While out for a drive in Elim, Georgia, on Sept. 6, Staff Sgt. Todd Darter witnessed an accident. Little did he know, but one of the victims was his neighbor and a former fellow member of the 3rd Infantry Division, Sgt. Mark Garcia.
While driving his son home from football, Garcia went around a bend and another driver drifted into his lane, according to an Army news release.
“I saw the lady coming down the road into oncoming traffic,” said Garcia. “I tried to avoid her, but she ended up colliding with me.”
Darter saw the crash and recognized Garcia, who had recently switched from active duty to the National Guard. Springing to action, he immediately began triaging Garcia and his son, who were both unconscious following the collision.
As he neared the crash, Darter leaned on his Army Combat Lifesaver training and got to work.
“I was just going back through the steps of CLS,” Darter said in the release. “Trying to get everybody responsive and start assessing.”
It wasn’t immediately clear to Darter what had happened to Garcia, because it was obvious to him that there was massive blood loss, but he couldn’t see any visible injuries.
Fortunately, another passerby got involved and found a laceration on Garcia’s left leg, indicative of an arterial bleed. With the wound identified, Darter applied a tourniquet to the leg and kept Garcia and his son talking and coherent while they held out for emergency services.
Darter didn’t speak about the events of that day until his commander, Capt. Justin Kintz, heard about it secondhand and confronted him.
“I asked him why he didn’t say anything and his reaction was just, ‘why would I say anything?’” Kintz said. “He wasn’t motivated by personal gain, personal gratification, personal anything … Somebody just got hurt and he wanted to help.”
After being airlifted and spending a few weeks in the hospital, Garcia and his son are doing well.
“Sergeant Darter, he’s been checking on me ever since,” Garcia said.
Darter, on the other hand, simply credits the Army with giving him the tools to help that day.
“Everybody treats CLS as kind of a vacation from the unit, but it really works,” he said.
“Staff Sgt. Darter’s actions embody the warrior ethos and true grit of a Dogface Soldier,” said Col. Jeremy Wilson, Deputy Commander of Maneuver in a statement to Army Times. “We are proud to have him in our organization and wish a speedy recovery to Sgt. Garcia and his son.”
Kintz is now working to see that the actions Darter took that day will receive adequate recognition by the Army.
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