A Veterans’ Day Perspective From a First-Year Student Veteran

School of Nursing

Three years ago I was experiencing almost daily rocket attacks on our compound in Baghdad, Iraq. This Veterans’ Day, I found myself barricaded behind a mountain of books and notes studying for my nursing med-surg exam.

I’ll admit, I’d much rather be stressing out about studying for a test than to be experiencing death, destruction and 130-degree temperatures. I’m eternally grateful that I was able to make it back home from my one-year tour in the Middle East. Over 6,500 troops cannot say the same and have paid the greatest sacrifice fighting the United States’ War on Terror.

With more than a million service members expected to return to civilian life over the next few years and an unemployment rate for Post 9/11 veterans currently at 10 percent (2.7 percent higher than the national average), it’s going to be a challenge to find a place in the civilian workforce while earning a decent salary.

Thanks to the generous benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, I’m fortunate enough to transition from active duty service and gain an education as a family nurse practitioner. This will help me be more marketable than if I just jumped straight back into the civilian workforce. I’m also able to actually afford to live in this expensive city we call San Francisco.

I’m so thankful that I got into UCSF Nursing School, and I’m sure that the other veterans and active-duty students are appreciative of the educational opportunities within our grasp while attending this university.

My transition back to school has been smooth thanks to people like Christine Coleman, our Veteran Affairs coordinator, who handles the financial aid for qualified veterans and active-duty students. While the protracted government shutdown this year instilled a bit of anxiety with the possibility of delayed financial aid, the national crisis was averted by another few months.

It was great to see how UCSF’s Student Life and School of Nursing helped celebrate Veterans’ Day this year by inviting Country Joe McDonald, a veteran of the U.S. Navy with a long history of music performance, to present a tribute to Florence Nightingale.

McDonald, whose family includes several nurses and whose mother was fittingly named Florence, seemed like just the right person to pay tribute to Nightingale. He gave a 50-minute presentation that included original songs and poems, along with a video that played in the background showcasing historical photos of Nightingale.

To be  honest, my knowledge of Florence Nightingale and her passion for nursing and the care she provided for soldiers during the Crimean War was rather anemic prior to this presentation. However, the legacy she left on the field of nursing and the care provided to generations of future service members can still be experienced today.

As I reflect on the sacrifice of U.S. veterans past, present and future and on the impact of Florence Nightingale’s contribution to nursing, I feel humbled and thankful to be alive and to have the opportunity to pursue a career in nursing. Thanks for your service!

To learn more about Country Joe McDonald’s Tribute to Florence Nightingale, you can visit the website devoted to her life and work: www.countryjoe.com/nightingale.

If you’re a veteran, on active duty or a dependent and would like more information about the available resources, contact Christine Coleman at: [email protected]

You can also join the Student Veterans’ RCO through the following link: https://orgsync.com/join/79260/student-veterans-at-ucsf.