Transgender Awareness Week, Nov. 13-19, helps raise the visibility of transgender people and address issues they face. This is one Veteran’s story.

For 39 years, not a single soul knew of her secret.

Finally, free to be who she has always longed to be, Army Veteran Francis Garcia is now able to express her true and pure self.

“Since I was very young, I had no idea what being transgender was, all I know is I would go to bed and ask God – God wake me up as a girl,” Garcia said. “I would pray and pray and wake up each time as not a girl.”

Depression struck her deep as each year passed and as she remained caged in a man’s body. On the brink of taking her own life, she did not let her fear decide her fate.

Doing what she never fathomed to do, she told her VA doctor — “I am transgender.”

As the words left her mouth, she felt a huge wave of relief and fear all at once.

“I knew I was living as somebody that I was not,” she said. “I knew that there was more to me.”

Taking the journey at her own pace and recognizing that it is not a race to the finish line, she has gradually grown into the woman she is today.

VA assistance

The VA serves all who served. Garcia found throughout her life-changing decision, the Orlando VA views her as a person, not as a box to check.

“They are definitely in your corner,” she said. “The VA has been more than a support system; they are my biggest cheerleaders.”

Each step Garcia took was with the guidance and support of Keri Griffin, Orlando VA LGBTQ+ Special Emphasis Program Manager.

Three years ago, butterflies swarmed Garcia’s stomach when she first met Griffin to again speak of what she never thought would become a reality.

“I have to say, I was so concerned for her when she first came to me, but she continued to work towards her deep feeling of what her authentic self should be,” Griffin said. “I know, and she knows, she still has work to do but thankfully she is ready and willing to do it with the VA and her wife’s and kids’ support.”

Griffin has been more than a counselor for Garcia. She has become a friend, the light at the end of the tunnel and the strength to pursue her heart her way.

“I wouldn’t know what to do without Keri,” Garcia said. “She has been my biggest coach. She knew what I wanted, she knew what I needed, and she helped to get me there. I protect my bond with Keri like there is nothing else in the world. In the military we have battle buddies protecting your six, and I would without a doubt have Keri there.”

Her journey

Taking both a brave and terrifying step toward what she prayed on her hands and knees for has made her journey worth it.

“When it comes to who I am, I am a very smart and beautiful female professional who has a good head on her shoulders to do what I need to achieve,” Garcia said.

Now Garcia wakes each morning as a woman and to the life she always desired to live.

Andrea Madrazo is a public affairs specialist at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

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Published on Nov. 16, 2019

Estimated reading time is 2.8 min.

Views to date: 183


  1. Charley November 26, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    God created us as a male or female. Why in the world would anyone want to change something God has created. I would think if you wanted a gender change then you are saying God made a mistake. We are created male and female. Seek the Lord with all of your heart and lean not unto your understanding.

  2. Leo Apsey November 22, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Thank you Garcia, courage is mare identifiable than the multitude of other emotions one experiences. Your struggle reflects many difficult decisions with exceptional determination and turmoil. I salute you for your service and emotional survival.
    Stay well and enjoy life to the fullest.

  3. Shelley ChinQuee November 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Although I believe in “to each his own”, I hope the VA did not pay or will not pay for sex change operations. Not when they are denying claims for Marines that were stationed at Camp Lejeune that were poisoned by the long term water contamination that has caused all kinds of cancers and other ailments. Plus private insurance wont pay for cosmetic/elective surgeries, so why should the VA?

  4. Margo Torres November 21, 2019 at 11:24 am

    I hope that the VA can help the cruel people in the comments get the help that they need too. It must be hard to live with all of that negative energy lol.

    Thank you Veteran Francis Garcia for sharing your story!

  5. adam hiracheta November 21, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Thank you for your service in protecting our freedoms.

  6. Ron Carson November 21, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Can the world get much dumber?

    Since when did feelings become something to celebrate? I feel like a Navy Captain, so I’m going to dress and like lime a Captain. I feel like a civilian, so I’ll dress and act like a civilian. I feel like a man , so I’ll dress and act accordingly. What’s the difference between these three? The first two land you in the brig with an accompanying mental health diagnosis. The last one make you a hero!

    Can the world get any dumber?

  7. Helmuth November 21, 2019 at 5:27 am

    A sad and disgusting mental illness.

  8. I don’t understand this life November 21, 2019 at 1:20 am

    Sometimes I feel like the world is upside down. I don’t want to dox myself, but when I was in Army ROTC from 2005-2009, I saw some of the best cadets kicked out for the some of the dumbest medical stuff. One guy lost an eye in an accident. He was the fastest runner and best marksman in the whole battalion. Another guy was in a car crash when he was younger that killed two of his brothers. Oh- a broken leg that healed just fine. BYE. Another had to withdrawal from classes one semester because his dad got sick. This was after he got an “E” rating at LDAC. Two more commissioned as aviation officers, then got force shaped after doing two years as butter bar recruiter. Yes. Two years.

    Another guy got pushed out because his crazy parents tried to get him diagnosed with ADHD. He was a good guy, but was lost when he was pushed out of the Army. He committed suicide 18 months later.

    This man/woman basically lied while DADT was still if effect, and we are supposed to be happy for him? Maybe Iran is right- we are the great Satan.

  9. Char November 21, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Though we all fought to help preserve the rights of free speech, it still baffles me at some of the ignorant comments. As adults in the year 2019 I thought we were better than this.

    • Darrel November 21, 2019 at 8:41 am

      You cannot force others to accept everything that YOU find acceptable.

  10. JoAnn Kokindo November 21, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Thank you for your service.

  11. David C Gummere November 20, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Obama rammed this down our throats with his social engineering agenda. We still do not approve. Take it somewhere else. They have no place in the military nor should our tax dollars be paying for this kind of crap. So the queer agenda has permeated the VA now? This is a sad state of affairs.

    • Kelly Stewart November 21, 2019 at 10:14 pm

      I am open to everyone living their lives how they want to I just don’t feel the military is the place for them. They join to get the surgeries and get out I don’t believe we should be paying for the procedures because they are confused about who they are. Active duty gets shitty medical care veterans get worse but we can finance thousands and thousands of dollars to change your sex because your not happy or comfortable in your own skin that sounds like a job for you and God but you take on your own expenses this is something that should have never started. My daughter can’t get proper care for migraines and has been in 12 years but someone in 2 years can get a complete makeover we are sending the wrong messages take care of yourself own dilemmas before entering the service this is responsibility and costs the government has no business taking on!!!

  12. Rosa Dion November 19, 2019 at 10:46 am

    I appreciate your opinion, and wish you all the best

  13. jim November 19, 2019 at 3:15 am


  14. Richard G Kensinger November 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    As a vet myself (AF ER medic 1969 ~1973) thank you so much for serving!
    My best to you,

  15. Wajahat Abbas Kazmi November 17, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Truly an inspirational journey!

    It made me think of the day back in 2015 when I came out. There are still many souls who are struggling to come out mostly because of peer pressure. I pray that one day we humans will have the liberty to be who we actually are.

    More power to you Garcia!
    I would also like to thank VA for sharing it with us during the Transgender Awareness Week.

  16. Donald sears November 16, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    I wanted to Birmingham hospital never been treated so bad in my life found that I had prostrate cancer the doctor VA told me I was too old to be operated on but if I was a male I thought I was a woman he probably would fix that I don’t think VA is going to ever make it don’t call on my family anymore service

  17. Emerico Flores November 16, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Does not phase in any way, to each his/her own

  18. Janet P Fox November 16, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    If we see1 ourself as a woman, why the man’s dress shirt and tie?

    • Dena Johnston November 18, 2019 at 9:45 am

      Its a uniform Janet.

  19. Janet P Fox November 16, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Very unsatifactory story. so are we still a woman in a man’s body? Are we just cross dressing in the pick? Are we still with this supportive family? Just what kind of friend is this Griffin? Just what did the VA do for this person…psyche help, I hope? Sorry, I am against any governemnt or military or VA financing for any physical transition…that is a personal decision…like plastic surgery…most insurances do NOT cover it.

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