Maria Garcia Roach

U.S. Army Air Force Nurse and Pilot

Maria Esperanza Garcia Roach was born in 1915 in Piedras Negras, Mexico to medical missionaries Aberto G. Garcia, MD and Eva Garcia, RN. Shortly after Maria’s birth, the family relocated to Austin, Texas. Her father, Dr. Garcia was the first U.S. trained Mexican American physician to practice in Texas and alongside his wife Eva, was also an advocate for social justice and equal rights for Mexican Americans in the state. Dr. Garcia and Eva created and published a Spanish newspaper, La Vanguardia, in Austin. Influenced by her parents advocacy and professional background, Maria followed in their footsteps.

Photo source from Foundation for Women Warriors

Maria attended the University of Texas at Austin and later trained as a nurse anesthetist at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. In her obituary, her family shared stories from the letters she wrote home to her family. Maria was recognized as “a diligent and thorough nurse who routinely juggled neglected patients with gaping bedsores.” She also taught as a anesthesiologist instructor at Tulane University School of Medicine. At the start of World War II, she volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF). Given her background as a nurse, she was originally ordered to serve at a field hospital, but upon figuring out she was also a licensed pilot (licensed in 1938 at the New Orleans Municipal Airport) she was re-assigned to attend a training program in Bowman Field in Kentucky. There she would train with the USAAF medical and air evacuation services. Upon completion of her training, as Lieutenant, Maria served as a nurse-pilot with the Army Nurse Corps between 1943 -1945 in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. Responsible for the care and safety of wounded soldiers, she logged over 1,000 hours of flying time and traveled overseas to areas to locations such as China, Burma, Africa, Germany and islands across the North and South Atlantic. In 1945, she taught as an instructor in Air Evacuation at Randolph Field, Texas.

Photo source from The Story of Air Evacuation 1942–1989

Maria was recognized for her outstanding war-time service and was awarded many honors which included the Bronze Star and Air Medal, which recognizes single acts of heroism or major achievements during aerial flights. While serving she also married Edward Hugh Roach and eventually permanently relocated to Canada. In honor of her parents social justice work, Maria established the Dr. Alberto G. Garcia Scholarship in 2009. Maria lived until age 105 and is remembered for her strength and service to the nation.

Further Resources

The Story of Air Evacuation 1942–1989 by the World War II Flight Nurses Association

National Association of Hispanic Nurses

League of United Latin American Citizens

Sources

We sourced the above information from Foundation for Women Warriors, Transportation History, and Dignity Memorial

Please submit any additional sources or information to us to add via social media or email us at nursesyoushouldknow@gmail.com.

Learn More

To learn more about inclusion in nursing and be part of the national discussion to address racism in nursing, check out and share the following resources:

Know Your History

Examine Bias

  • NurseManifest offers live zoom sessions with fellow nurses on nursing’s overdue reckoning on racism and a page to sign their pledge.
  • Breaking Bias in Healthcare is an online course created by scientist Anu Gupta, to learn how bias is related to our brain’s neurobiology and can be mitigated with mindfulness.
  • Revolutionary Love Learning Hub provides free tools for learners and educators to use love as fuel towards ourselves, our opponents, and to others so that we can embody a world where we see no strangers.

Support & Advocate

Help us paint the internet with nursing’s diverse origin stories. Follow this Medium publication, NursesYouShouldKnow on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook, or @KnowNurses on Twitter to share and re-post our articles far and wide.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store