Opinion: Lessons Learned as a Veteran and Healthcare Professional

By Elizabeth Jarry, CNP

Veterans Day is a day that I reflect upon to remember the sacrifices made by our heroic men and women of the Armed Forces. It means freedom, sacrifice, and honor to me.

I joined the military for an opportunity to see new places while doing my part to serve the country and hopefully make a difference. I chose to join the Army National Guard because I wanted to learn new skills so I would be an effective leader while accomplishing and overcoming the new mental and physical challenges that I would face in the Army.

I was in the military for six years. I did my boot-camp training in St. Louis, Missouri and advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. I was deployed to Fort Drum in New York, Kuwait, and Iraq.

One of the most memorable moments during my service to our country was when I went on a very dangerous, three-and-a-half-hour convoy from Balad to Mosul to provide medical services to combat troops and villagers while relieving combat medics going home for R&R. While in Mosul, I had the opportunity to educate the Iraqi villagers on health maintenance. I can recall showing a large group of young children and elders how to brush and floss their teeth. This was a foreign concept to them, as they had never brushed their teeth or even owned a toothbrush, and many of them lost their teeth in early adulthood. The room was filled with laughter as they awkwardly tried to figure out how to hold a toothbrush and string floss between their teeth! This moment was captured by a public-affairs photographer, and the photo was shared around the globe.

After only eight short months of being enlisted in the Army National Guard, the Sept. 11 attack happened. I was immediately deployed to Iraq the day after my wedding and lived in a tent for 15 months during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This deployment was life-changing for me. I gained a new appreciation for life and learned at the time that there were things greater than my 21-year-old self. I drove by mud-hut schools with thatched roofs that only a select group of children were privileged to attend. I learned to never take anything I have for granted and gained a new attitude of gratitude. Although this was one of the scariest times of my life, the lessons I learned with the military have been invaluable and make me work hard to be a better person every day.

On Veterans Day, I try to connect with some of my military comrades by text or phone call. I also visit the Agawam Veterans Cemetery, where my father-in-law, who was a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Navy, is buried. I also try to take advantage of any veteran discounts at my favorite stores!

In the military, you were never alone. You were assigned a ‘battle buddy’ within a platoon and in a battalion. No matter what, someone was always there to have your back. I have applied this to my work at Baystate Health by being there for my team at all times and calling upon my team when I need help. By being a team player, things will always run more smoothly. I feel so fortunate to have found such a great team here at Baystate Cardiology at Wing.

Elizabeth Jarry is a nurse practitioner at Baystate Cardiology Palmer, Baystate Wing Hospital.