MILITARY DEATHS

DefenseArmed ForcesDeathFamilyEducationIraqHigh Schools

Victor A. Garcia volunteered for a war he thought was wrong, in an Army commanded by a president he didn't support.

He read books by leftist critic Noam Chomsky, and one of his few blog entries on his MySpace.com page wonders, "What more evidence do we need?" that the war was a mistake.

But he joined the Army anyway, looking for college tuition assistance and, perhaps, some discipline. The specialist was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

On July 1, Garcia was killed in Baghdad when his unit was attacked with small-arms fire. He was 22.

A handsome, quiet guy, Garcia grew up in Rialto, the son of Mexican immigrants.

He was the different son, said his brother Daniel.

His brothers, Abel and Daniel, married their high school sweethearts at a young age. Victor knew lots of girls, but had no girlfriend.

"Victor just wanted to get out and see the world," Daniel Garcia said. "Victor was the one destined to do a lot more."

He was an avid sports fan and loved the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco 49ers and Manchester United soccer club in England.

History and politics fascinated him as well.

Garcia had never been a disciplined student, but he was very smart, said his cousin Manuel Garcia.

"He thought high school was a waste of time," his cousin said. "He already knew more than half the stuff they were teaching him."

In high school, when others in his family took French because it was so similar to Spanish, Garcia studied German.

"When I took French, I went through it like it was any other class," Daniel Garcia said. "When he took German, he bought German books."

The soldier's MySpace name was panzerkampfgruppe -- German for armored fighting brigade.

The cousins spent many hours watching History Channel documentaries about World War II. Garcia read books on economics, and Machiavelli's "The Prince," but he had bad study habits. When he took classes alone, he dropped them. He needed someone there to keep him disciplined, and his cousin said he often was that person. They took political science and economics courses together at Chaffey College in Upland.

To those who didn't know him, Garcia was normally reserved. "But if you were to talk to him about politics, he would get into it," said Manuel Garcia, a political science major at Cal State Fullerton. "He had an opinion about everything."

One opinion was that the war in Iraq was wrong.

"He thought it was an unjust war," his cousin said. "His logic was: There were no terrorists there, so why are we going in there? He loved the country, but he didn't like the policies we were using. He didn't like George W. Bush."

Yet Garcia knew he would be sent to Iraq when he signed up. "I never really knew why he joined the Army," his cousin said.

Garcia told his family that he wanted to earn money for college. Family members argued with him and told him that they would help with his expenses. His brother Abel had been in the Army in the early 1990s, and his mother, Socorro, remembered the anguish she felt then.

But "he said, 'I want to do something for myself,' " she said.

In November 2004, Garcia enlisted. Stationed at Ft. Lewis, he was selected to be trained as an Arabic interpreter.

He finished two courses in the language shortly before deploying to Iraq in April.

On his MySpace page, Garcia had a clock counting the seconds until he returned to California.

And under the heading "Goal You Would Like to Achieve This Year," Garcia wrote "Survive."

In addition to his mother and brothers, Garcia is survived by his father, David; and a sister, Belinda.

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sam.quinones@latimes.com

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