Iowa National Guard Couple Combats COVID-19


Story by Sgt. Tawny Schmit, Joint Forces Headquarters, Iowa National Guard

Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen in the Iowa National Guard have been called to state active duty to help combat COVID-19. Many of them have spouses and children at home and go weeks without seeing their families and friends as they work to keep their communities safe. But two Soldiers from Marshalltown are serving their state with a different perspective. 

Spc. Janet Fonseca and Pfc. Cesar Galvan are both motor transport operators with the 1168th Transportation Company, and here’s the kicker – they are husband and wife. 


The couple got married in 2014, and since then, they have both achieved important milestones in their lives. Galvan was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. at a young age. His family raised him in a small town in Minnesota, where he often saw recruiters walking around and listened in on conversations about what it meant to serve in the military. Galvan said his desire to join the service grasped him back then and never left him. He received his residency status in 2017, and soon after, he talked to a recruiter. 

“I wanted to join since I can remember, I just couldn’t because of my legal status,” Galvan said. “I wanted to be part of a big team, something that you can be proud of.”

Fonseca went with him to see the recruiter for support, but found herself asking her own questions. She had already received a degree in kinesiology from Iowa State University and wanted to continue her education, and the Iowa National Guard could help her do that.


“The education benefits were a big pull for me because I wanted to continue my education,” Fonseca said. “But I also liked the challenge of becoming part of the Army. You always hear how it’s so hard, and I’m kind of known to take risks. We only have one life and sometimes we regret things, and I didn’t want this to be one of them.” 

Galvan swore in March 2018 and Fonseca did the same the following June, becoming citizen Soldiers together. While Galvan works as a personal banker at Great Western Bank in Marshalltown, Fonseca is attending nursing school at Marshalltown Community College and works as a certified nursing assistant at the Iowa Veterans Home. But now, both have put those halves of their lives on hold. 

Pfc. Cesar Galvan delivers medical supplies to emergency management personnel in Sheldon, Iowa, on April 7, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by Sgt. Tawny Schmit)

Fonseca and Galvan are delivering medical personal protective equipment to counties in Iowa. The couple has been on state active duty since the end of March and have gone on about 16 runs between the two of them. Fonseca said their runs have gone smoothly thanks to solid communication between the Guard and civilian organizations. The missions are coordinated well, and with alternate rest days built in, no one gets burned out. Fonseca’s leadership team is also flexible with her new online curriculum after the college shut down, allowing her to keep serving while she continues to work toward her degree. 


While they are in different trucks and teams, the couple said they are grateful for the opportunity to serve together. 

“I think we’re very lucky,” Fonseca said. “We don’t feel like we have to go home and check on things. We don’t get sick of each other because we have opposite schedules on the civilian side.”

In fact, Galvan said, he’s getting to spend more time with his wife on duty than at home. By the time he gets off work from the bank, Fonseca is usually in school or working overnight shifts. 

“Getting to see her more often makes me feel like I have what I need here and everything is going to be okay,” Galvan said. 


“But we’re professional,” Fonseca chimed in. “We’re not just a married couple not wanting to be apart from each other. We take this seriously.”

When they joined, Fonseca said they chose the 1168th so they could help their hometown whenever they could. During one of his supply runs, Galvan got to do just that. 

“It was nice to bring relief to [Marshalltown citizens],” Galvan said. “I want to feel like I’m doing something for my local community where I live, and I had the chance to do that. It was a good feeling and something I was looking forward to.”

Spc. Janet Fonseca delivers medical supplies to Benton County emergency personnel in Vinton, Iowa, on April 8, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by Sgt. Tawny Schmit)

Fonseca added that whether you’re from Marshalltown, Audubon or Iowa City, everybody recognizes the counties and it hits home that they’re able to give back. Both Soldiers say they want to stay on active duty as long as they can because they share the same desire to help those who need it most during tough times. Knowing that they’re both willing to take certain levels of risk to get an important mission done makes them proud of each other. 

“We have the foundation and we’re in this together,” Fonseca said.

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