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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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Isaiah Garcia, proudly shows off his award winning picture at Felix Field May 25, which won him second place in the Armed Services YMCA art contest. Isaiah participated in a nationwide competition, and his original picture is now displayed in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Pfc. Sarah Anderson

Combat Center kid wins big, represents Marine Corps at national art competition

28 May 2010 | Pfc. Sarah Anderson Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

As Isaiah Garcia received the Armed Services YMCA art competition award May 25 at Felix Field, he looked proudly to his right, where he found his mother and grandparents. Isaiah looked at all who had gathered to support him in his achievement, but one important person was missing, the one person who had inspired Isaiah’s artwork and his achievement. 

Staff Sgt. Mario Castaneda would have given anything to be at his stepson’s award ceremony, but his duties lie in Afghanistan.

Isaiah, a third grade student at Twentynine Palms Elementary School, won second place in the art competition. He is the first child from the Twentynine Palms area to earn the distinction.

The winning art piece was a drawing of Castaneda, his stepfather, with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment; his mother, Crystal Castaneda; and himself.

“Since he’s in the military, I wanted to draw him, because he’s the one who fights for our country and helps us to have freedom,” Isaiah said.

“He’s a really good dad, and I’m really happy he’s my dad, and he’s been there for me,” he added.

At the ceremony, Isaiah received a framed copy of his drawing, a $100 savings bond and a proclamation from President Barack Obama declaring May as Military Family Month. Isaiah’s original drawing is now hanging in Washington, D.C.

There was also a little something extra — a letter from his deployed stepfather.

“Everyone is proud of you, and so am I,” wrote Castaneda in the letter read on Tuesday to his son.  “I wish I could be there to celebrate with you.”

Although Castaneda was unable to attend his Marine Corps family did what they could to fill in.

Members of 3rd Bn., 7th Marines, who served with Isaiah’s father, also attended the award ceremony in his stead to show their support.

Isaiah and his mother Crystal wait anxiously for October, when Castaneda will be more than a drawing for his family, but will return a proud father and congratulate his son with a hug.

To check out Isaiah’s winning piece or the other contest winners, visit

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms