Warrant Officer Juan Garcia-Rodriguez has spent more than ten years in the United States Army, including time at Hunter Army Airfield and service in Iraq with a medevac company. He's now back in Savannah, spending time with his uncle, world famous golfer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, who's in town for the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf Tournament. Unfortunately, the meeting between the two men is bittersweet. Garcia-Rodriguez came home because of a death in the family. Now, both men are making the best of a bad situation.
Chi Chi Rodriguez is known as a professional golfer, an entertainer who's not afraid to "fence" with his woods and irons, and a celebrity who autographs hats and golf balls for grateful fans; however, to Juan Garcia-Rodriguez, he's something more.
"He's my uncle," stated Garcia-Rodriguez with a smile.
Both men love to golf, but their careers have taken decidedly different paths. While Chi Chi Rodriguez plays tournaments all over the world, his nephew is taking his place in the world, defending the United States. Chi Chi Rodriguez could not be prouder.
"My nephew has a special place in my heart," he said. "I'm very proud of him. He's a career man. He's going to spend twenty years in the Army. He was in Iraq when he re-enlisted for seven more years. That showed me he had a lot of guts."
Juan Garcia-Rodriguez just completed training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Garcia-Rodriguez, who was once stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, also served in Iraq with the 159th Medevac Company.
"It was different," he explained, "It was a very real mission. It was a shocking experience for me, but we got it done... and we're back."
Today, unfortunate circumstances allowed uncle and nephew to be together at the Legends. Garcia-Rodriguez's mother, Rodriguez's sister, recently passed away.
"I would give anything to get my sister back," Chi Chi Rodriguez said, "but in the meantime, I've gotten closer to him and he knows I'll be there anytime he needs me."
Right now, Juan is here for his uncle, getting tips on the game and cheering him. He believes he can win.
"He could," he said. "He has the game for it, so we're hoping."
His uncle knows better.
"I already won," he explained. "I won my nephew."
Chi Chi Rodriguez said he's thankful for all the men and women serving in the military and the sacrifices they're making. His nephew, Juan Garcia Rodriguez, is preparing to move to his next assignment in Fort Eustis, Virginia. He hopes to join the Army's golf team.