The second floor patio area of the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science building was brimming Thursday night with heroes and healers.
It was here that the University of San Diego nursing dean and professor, Sally Brosz Hardin, PhD, and her staff, proudly held a reception to shine a spotlight on women and men who have always been a crucial component for any major military action or presence, yet rarely get their just due: military nurses.
“As a Navy nurse, I was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in 2008. The Marines expect us to be there. It’s my job to be there to take care of our Marines and Navy personnel,” said Navy Lieutenant Commander Dora Reid, a current duty under instruction student in USD’s Clinical Nurse Specialist program. “We do our job, we don’t expect acknowledgement. Tonight has been a wonderful experience, a nice surprise.”
Reid, who will graduate in May, was one of many guests dressed in full military uniform. She was able to catch up with fellow USD nursing graduates or current students with veteran status. Regardless of their standing, she was one of several whose passion for the graduate-level nursing education is equal to their commitment to military service.
“This is a great school. I enjoy it and I love the history of the Catholic teaching that’s involved, too. I love the whole process and that you give of yourself. That’s what nursing is about, we give a lot of ourselves,” Reid said.
Hardin said that in any given year, an estimated 20 percent of all USD nursing students in its program have connections to the military. The nursing school’s own magazine, USD Nursing Times, dedicated the bulk of its latest issue to recognize alumni who are putting their nursing education to work in full support of their military colleagues and obligations.
The magazine’s cover demonstrates vividly the two sides of Conrado Perales, a 2011 graduate of the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN). One photo shows the Marine veteran during a stint at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. The other, decked out in a full nursing uniform, is of him holding a small child during a volunteer medical mission in Ensenada, Mexico.
Currently seeking a position in the competitive nursing field, Perales’ skills set through his military experiences and complemented by his time as a nursing student comprise one dedicated individual.
“The military teaches you to know your stuff and to keep improving. It’s big on leadership and I feel the combination of that and the excellent nursing education I received here makes me a powerful candidate,” he said. “I’m a caring person, I’m passionate about nursing and helping people. I know I’ll work hard and try harder because I have that desire.”
“When I got a little flyer in the mail about this event I was so excited that I emailed them back with news of my promotion to colonel and told them I’m coming here in my uniform,” said the energetic 26-year Army nurse reserve veteran who nine months ago was activated to full-time status as a nurse case manager for a Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento.
Burdette-Taylor (pictured above left, far right) completed a Nursing PhD in December 2010 from USD. Her dissertation focused on a study of traumatic limb loss for soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. That she wanted to do valuable research connected to her military status was a natural fit. Her support and dedication to helping all military men and women is evident.
Currently on leave from Palomar Pomerado Health, she also operates an education company that works with homeless veterans at Stand Down events and the Veterans Village of San Diego. Before she knew about Thursday’s event, Burdette-Taylor already circled this weekend on her calendar to be in San Diego to fulfill a personal call to serve others.
“I serve veterans every Veterans Day weekend in San Diego with free foot care,” Burdette-Taylor said. “I’ve brought 11 nurses with me to help them. That’s our contribution. To have this event here at USD to kickoff my weekend was perfect. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on Veterans Day weekend but in San Diego.”
— Ryan T. Blystone