By Major Cecilia Nájera, USARECDecember 4, 2013
SAN ANTONIO (Sept 6, 2013) -- On Sept. 6, 32 bright-eyed Soldiers proudly raised their right hands as they recited the oath of commissioned officers becoming members of the Army's Medical Specialist Corps.
The new Soldiers are Baylor University students enrolled in the Doctor of Science in Occupational Therapy (OT) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) programs and the Graduate Program in Nutrition. Captain Michelle Luken's husband will stay in their Maryland home while she attends school.
"Though my family has no military background, they have been beyond supportive of this decision. They know my passion for OT runs deep and that this is an excellent opportunity. They have already asked for T-shirts and bumper stickers to show their support."
The day was sunny and pleasantly warm for the sharply dressed Soldiers celebrating their commissioning at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In the days to come, they will experience uncomfortably warmer temperatures in San Antonio as they don their full battle rattle and learn the art of land navigation, firing M-9 semi-automatic pistols and M-16 assault rifles, and learning teamwork while completing the Leader's Reaction Course.
"I feel prepared for Basic Officer Leadership Course," said GPN student 2nd Lt. Emily Sanchez. "I found the Future Soldiers' Program at my recruiting center really helped. It was a great glimpse into what my life would be like -- buying the uniforms, taking the APFT, talking to prior service, etc."
Although the majority of these Soldiers are new to the Army, their desire to serve their country and a higher purpose resonate deeply with them.
"It has always been important to me to practice my profession in a way that I can bring the most impact," said PT student 2nd Lt. Mikala Bruno. "There are so many opportunities to make an impact in the Army, with individuals and the country."
First Lieutenant Chelsea Mummert recalls her first encounter with an Army OT when Lt. Col. Kathleen Yancosek gave a keynote presentation several years ago at the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy State Conference.
"I began to visualize myself healing, treating and empowering the lives of injured service men and women," Mummert said. Days later she said she read Michael Weisskopf's book about his journey through recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, "Blood Brothers: Among the Soldiers of Ward 57," in which Yancosek is featured. The book ends with, "The prize was the rest of our lives."
Mummert said it was that powerful ending that demonstrated the importance of an Army occupational therapy career.
Second Lieutenant Elizabeth Goodman, GPN student who transitioned from the Army National Guard, is a former ROTC cadet.
"I decided I wanted to pursue being a dietitian in the military because I wanted a career environment where I would be constantly challenged to work at a high level and also where I could really serve others. I also liked the competitive aspect and the commitment to physical fitness."
Missing that day was active duty Soldier Capt. Allen, an armor officer, who is looking forward to transitioning to the specialist corps this fall to fulfill his dream of being an Army PT.
"My goal is to land a position within either the Ranger Regiment or special forces community; however, as long as I am serving within the scope of my expertise and directly bettering the health and well-being of Soldiers, I will satisfy both my personal and professional interests, for my true desire is to simply better this organization by taking care of our Soldiers."