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NEWS | Dec. 23, 2020

Army Reserve Soldier keeps faith during COVID-19 separation

By Sgt. Salvatore Ottaviano 99th Readiness Division

 In her 34-year Army career, it would seem Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelly Garcia had already gone through practically all she could experience.

Yet, she’s adding another first to her list.

As U.S. service members continue to follow Department of Defense COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Garcia will not be able to spend this holiday season with her husband and family.

“I talk to them, making sure they are healthy and keep the positivity and brightness with them,” said Garcia, a Puerto Rico native who works on base as an Active Guard/Reserve maintenance officer for the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division.

Garcia’s husband of nearly 20 years works as a civilian for the U.S. Marines at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Most of her family lives in Puerto Rico, including her mother, 94, who lives in a nursing home, as well as her daughter and grandchild.

“Right now, even Puerto Rico is back to restrictions; they’ve closed the beaches, schools, and – on Sundays – everything is closed,” Garcia said.

To boost her inner strength and keep the holiday spirit, she said that comfort foods can go a long way. She’ll be cooking some of her favorite dishes, such as fricase de pollo (chicken stew), arroz con gandules (a combination of rice, pigeon peas and pork cooked with sofrito).

She also cited the church as the primary means to help her stay strong.

“I hold tight to my faith,” Garcia said. “I pray a lot. I grew up in the Catholic Church where my mother got me into my faith. That helps a lot.”

On Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day, she plans to attend Catholic services at the base chapel, where she volunteers as an usher during the mass.

“The Army helps,” said Garcia, a 2003 veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “The Army experience helps me a lot in this situation. You have to keep on going, keep on running. You have to be the hope.”