Fallen soldier’s San Antonio family shares his legacy to inspire others

Chief Warrant Officer 3 and helicopter pilot Dallas Garza leaves behind three children and fiancée

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio family is sharing the legacy of one of the soldiers who died in a helicopter crash Thursday as a way to encourage others.

Dallas Gerald Garza, 34, reached the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3 in the United States Army.

Sadly, while on a peacekeeping mission in Egypt, military investigators believe mechanical issues may have been the cause of the helicopter crash.

Garza served his country for 14 years at that point.

“He had six more years to go,” said David Garza Jr, his father and army veteran. “He was going to do his full 20. One of the biggest accomplishments he had was that he was just selected to the Special Forces so that was a great milestone. He served his country honorably.”

Growing up in a military family, Garza was always an overachiever, striving to be the best.

“When he graduated flight school, we went down there and, not to our surprise, he was top of everything,” said David Garza Jr. “Top of PT. Top of honors. We were just so proud of him.”

They said Garza always did the right thing.

“Dallas was a person who had a heart for everybody,” David Garza Jr. said. “He understood how to communicate with people. He was a pilot, so he was very particular and a stickler for regulations. He wanted to prove you wrong. No matter what rank you were, he would let you know if you were in the wrong,” he laughed. “He would call me for advice, and I would give him perspectives. I think that communication he integrated old school Army with the Army of today to properly conduct himself as an officer.”

They said Garza was also very intelligent and acted as a mentor to his other family members.

“He is our hero,” said David Ramirez, his uncle. “He was our living hero and what he meant, the influence and impact to his cousins and family. All he wanted people to do is try, and you saw that the way he lived.”

His family was getting ready to send boxes of Christmas decorations to Dallas Garza and his brother, who is in the Navy, when they got the knock at the door.

“Earlier, a friend called us around noon and asked if we had heard what had happened and if Dallas was ok,” said Maria De Jesus Garza, his mother. “That friend is a helicopter pilot also. She said there was an accident in Egypt. We hadn’t heard anything. We were buying boxes and the decoration, and we were in the process of getting them ready.”

“We came home and were just patiently waiting and praying that it wasn’t him,” said David Garza Jr. “The doorbell rang, and I answered. That is when I knew. All of us military know when they come to your door and ring that doorbell and they are in uniform with a chaplain and commander, you know what is going on.”

The family said they have been on a rollercoaster of emotions. They said they were overwhelmed with the amount of support they’ve received from all over the world.

“Our family, our military family, the aviation community, the Army,” said Maria De Jesus Garza. “It is just unbelievable.”

“I have gotten so many messages of how charismatic he was and all of the goofy photos of him,” said Jesica Garza, his sister. “It shows that he touched so many people and it is apparent through the amount of people who have reached out.”

Though the family is heartbroken, they said they have a sense of peace knowing their son possibly played a role in saving the one soldier who survived the crash.

“He was the most senior and qualified on the flight,” said Jesica Garza. “We haven’t been told the exact details because everything is still under investigation, but we believe he was either the instructor that was right beside whoever was flying or he was the one flying and I am sure when things went wrong, he took over.”

“Knowing him, he would do everything in his power to commit to do his duty as a pilot to save as many people as he can,” David Garza Jr. said. “In my heart, he is a hero because he saved one person.”

Dallas Garza always represented Texas everywhere he went.

“This was home for him,” David Garza Jr. said. “He loved San Antonio. He wanted to retire here.”

The family also loves the Dallas Cowboys, which Dallas Garza was named after.

“They called me Dallas as a nickname because we loved the Cowboys, so I gave that name to him,” David Garza Jr. said. “He always wanted to take us to the games, but we never got a chance to go.”

They said Dallas Garza’s ultimate goal was to be a commercial pilot.

“He loved to fly,” said David Ramirez. “Even when he was a boy. Back then when everyone was playing PlayStation and stuff like that, Dallas was in front of a PC learning the controls of aviation and all of that. That was just the kind of person he was. So, when I look up at the sky, I can only smile because it has a different meaning to me now. I think of him. We are still fighting. This is another battle for us, but we are going to thrive together as a family because we are going to honor his memory.”

They said Dallas Garza would be the one to step in for anyone needing it.

“'Go ahead and go on leave, I got this,'” David Garza Jr. said remembering how much his son volunteered to serve in the place of his military family. “'You don’t have to worry about it.' Every mission he wanted to do he jumped up and took it and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I got this.’”

They said they will cherish the many memories they have of Dallas Garza.

“A few years back, he was getting promoted and he passed down his old rank to me,” Jesica Garza said through tears. “I just recently found that. It is a tradition where they pass on their ranks to a person they want to succeed.”

The family said they plan to fly a flag in Dallas Garza’s honor every day.

He leaves behind three children he loved dearly and a fiancé. His family had this message of encouragement for them and others in the community.

“Respect and enjoy life to the fullest,” Maria De Jesus Garza said. “Enjoy everything you do. Set an example for the people you touch. I have no doubt in our mind that he is our hero because he did all of those things and I want his children to know that.”

RELATED: Katy, Texas soldier among five killed in Egypt helicopter crash

About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray is a reporter with KSAT12 News.