Staff Sergeant Ray Garcia of the United States Army proves that a soldier is never off duty. His military occupational specialty is an 11 Bravo (infantryman) and for thirteen years Garcia has served his country because he says, “I like doing what I do, the comradely, deployments and the all-for-one atmosphere.” During the summer people are busy vacationing, visiting family, friends and being care free. However how many can say over the summer they saved a life? Staff Sergeant Ray Garcia is one of the few.
While on a family trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida along with his wife (Cynthia Garcia), two daughters and mother-in-law, Staff Sergeant Garcia was leaving the amusement park in a down pour of rain when a three car pileup abruptly halted their exit. He witnessed a car lose control. The automobile hydroplaned and other cars collided.
After making a call to 911, he then ran to the aid of the passengers in each car. Garcia escorted a lady and her infant down the road to a safer area. He proceeded to aid a car with four young adults. They appeared to be in okay condition and decided to stay in the vehicle and await police. In the second car that was struck from both in front and behind, there was a young woman who was trapped inside. He found a crowbar from his own vehicle and used it to smash the passenger side window. The interior caught on fire and he continued to pull the girl through the passenger side window. The doors were locked and this was the only way he could haul the young woman out of danger.
The woman became frantic and started clawing for safety from the blazing car. At any time the flames could have surrounded both Garcia and the woman entirely. The seat belt was still attached to the female but with enough effort, Garcia was able to free the lady and escape the fire. He went back into the burning automobile to secure some of her belongings and they watched as the car was engulfed by flames. The young lady suffered minor injuries but was given a second chance at life due to the quick actions of Staff Sergeant Ray Garcia.
By the time emergency responders arrived traffic was backed up for miles and Garcia proceeded home. It was not until a week later when Orlando police tracked him down from the dramatic video footage caught on a traffic camera which was able to identify his plates and trace him back to his current duty station in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was later awarded the Soldiers Medal. This is a medal awarded to soldiers for heroism not involving actual conflict with and an enemy and demonstrating that the soldier’s life was also in jeopardy.
The official Florida Traffic Crash Report states, “On June 24th 2010 the civilian identified in rescuing and moving all seven civilians out of vehicles onto safe lightening free zone was Ray Garcia…He also gave up to minute situation report through cell phone as the Emergency Response Units approached.“
In addition to SSG Garcia’s valiant acts he received recognition from the Orlando highway patrol and Walt Disney granted him a free week stay at their resort with free access to all of the theme parks valid for up to two years. To top that, Disney resorts issued him five thousand dollars redeemable at the amusement park. The family of the woman he rescued later had dinner with Garcia to thank him for saving the life of their daughter.
Staff Sergeant Ray Garcia told me that his actions were a result of his military training and his instincts. The spotlight made him feel overwhelmed and he conveyed to me that he was a not a “glory hound”. When I asked what inspired him, he responded that growing up from nothing had a lot to do with his motivation. He comes from the city of Harlingen which is a small community on the southern tip of Texas.
Amongst the act of selfless service which he received the Soldier’s Medal for, he is also a well decorated soldier having served in Operation Enduring Freedom and three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and has received A Bronze Star and two V for Valor devices. Though Garcia has been in a lot of sticky situations as a soldier, he is still a person with a great sense of humor and a good outlook on his future.
Our world often creates super humans for the use of fantasy in order to restore a sense of hope, however if we are lucky to one day come across a real life super hero like the humble Staff Sergeant Ray Garcia, you will find you can retire hope and rely on the good willed nature of people like him.