says Anthony.
Butch pulled Anthony aside and told him Abe deserves to own mementos of his time in the service.
“This guy kind of promised me that he was going to send me all of this, but it’s expensive,” says Abe.
Yet, money was no object for Butch. He sent the items free of charge, in honor of his late father who also served his country.
“It’s nice to be able to get that package today and have him open it and see all this stuff as time has passed by,” Anthony says.
Yet, as Abe goes through his gifts, one by one, the memories start flooding back, and so do the emotions.
“In the Philippines, I used one of these,” says Abe, holding a shovel in his hand. “Only, it was sandy and we dug ourselves in like we were never going to come out of it.”
“I realize that it did bring tears to his eyes because I know it must bring back painful memories of everything that he went through,” says Anthony.
Anthony hopes Abe will display the items in his restaurant, Abe’s Cantina y Cocina, where he still works.
“It’s something that I didn’t expect and I will cherish it for a very long time,” Abe says.
It’s a reminder to all about the sacrifice of those who served.
Among Abe’s gifts was a Baltimore Ravens hat. Part of the deal for Butch was that Abe had to take a photo wearing it. Abe is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan and the two teams are rivals.
Abe says many of the items included in the package – a mess kit, canteen and a shovel – were things too heavy for soldiers to carry home. In fact, Abe says he no longer had those items by the time he was ready to return to home.