While most teenagers are just beginning to think about their career aspirations and life beyond high school, Jordan Garza’s children already have a strong sense of purpose. Garza, a DHS Office of Policy Regional Prevention Coordinator, and his wife, a respected medical professional, have inspired their children to make a difference through service.
There are seven children in the Garza family. “Each of our children have a different personality,” said Garza. “With blended families that can sometimes be difficult, but our kids really hit it off at such a young age. They were so close growing up that they inspired each other.”
Five children already left home: one son is in the United States Marine Corps and three sons joined the Army. His oldest daughter is pursuing an undergraduate degree in criminal justice. Between their father’s career at DHS, the important work their mother is doing, and learning from their siblings who are serving in the military, the two youngest are inspired to serve as well. Garza’s youngest daughter is a member of student council because she wants the voice of students to be heard. And even though the youngest Garza child is only five, he already aspires to follow in his brother’s footsteps, asking, “Dad, when do I get to go to basic training?”
In addition to their upbringing, attending a Purple Star School – a school that supports students and families connected to the military – helped shaped the outlook of the Garza children. When the children were in their junior year, the high school orchestrated a unique opportunity for them to participate in career activities by either attending a career event at school or shadowing a parent at work. During the first year Garza participated with his oldest daughter and arranged for partners from other federal agencies to join him for the event at school, calling it “The Life of a Federal Agent.” In subsequent years, each of Garza’s children shadowed him at work, giving them a glimpse of the daily operations of a federal employee.
Garza continued his public service while his five oldest kids grew into adults. After leaving the military, Garza worked for the State of Ohio as a Veterans Representative and then joined the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2016. While Garza worked for the DOJ, his children were exposed to more federal professionals and their careers. One moment that enthralled Garza’s children was “Feds at the Hens”, a gathering at a local baseball game that brought together various federal agencies and their families. His oldest children, then teenagers, met agents from the FBI, DEA, and the U.S. Marshalls.
“They had the chance to collectively see all these agencies come together,” recalled Garza. “One of my sons said, ‘Dad, that was the coolest thing I had ever seen!’”
Although Garza joined DHS in 2021, he worked with DHS in 2017 as part of the DHS Surge Capacity Force, a program that gathers volunteers from across the federal government to deploy with FEMA to provide assistance after disasters. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused destruction across the country and DHS needed volunteers to help communities and individuals start their recovery. Garza heeded the call, deploying for 45 days. While he was away, his wife balanced the needs of the children and her job in surgery while in her third trimester of pregnancy.
“She had to cover everything I usually did on a day-to-day basis – getting the kids to school, helping with homework, extracurricular activities, sports. I know it took a toll on not just her, but the family,” said Garza. “But each one of the kids, they stepped up. Because we have a few drivers, they filled in and helped transport the others around when needed.”
Garza came back from his deployment just in time for the birth of their son.
“I love being a father,” said Garza fondly. “Our kids are absolutely amazing, and they have helped me grow and become a better person.”
Garza’s wife’s service also influenced their children, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when her shifts grew longer, and she began covering for staff shortages at the hospital. Health care workers were becoming physically and emotionally fatigued from the constant demands. Eventually, the National Guard deployed to support the hospital’s administrative operations to allow critical staff to return to their urgent duties.
While his wife navigated the challenges of being a health care worker during the pandemic, Garza and his children came together to support each other as a family. They created a weekly calendar to track everyone’s work and virtual class schedules. His older children helped watch his five-year-old son, especially when Garza attended meetings or traveled for work.
“If I was not in meetings or in the field, I was playing tutor, teacher, IT, and of course, dad,” said Garza. “Through it all, no one complained. We all understood how important it was to help each other out.”