Twice a Veteran - Juan Garcia III

US Naval Aviator and Assistant Secretary of the US Navy

Twice a Veteran - Juan Garcia IIIBruce Auld, a former Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent, is writing the history of Burroughs High School. The articles that are being published are excerpts from his upcoming book, exclusive to The News Review. Like Nick Brophy (BHS 1983) and Mark Hoppus (BHS 1990), Juan Garcia III was voted “Best Hair” by his 1984 classmates.


Like Nick and Mark, Juan is also a “Rocker.” Although a versatile, lifelong musician, thankfully Juan has always had a “day-job,” Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, among others.

The son of an A7 Corsair combat fighter pilot, Juan and his family arrived at China Lake in 1978, boat in tow. Juan attended St. Ann’s and then Burroughs, graduating in 1984 (“The seven greatest years of my life”). That year the Garcia family welcomed a “surprise baby brother,” Mikey. Recently, Juan was honored to promote Mikey to the rank of US Navy Commander.

Juan graduated from UCLA in 1988 and in front of audience of 16,000 in Pauley Pavilion, Juan was the Student Commencement Speaker (view at https://youtube/b67SbRmOdTg). He moved to Cambridge, MA to attend Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. His classmates were future President Barack Obama, future first Lady Michelle Obama and Denise Giraldez of New York City, now Juan’s first lady, all graduating in 1992. One would think that with a Harvard law degree, Juan would sign with a highly prestigious law firm. Instead, nearing the age limit to be a US Naval Aviator, he enrolled in Aviation Officer’s Candidate School and Flight Training. In 1995, Juan’s Dad Juan Garcia II “winged” Juan III by gifting him his own set of Gold Wings.

Juan III saw duty stations at Naval Air Station Barber’s Point in Hawaii, he was a Flag Lieutenant in London and a White House Fellow in Washington, D.C. He saw deployments aboard the USS Constellation out of San Diego, Corpus Christi, TX as a flight instructor and several deployments to the Persian Gulf. Juan also served with the US Navy Reserves for decades, retiring with the rank of Captain.

In 2006, Juan was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, representing four Texas counties in the Corpus Christie metropolitan area (“flying US Navy aircraft in combat is safer than Texas politics”).

In 2009, President Obama nominated Juan as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) and Juan was confirmed by the US Senate that year, serving for seven years. Our grandson Conner, wife Ann and I had the privilege of meeting with Juan twice in his fifth ring office in the Pentagon, lobbying for school construction funding. Juan’s Dad’s headstone in Arlington National Cemetary was visible from Juan’s office window. Beyond his daily duties as ASN, Juan integrated women into the submarine force, returned ROTC to the Ivy League, which was absent since the Vietnam war and reintegration of wounded warriors into the American mainstream. Juan is a longtime board member of the Wounded Warriors Project.

Juan took an ethics oath with the Obama administration to complete a three year “cooling off period,” which precluded him from engaging in US Navy or defense related employment. He accepted a position with Amazon as Global Director for Associate Development, requiring frequent cross-country travel as his family remained in Virginia.

Juan’s family consists of his wife Denise, who put her Harvard law degree to good use, twin sons, Jack (George Mason University) and Luke (University of Utah), son Lex (freshman at New York University) and Calista (Boston, MA Berklee College of Music online). Calista released her EP (album) “Beautiful World” on October 29. I have it!

Following three years with Amazon,Juan returned to Washington, D.C. to work for Deloitte to lead their US Navy account to drive the Navy’s fourth transformation: “From sail, to steam, to nuclear and now to digital.”

Juan’s family home in Virginia is filled with music. Ann and I attended Juan’s retirement celebration from his ASN assignment, which was a “rock concert” in a basement venue in Hay Market, VA. Juan sang numerous 1960s and 1970s numbers, accompanying himself at keyboard, with occasional harmonica blasts. Many of his ASN associates also performed. Some maybe reluctantly. Yet for me, the best performance of the night, was Juan’s wife Denise signing “Blue Bayou.”

“I will always be proud to be a Burroughs Burro and a Son of the Desert.”

Courtesy photo: Naval Aviator, Juan Garcia III, greeted by his wife, Denise, upon returning from one of several deployments to the Persian Gulf.

Story First Published: 2021-11-05