Daughter of Bataan POW shares lesson learned from father

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
If there was one lesson Margaret Garcia, daughter of former U.S. Army Cpl. Evans Garcia, a prisoner of war during World War II, learned from her father, it was forgiveness.

"My dad taught me a lot of lessons," she said. "But that's one that will stick with me forever, because if he was able to do it, I should too."

Margaret's father, Evans, who was stationed in the Philippines in 1941, was captured by Japanese soldiers after the Battle of Bataan.

"He was an artillery aircraft gunner and laid wire for the radio communications team," Margaret said. "My earliest memory of my dad talking about the war was when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My dad would be at home and some of his buddies we come over to visit, and he would start telling war stories. My brother and I would look at each other and go, 'Ah, here comes another war story,' because he spoke freely to all of his friends, but I really didn't understand what it was all about until much later."

Growing up with a father who went through what he did made Margaret a little different from the rest of her peers, she said.

"None of my friends or neighbors had a father who went through what my dad did," Margaret said. "I remember there would be parades downtown, and dad would always get dressed up to represent Bataan."

Margaret said she started to realize how much of a walking piece of history her father was as she got older.

"I was in my 30s when my dad sat down with me to talk about what he went through," she said. "Even though we lived apart, I kept in touch with him, and started asking a lot more questions about it. I started taking notes, recording his voice, and gathering story after story."

Her father's influence also rubbed off on Margaret's son.

"He really listened and learned all he could from my dad," Margaret said. "He joined the Navy when he graduated high school, as a result of his grandpa and understanding how important it was to serve his country."

Another thing Margaret and her son learned from Evans was how strong Evans' will to survive was.

"When he saw his fellow soldiers surrendering he knew that if the Japanese found anything of value on him, he could be killed, so he immediately threw all of his stuff down," Margaret said. "When the Japanese started rounding people up, he saw a couple of Japanese officers in trucks. He went and jumped onto the back of the truck, but was struck and fell to the ground."

While Evans was on the ground, Margaret said, he crawled out of the Japanese soldier's sight and under the truck.

"So he grabbed onto the bottom of the truck and rode the death march," Margaret said. "When he got to the end of the march, the Japanese were surprised that they found this prisoner underneath. When he rolled out from underneath the truck he said, 'I'll help I'll help.' So they moved him to the other end of the march to help the new prisoners that came in. Even though he didn't march, he still risked his life getting under the truck and riding all those miles."

After enduring three and a half years as a POW, Margaret still can't believe her father was capable of forgiving his captors.

"He would tell me, 'I forgive them,'" Margaret said. "It was extraordinary to hear him say that. He had forgiveness in his heart, and he was able to take that and apply it to this situation, where he saw his own friends slaughtered. I'm amazed he kept his dignity and never gave up. For me, that's so honorable, and I'm sort of speechless to really say what I think about his actions."

One thing everyone should learn from Evans and other POWs is history, Margaret said.

"We really need to understand what our military has been through," she said. "Without understanding history, we're not going to learn from past mistakes. These men had great courage under incredible odds, and they cared for one another. They were closer than brothers. We have to live what they taught us."

Even though her father passed away last year at the age of 97, Margaret will never forget what he went through.

"I know that whenever I think I'm having a tough day, I remember dad," she said. "I remember what he's been through, and it makes life a little easier."