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      Family remembers fallen Weslaco soldier as 9/11 anniversary approaches

      With the September 11 memorials underway, the family of Spc. Tomas Garces will spend the day honoring the sacrifice of their fallen hero.

      "It was very hard because it was so unexpected, " his mother Sonya Garces said.

      Tomas was just 19-years-old at the time when he was killed on September 6, 2004, while serving overseas in Iraq.

      "Each day, we remember him with lots of love, she added.

      Sonya remembers him always smiling and full of a life.

      Following the 9-11 attacks, she said Tomas adamant about serving his country, so he joined the Texas Army National Guard.

      But his young life was cut short almost two years after enlisting.

      His father Rafael Garces remembers the day he found about his death clearly.

      He had the difficult job of telling his wife.

      "My heart was crushed, how was I going to crush my wife TMs heart too? he said, holding back tears. You don TMt even know how to start."

      Despite not being with them anymore, Tomas' memories live on. His pictures, awards and medals hang inside his parents TM home.

      Inside his room, his graduation cap and gown still hangs on the wall, as does the bass guitar he played at church.

      To deal with the pain, Rafael taught himself to make reefs and floral arrangements for his son. Several of them sit atop Tomas' bed, but will one day adorn his final resting place. "I would like to tell everyone to remember him and to never forget what he did for us, Sonya concluded.

      Spc. Tomas Garces was the first member of the Texas Army National Guard to be killed in combat since World War II.

      The armory in Weslaco now bears his name.