‘You don’t have to be American to pay tribute’
EAGLE — U.S. troops aren’t just defending Americans from foreign foes, they’re defending freedom, and Monday, a Mexican man with roots in Eagle is honoring those troops for the freedom he and his family enjoy in Eagle County.
“My message to people is: You don’t have to be an American to pay tribute to the soldiers who gave their lives for this country,” said Joaquin Garcia, of Eagle.
Garcia, a woodworker who came from Guadalajara, Mexico, to work in Eagle in 1995, organized the second annual Western Slope Memorial Day Ride. The group motorcycle ride pays tribute to the fallen soldiers and thanks to the ones still alive.
Garcia expects about 50-60 people for the ride this year that takes riders from Glenwood Springs to a barbecue at the Veterans Affairs home in Rifle with some time spent on the Memorial Highway. Over $5,000 will be raised to be dedicated to the VA home.
“When I ride my bike, I’m very touched by the freedom,” said Garcia, who will be out Monday on his Harley Davidson Road King donning a 10th Mountain Division uniform. “The soldiers gave their lives for the freedom of this country, and for me, I’m raising my kids in the United States and taking advantage of what they’ve done for the country so we can enjoy ourselves as citizens.”
‘THINK AS AN AMERICAN’
Three friends joined Garcia in the organization process who believe in his message.
“They wish that most Hispanics would think the same as me,” Garcia said. “They tell me I kind of already think as an American because I’ve been around for 21 years now, and I’m raising my family in the valley and I like to give back to my community.”
The tribute ride is open to anyone.
“Every bike is welcome,” Garcia said. “I want communities to come together. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Garcia hasn’t looked back since coming to America from Mexico, and he appreciates the opportunity this country gave him, and continues to give him.
“Most important is that you don’t have to be an American to be thankful for the freedoms of this country,” he said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.