By Rachael Tolliver, U.S. Army Cadet CommandJanuary 4, 2014
SAN ANTONIO -- For someone who was never in the military, Nan Cuchens has a unique affinity for it. While it is true her husband spent eight years in the Marines, it was the death of her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Chaires who deployed in 2006 to Afghanistan, which sealed her immersion.
Cuchens, who graduated from nursing school at Florida State University in 1972, worked mostly in emergency nursing before returning to FSU to teach.
As a professor at FSU, however, she said she has taken on an additional role.
"I have an advocacy role for the ROTC students and the veterans at Florida State University," Cuchens said as she explained her reason. "In addition to Daniel's military career, my youngest brother is an Army chaplain who just returned from his second deployment to Afghanistan, one of my nieces is a doctor at Walter Reed, and two other brothers both served in the military."
Cuchens and her husband, Harry Chaires, were in San Antonio this week to attend the 2014 Army All-American Bowl and gather with other community leaders and educators to discuss advocacy ideas for Army ROTC. Part of her trip included a tour of the Center for the Intrepid at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
CFI provides rehabilitative care to casualties who have suffered amputation, burns, or functional limb loss. It includes state-of-the-art technologies designed for use in rehabilitation, research, education and training. Patients are challenged by state-of-the-art physical and occupational therapy, demanding and challenging fitness equipment and virtual reality systems.
"What I saw was the most amazing outpatient rehab center that was truly cutting edge," Cuchens said. "The facility has a simulated kind of environment that helps wounded warriors with mobility. The whole thing is about mobility and learning to function."
Cuchens added that as a nurse she could appreciate how civilians will benefit from this center, "in ways we cannot even imagine today."
In the beginning new technology is always expensive, Cuchens said, but she is looking forward to the technologies used at CFI becoming more widespread as the technology advances. She was also looking forward to the research and advancements founded for traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder--research that she sees as paramount over the next few years.
"With mobility (prosthetics) we can get people up and moving, but TBI and PTSD injuries are different," she explained. "We have to have that research because of the lengthily recovery journey for those who have PTSD and TBI. The wounded warriors need those assets to help with recovery; and the effects on civilians that will benefit from it will be long-lasting."
Because the military is a unique population, their medical needs and problems are distinctive. Cuchens said those uncommon characteristics need to be addressed with research and clinical practice, and the people best to help perform such research, treatments and to create such practices, are military nurses -- nurses she wants to train.
Cuchens believes to be successful a person needs to be creative, cooperative, have a positive "Can do" attitude and a willingness to work across generations.
"ROTC Cadets have these qualities and are taught to be leaders who know how to think, not what to think -- all things that make successful nurses," she added.
The military has an important role in the public sector because many of the best practices in military-medicine can help the entire health care arena, Cuchens said. The civilian population benefits from the trickle down innovations which are important to healthcare.
But, her support for the military does not stop with just advocating for ROTC. Cuchens and her husband also established a scholarship for military nursing students at FSU, and support the Wounded Warriors program, and the Injured Marine Fund. They do this through the profit from a small armed security company the established.
"We founded the company to honor Daniel's work," she explained. "We employ veterans who are returning to civilian life -- we know the difficulties with this transition and the difficulties in finding employment."
Chaires spent 30 years in Florida law enforcement and directed special operations at events such as FSU football games. He said when Daniel died he and Cuchens had to find a way to cope with their grief.
Soon after Daniel's death they established the Daniel Chaires Nursing Scholarship for ROTC nursing students but they wanted to find a way to finance the scholarship so it would always be around.
"I had already retired, but we wanted to do something to honor Daniel," Chaires explained. "I came out of retirement to form One Brave Marine. We work with law enforcement agencies around the state and augment their staff with the veterans we hire. We also have contracts to provide security for special events like the football games at FSU."
Chaires added they will also hire ROTC Cadets for basic jobs at special events so they can earn a little spending money.
Their trip to the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl has only reinforced their commitment the military, ROTC and nursing students at FSU.
"I enjoy teaching because I enjoy assisting young men and women in accomplishing their goals," Cuchens said. "Each day is different in teaching, as it is in emergency nursing ... I cannot imagine doing anything else."