LOS ANGELES – The day is a welcome sight for a retired firefighter, because the night still haunts him.
“I still have nightmares and I still cry and it’s frustrating,” said Joe Garces.
Garces is now a retired fireman who worked for 17 years for the Oxnard Fire Department. The violent, life-or-death situations he often encountered have left him with PTSD. He still remembers the incident that started it all.
“There was one particular call that was really that catalyst that let the flood gates open to where the nightmares came, and it’s when we had an older gentleman who we knew was trapped in a house and we couldn’t find him,” says Garces.
However, the Santa Paula resident says the trauma also comes from having to be a first responder to so many shootings.
“Gun violence is… I’ve seen it firsthand, how much damage it causes to the body, and I what it does to the loved ones who are still around and crying and they want you to help and there is nothing that you can do, it’s a helpless feeling,” said Garces.
He was a school teacher before he became a fireman, and is a father of three. So, for this 2020 undecided voter, gun reform is front and center on his mind.
“There is no way I would want to have my children be afraid to go to school every day and participate in active shooter drills, which I then turned around and had to participate in as a fireman,” said Garces.
No one is teaching him how to cope with his PTSD, and his insurance wouldn’t cover his mental health needs.
“Without being able to find help, I just spiraled and ultimately ended up attempting suicide, and that was, you know, the roughest part of my life,” said Garces.
Those experiences are the reasons he votes blue.
“If health insurance is gutted the way the GOP would like to do, what am I supposed to do for the 2,000 shot I’m supposed to have every eight weeks,” said Garces.
For now, he has to pay out of pocket for a lot of those expenses, and has to regularly book random gigs to make ends meet. Something he hopes the next president might change.
“I really believe that if our democratic society is going to be the gold standard we have to all participate,” says Garces.
He used to save lives as a first responder, now it’s his own life he will be fighting for in a polling booth come 2020.