From endings spring new beginnings.
As American flags waved in the sunny, noonday breeze Monday, Master Sgt. Jose A. Garcia bid his farewell to the U.S. Air Force. Garcia retired after more than 20 years of service, including three years of recruiting in Soldotna.
"Twenty years, 11 months and eight days," he said clarifying the count of his time in.
Master Sgt. Jeff Springer, the first sergeant of the Air Force's 361st Recruiting Squadron, presided over a ceremony held at Parker Park in Soldotna. Springer supervises Garcia from Tacoma, Wash., and said Garcia initially did not want to be recognized.
"It's good to have closure," Springer said.
During Garcia's career, he served as a medical laboratory technician in Oklahoma, Michigan, Arizona and Greece before becoming a recruiter and returning to Michigan, then moving to Alaska.
He said his fondest memory in the service was in Greece.
"That's where I met my wife," he said of Jacqueline Garcia, the mother of his two daughters Adrianna and Christianna.
Springer presented Garcia with a certificate of retirement signed by Brig. Gen. Edward Rice Jr., commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service, and by Gen. John Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff.
Garcia also received a certificate signed by President George W. Bush extending the president's "personal thanks and the sincere appreciation of our nation for your honorable service."
Included in the audience were Soldotna Mayor David Carey and Police Chief Shirley Gifford.
Gifford announced that Garcia has joined the Soldotna Police Force and will be going to the Alaska Police Academy in Sitka as soon as possible.
Carey gave Garcia a commendation from the city and said he was grateful Garcia had devoted so much time to Soldotna youth.
"I'm just extremely pleased with his dedication and public service," Carey said. "He has subbed in my school and has a good rapport with youngsters. I'm hoping as he makes the transition from the Air Force to the Soldotna police force that he'll maintain that rapport."
Garcia said he left behind a legacy of young military personnel who believed in the Air Force core values of "service before self, excellence in all we do, and integrity." He said he hoped he had set an example of perseverance and commitment.
"If they can pass that on to regular life, they're going to be better for it," he said.
Springer said he was proud of Garcia for turning a page in his life. Garcia said he didn't feel that a retirement celebration was in order, however.
"Fortunately, I don't view this as a retirement," he said. "I'll be going from serving my country to serving my community."
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