EL PASO, Texas -- Friends of a Texas veteran with no family living in El Paso invited the community to his funeral as he was laid to rest at Fort Bliss National Cemetery Friday.
Sgt. 1st Class Cristobal Garcia, 88, died on Dec. 3 in El Paso. He was a maintenance mechanic for the Army air and missile defense during the Korean and Vietnam wars, according to his friend Gilbert Gutierrez
"He loved to fix things," Gutierrez said. "It was pretty evident of what he did in the service."
Gutierrez met Garcia back in 1991 when Garcia's wife and Gutierrez's father died and were buried at Fort Bliss. Gutierrez said his mother and Garcia became good friends.
"He was a person that did the best he could to encourage other widows as well too," Gutierrez said.
Garcia had no children or any other family living in El Paso. Gutierrez told ABC-7 that while Garcia was still living he had discouraged his two sisters from attending his funeral when he passed because they lived far from El Paso and he didn't want them to make them to make the long trip. When Garcia died, Gutierrez and his wife Lettie decided to invite the community to attend his funeral through a Facebook post.
"I had seen on TV the situations and I thought you know we want to invite anyone who would like to come out and show love and support for this soldier," Gutierrez said.
Garcia's sister Mary Garret was able to make the trip from Arkansas to El Paso as well as his niece Erminia Cantu who came from Oklahoma.
"It was very far but it was our mission to be here," Erminia Cantu said. "We had to be here."
"We used to have a lot of fun," Mary Garret said. "He tried to sing like Hank Willams, but then he left so young he wasn't even 20-years-old when he left."
Many people came to pay their final respects to Garcia, including the staff at the cemetery. Gutierrez told ABC-7 Garcia used to visit his wife at the cemetery everyday for almost 30 years after she died.
James Porter, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, said Garcia would read the newspaper everyday near his wife's grave.
Cantu and Garret said they're grateful to all the soldiers, friends, staff at the cemetery and strangers who attended Garcia's funeral.
"We appreciate everything that has been done," Garret said.
"its a tremendous blessing to just show how much we admire and love that every soldier, man and woman, puts on that uniform, what they do for our country," Gutierrez said. "Thank you for all you do."