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