James D. Garcia
Col. James D. Garcia
Goodwill Ambassador James Darryl Garcia has spent his life dedicated to improving the life, health and safety of others. James was born to into a military family in Nuremberg, Germany, and with that came frequent moves.
He spent time growing up in Washington DC and the Carolinas, but the time he spent in Okinawa, Japan was the most influential, giving him a glimpse of life outside small town America. It also instilled his lifelong love for Japanese monsters and heroes, known as Tokusatsu. James received a scholarship and attended Coker College in Hartsville SC for a degree in English Education, but transferred to the University of SC due to family needs. This transfer left him a few credits short, but he was determined to finish.
James then joined the US army, and was stationed at Bayreuth, Germany, only a short drive from his birthplace in Nuremberg. He served as a medic for the 2nd Armored Calvary, and was assigned to border patrol the day the Communist Border opened, allowing East Germans their first taste of freedom after generations of oppression. This historic moment truly impacted his ambition to promote equality and freedom to all people. James returned to the states, and served during Desert Storm, and afterwards used the GI Bill to finish his degree, coincidentally from Coker College, where he has begun his education. James stayed in the medical field he learned through the military, earned his Paramedic Certification in 1992, and has been working to save lives ever since. However, a tragic accident in 1994 nearly ended his life.
While working at an automobile accident, a vehicle speeding past the wreck carelessly smashed into James, breaking his arm and leg. The driver was not charged, because no one had ever thought to allow EMS the right to be in the roadway while saving lives.
Over the next two years, James wrote and lobbied to pass the nation’s first “Move Over Law”, which passed in April 1994. Over the next several years he struggled to promote similar laws for other states, but wasn’t noticed until dash cameras and reality TV shows like “Cops” began to publicize the problem.
From 2001 until 2006, James worked intensively with the Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Fire Service to educate and promote Move Over Laws, until they were finally passed in every state and several foreign countries. Whenever you see the “Slow Down, Move Over for Stopped Emergency Vehicle” signs, know that it was one man’s determination that made put them there. In 2008 James went on a family vacation to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, to see how Buddhism was integrated into the daily life of a culture.
While there, he was stunned by the complete lack of medical resources. There was no 911 or EMS service- in fact, the only ambulances were used to take the dead to temples for cremation. There were only a few hospitals in the whole country, and those were operated by foreign Non-profits (NGOs) and were inaccessible to the majority of the people. The staggering poverty and complete lack of adequate medical care motivated James. On his return to the US, he tried to find some way to assist, but it was obvious many of the organizations only cared about cash, and very little of that ever made its way to the people there that needed care. James started “Share the Health Cambodia”, and obtained their 501(3) (c) certification. Through a great streak of serendipity, a member of the Cambodian Parliament heard about his efforts, and offered him an abandoned medical facility in the most rural area of the country.
James and his family sold all of their personal belongings and raised enough donations, and in Feb 2009 moved to Cambodia, restored and opened the village medical center in Chong Dong village, Kampong Tom province. Word quickly spread, and within weeks the clinic was treating up to 100 people a day for dysentery, malaria, typhoid, hepatitis and other rampant tropical diseases. You might think such effort would be appreciated- people began to show up from hundreds of kilometers away for one of the few medical providers. But the clinic’s success was also a beacon shining on the terrible corruption inherent in the national medical system. Cambodia receives billions of dollars annually in international medical aid, but almost all of that is stolen by corrupt medical and political officials. Their battles to provide care and expose this corruption caused intense political turmoil, and eventually prevented the clinic from receiving the medication and cooperation needed to continue.
After almost a year of struggling and 10,000 lives saved, the clinic closed and the family returned home. Although not currently operating as a clinic, Share the Health Cambodia is still very active in coordinating NGO visits, providing medical assistance and information, and promoting honesty and transparency in international medical aid.
James is now living in North Carolina with his fiancé Cathy. He has three children: Josh 21, a vet tech; Echo, 20, a Graphic Designer and Artist, and Moira, 17, a student. He is currently working as a Paramedic with an ambulance service, and spends his off time working with his NGO, playing guitar, and watching Godzilla movies.