"You have a brother that's a soldier, Gabriella," Javier de la Garza Jr., wrote to his little sister after he enlisted in the U. S. Army at age 17. "Do you know what that means? I will fight and, if need be die, for my country and its people."
Ironically, Javier, a veteran of the Iraq war, was a civilian when he gave his life for his country. The UTPA alumnus, Class of 2009, was killed on Sept. 6, 2010, during an attack on a base in Kandahar province in Afghanistan, where he worked for a private contractor, DRS Defense Solutions, LLC, in support of U. S. Army forces. To honor his memory, the company has established the Javier de la Garza Memorial Fund at his alma mater.
In a letter to company employees, Richard Danforth, DRS Defense Solutions President and CEO, said the company was establishing the memorial fund at the suggestion of Javier's mother and to respond "in a way that illustrates how we really care about others in the DRS family." He added that the fund will "help continue his (Javier's) research work and that of his colleagues. Our financial support will help fulfill the promise of an education to veterans of past, present and future conflicts. Donations for the fund came from the company and workers," Danforth noted.
"He was 27 years old at the time of his death," said Dalia de la Garza, Javier's mother. "But he had seen and experienced quite a lot in his life. He was a very dynamic person, and he had met quite a lot of people during his time in Afghanistan."
"He was a very energetic person. He joined the Army out of a sense of duty. It makes me very proud," she noted. "One day he called me from Afghanistan and said, 'I'm standing here in the mess hall and I'm looking at everyone here. They (NATO troops and civilian workers) are from every different part of the world you can think of. It's pretty neat, everyone getting along. Everyone is eating peacefully here.' It was very touching that, in all that was going on around him, he could see the better side of people. It was just like him."
Javier served four years as a Military Intelligence Analyst, including one year in Iraq. After his enlistment tour was over, he enrolled at UTPA, graduating in May 2009 with a bachelor's degree in rehabilitative services. In Fall 2009, he started the master's program. Javier's father, Javier de la Garza Sr., also graduated from UTPA, and his mother attended the University.
During his time at UTPA, Javier was a research assistant for Dr. Noreen Glover, professor in the Department of Rehabilitation, within the College of Health Sciences and Human Services. His assignment included work on several projects with veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, and also families of veterans. He was also a student in a couple of Dr. Glover's classes.
"He came to my office one day asking to help with my veterans research and stated he didn't need to be paid," Glover said. "He just needed to be involved. He was a caring and charismatic man who would help anyone in need and worked diligently on our veteran's research projects. The research he assisted with has resulted in a number of national presentations and publications."
Javier finished the first semester of graduate school when he decided to take a break to go work in Afghanistan for DRS Defense Solutions, which has more than 3,000 employees worldwide and provides advanced products, services and systems integration in the areas of intelligence and sensor technologies, security, cyber warfare, sonar, communications, electronic warfare, training systems, satellite communications, control systems and unmanned technologies. Javier served as a communication technician in support of the U.S. Army Logistics Civil Augmentation Program IV (LOGCAP IV) mission in Afghanistan. He had been employed by DRS Technical Services as an Internet Protocol Field Specialist since March of 2010.
In addition to funds donated by DRS Defense Solutions and its employees, Dalia de la Garza plans to contribute to the fund in her son's memory to create a permanent endowment.
"We are so appreciative of DRS's generosity and the de la Garza family's continued commitment to UT Pan American," said Janice Odom, UTPA vice president for university advancement. "We are proud and humbled to be able to carry forward Javier's legacy of helping others through this memorial fund."
For information about contributing to the Javier de la Garza Memorial Fund, contact the UTPA Development Office at (956)665-5301.