Saluting Army Nurses

All nurses are precious and they work hard to save lives. Yet, some perhaps work even harder because they work not within the safe confines of a hospital in urban America but out there in the battlefield, braving not only fatigue and despair but bombs and bullets as well. We are talking about the Army Nurses of course.

Capt. Maria I. Ortiz of New Jersey, 40, was one such resourceful and brave army nurse who lost her life during a mortar attack in Baghdad, July 2007. Ortiz has served as a nurse since 1991 when she enlisted at the age of 24.

Ortiz was taking care of the wounded Iraqis inside the “Green Zone” since last September. According to a Pentagon source, Ortiz became “the first Army nurse to die from combat-related injuries in the Iraq war.”

Others will certainly take Ortiz’s place like Kristi Jo Newland of Grand Forks, N.D. who enlisted at age 41 to become an army nurse and is on her way to Fort Jackson, S.C. for the Army Reserve basic training.

Newland is currently a nurse’s aide at Altru Health Systems . She can’t wait to go through two more years of intense training to become a Registered Nurse.

“For 23 years, I’ve been chasing that elusive nursing degree,” she said. “I put that mostly on hold to raise my kids. I want it so bad that I can taste it.”

The Army has already paid her $9,000 as enlistment bonus. Another $24,000 will cover the cost of Newland’s RN program.

“I felt it’s pointless at my age to take out loans to get it done. I’d waste another 10 years to pay off the loans” she said.

Ortiz and Newland have followed that blazing trail of service set by the early pioneers of army nursing in World War Two.

Recently one such brave army nurse was honored with two WW2 medals.

Marie Serafinowicz, 88, of Poughkeepsie, NY was honored with American Campaign Medal and WWII Victory Medal presented to her by Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus and Veterans Services Agency Director Nelson Rivera.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all of those veterans who have served our country,” Steinhaus said. “It is a privilege to be able to honor Mrs. Serafinowicz for her service and present her with the medals she has earned, but that she had never received.”

Army nurses… we salute them all.

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