A U.S. Army Public Health Command Soldier recently gained the recognition of top leaders --including Vice President Joe Biden--for his extensive volunteer efforts in his local community.
Sgt. Edwin Garcia, a veterinary food inspector at U.S. Army Public Health Command Region--West, was chosen to receive the American Legion's Spirit of Service award for the numerous acts of community service he performed while stationed at the USAPHC San Diego, West Coast Branch, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz presented the award to Garcia during the American Legion's August convention in Texas.
The Spirit of Service award is given to enlisted Soldiers who have demonstrated exceptional military performance and provided outstanding volunteer service in the local community while off duty.
Garcia often volunteers six hours each day at the Bread of Life Rescue Mission and twice monthly at Brother Beeno's Rescue Mission in Oceanside, Calif. There, for several hours before reporting for his military duties, he assists in preparing breakfast meals for those in need. He volunteers two hours every week with the Big Brothers of San Diego County mentoring and motivating students at Mary Fey Elementary School.
Additionally, Garcia has manned first aid and water stations during St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital's walks and relays, helping to improve the quality of life and well-being of the patients. He also coordinated events with Habitat for Humanity, and served on a team of 13 Soldiers who volunteered their time in building two homes for low-income families.
"Our nation is fortunate to have such dedicated service members as Ed Garcia," Koutz said. "For both his service to America and his community, Sgt. Garcia is a credit to his uniform and to our country."
When Garcia was selected to receive the prestigious award, it came as no surprise to his Army colleagues who work with him every day.
Sgt. 1st Class Jessie Leonard, Garcia's supervisor, said that Garcia is a genuinely good person who always has in mind the best interest of others.
"At any moment he would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need," said Leonard.
Just as Garcia is passionate about helping his local community, he also puts in extra effort to look after his Soldiers.
"Because we are stationed at a Marine installation it is very hard to find training, courses or even schools for the Soldiers in my unit to participate in," said Garcia. "I overcame this obstacle by going out and connecting with the Navy and Marine Corps units and asking to participate in events that will increase my Soldiers' knowledge and abilities. Overall, it has been a rewarding experience that has also built good morale among the different branches of service."
In addition to receiving the American Legion award, Garcia has received numerous Army awards and accolades throughout his career.
In 2012 alone he was named the AUSA Soldier of the Year, PHCR--W Soldier of the Year and USAPHC Soldier of the Year.
Although Garcia has accomplished much in his four-year career as a Soldier, he still has many dreams and aspirations.
"My goal is to go to airborne school, become a civil affairs medic, attend Ranger school and become a Ranger," said Garcia. "I also want to pursue and earn my next degree, which would be a master's in criminal justice."
Although he has a full plate ahead of him, he is not discouraged.
"It's in my nature and part of my character to stay motivated," said Garcia.
The American Legion Public Relations Office contributed to this story.