A TRIBUTE TO OUR HEROES: ARMY VETERAN NILSSON GARCIA
October 25, 2023
In this latest episode of our video blog series, “A Tribute to Our Heroes,” we talk with Army Veteran and Soldiers’ Angels Veteran Intern Nilsson Garcia.
Nilsson serves in a hybrid Intern-Site Coordinator role in Orlando, Florida. Among other things, he organizes Military & Veteran Food Distributions (MVFDs) and Veteran Luncheons in the area.
Nilsson shares about why he enlisted in the Army, how he got connected with Soldiers’ Angels, and what the future holds for him. He also shares his recent experience of receiving a refurbished vehicle from Recycled Rides. Watch now and hear Nilsson’s whole story!
You can view our full video interview with Nilsson below.
Continue reading for excerpts from the interview with Nilsson.
Q: What led to you deciding to serve?
A: I think the majority of it was because I was a rebel. I was a bad kid in high school, and I think one of those times I just felt like, “You know what? I just want to get away from the house. I just wanted to go do my own thing,” and then I got connected with a recruiter. He sold me on adventure, camping, and would I like to see the world. The next thing I knew, I was in the infantry. From there when I presented it to my parents they were like, “What?! Why did you sign up?!” I was like, “You know this is something I want to do. I don’t want to stay in Virginia all my life, and I just want to go out and do something different.”
Q: Looking back at your time with the Army, and everything you experienced, what were some of the more memorable experiences that you look back on fondly?
A: Every time that I think about the Army and my service, the best times were being there with my brothers. Having that camaraderie, that loyalty, that trust. You knew that somebody had your back. There were a lot of Service Members, especially in Hawaii, I mean Hawaii was a light infantry unit so everywhere we went we walked. There was no such thing as jumping on a truck and taking a ride into the field, you know? We marched. If it wasn’t marching we repelled out of helicopters, so it was fun and I just wish that it would have been longer for me.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience transitioning out of the military and what you’ve done since then?
A: When I got out in ’95, which was October, it was tough because I was so used to the Army life. Like you said, it’s not for everybody but for me I just fit in so well once I learned how to play the game so to speak. I felt that I had it made because I had so many mentors, sergeants, and officers willing to coach me, mentor me, and help me develop. Also, tell me what courses to take to help me with college credits when I got out. It was difficult for me because I didn’t know how to detach from the service. It was like coming out to the real world and in my mind I was like, “OK, I was a team leader so that should give me a supervisor or an assistant manager job.” Then once I got in, they tasked me to work at the S1 office, which is the admin office. They process your military files, and your orders, conduct Sergeant promotion boards, and things like that. That made me feel like I could do something in an operations management role. When I got out, at that time I don’t know if it was just a struggle or what was going on, it was just tough. The jobs that I wanted required more experience and more education, and the only jobs that were being offered weren’t the jobs that I wanted.
Q: How did you end up getting in touch with Soldiers’ Angels? What was your first exposure to the organization?
A: At that time, the pandemic hit and my dad had a stroke. I wasn’t working, so it was easier for me to make the decision to come to Florida and be his caretaker. Because I was unemployed at the time, I was also searching through the VA and through other government or federal assistance to try to get some type of help. Whether the assistance was monetary, food, or anything that could help me and at the same time help the situation I was in with my mom and helping care for my dad. From there I was connected with a social worker at the VA and she gave me a list of all these organizations and all these resources that I could reach out to. So I reached out to Soldiers’ Angels because they were one of the main ones on the list and she explained to me, “They’ll give you food if you need food. Whether it’s for one month, two months, it’s up to you. They’re there to help you out.” So I filled out the forms and went to my first food distribution, and there I met Sophia. She was volunteering at the time and she had also gone through the same situation of looking for assistance. From there we just connected, and she asked me, “Have you ever thought about volunteering?” and I said, “I like this operation. I like this vibe, this energy and it’s something that I want to do.” I’ve always wanted to give back to my fellow Brothers and Sisters in the military.
Q: You’re still receiving some help with things that you need. I know recently you were part of the program where Soldiers’ Angels donates vehicles to Veterans. You were nominated, can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?
A: Yes, I’m still in shock. That is such an overwhelming experience. I am very fortunate. I don’t know if I have a Guardian Angel or I’m just that lucky. That’s all I can say.
[Click here to watch Nilsson’s Recycled Ride experience now!]
Q: What do you see yourself doing moving forward? As a Veteran, at Soldiers’ Angels, do you have any goals or anything like that?
A: That’s a great question. I was thinking about this the other day. Where this journey and path might take me. I’m going to be very open-minded. I’m just going to let God take the wheel and wherever he wants to place me that’s where I’m going to go. Whether it’s with Soldiers’ Angels, or with the VA. I mean that’s where it feels that my path is going to take me. In both places, I know that I can excel, grow, and contribute. The door’s open on that, I’m not gonna say I’m going do one thing, from experience every time I’ve said I’m going to do one thing I always change my mind and do the opposite. So this time I’m just gonna go wherever the path takes me.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a Veteran?
A: Aside from service and sacrifice to your country, it means camaraderie and loyalty. It’s a life that only a few can experience. Only a few can have that honor, that prestige to say, “I served. I met folks from all walks of life. I got to do different jobs. I got the opportunity to fire weapons, fire missiles. I got to see things burn, explode, so many things.” I can’t find the words that describe it. When I think about being a Veteran, automatically Service, Sacrifice, and Country come to mind.
From the whole Soldiers’ Angels team, we want to thank Nilsson for his service to our nation and his continued service to the Soldiers’ Angels and Orlando Military community. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss an episode of our “A Tribute to our Heroes” series.
Want to watch more? Click here to watch more vlogs from the Tribute to our Heroes series.