VVA member Ralph Garcia–the founder of Chapter 698 in Bluffton, Indiana—enlisted in the Marine Corps on his seventeenth birthday in November of 1959. He had a variety of assignments around the world, then volunteered for Vietnam in the summer of 1968.
Garcia, who grew up in gritty East Chicago, Indiana, served in Phu Bai with Company L of the Marine Support Battalion, a “pseudonym for being in the Intel unit,” Garcia writes in his memoir Harbor Knight: From Harbor Hoodlum to Honored CIA Agent (iUniverse, 254 pp., $29.95, hardcover; $19.95, paperback).
Garcia “wasn’t like the regular infantryman who was out in the field,” he writes. “I had a gun, but I only used it a couple of times. I was armed with unique skills, for the purpose of collection operations in Vietnam. We used a variety of methods to find out what we could about the North Vietnamese Army” and the Viet Cong.
Garcia left the Marines Corps after his Vietnam War tour in the spring of 1969, worked in a steel mill back home in Indiana, and then joined the CIA as an intelligence officer. Before retiring and becoming a veterans advocate and an active supporter of the Boys and Girls Club, he also served as a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent.
His book, Garcia writes, “is my naive way of recording my personal memoirs. It is written with the help of a fading memory and lack of literary skill.” The book’s “primary purpose,” he says, “is to inform my family about my life,” but “is also written for those who may be interested in reading about an unusual life.”
The book, Garcia also notes, was reviewed by the CIA, as well as the State Department, the DEA, the Pentagon, and the National Security Agency. And, in fact, more than a few words and sentences are blacked out throughout the book.
“Ralph Garcia’s story is the history of America in the last half of the twentieth century,” Vietnam Veterans of America national President John Rowan has written. “He persevered and rose to heights that I am sure even he never envisioned for himself when he was young. His military service is exemplary, but it is his work after the Marines that lifted him to new heights. He should be particularly commended for his work with children from poor backgrounds like his.”