Kirk honors fallen nurse

From left, Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic flag detail Soldiers, Sgt. Jose Gomez, Staff Sgt. Randolf Miguel, Spc. Chase Potter and Sgt Xi Liu fold the American flag during Retreat as a tribute honoring fallen Army Nurse Corps officer and former KUSAHC ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic recognized the 114th birthday of the Army Nurse Corps by honoring fallen ANC officer and former KUSAHC nurse Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz with a flag tribute and ceremony at the garrison flag pole Feb. 2.

The flag was flown all day in Ortiz's honor at the garrison flag pole in front of Bldg. 6002, from the moment it was raised during Reveille at 6:30 a.m. until it was lowered by the KUSAHC flag detail during Retreat at 5 p.m.

Lt. Col. Leonetta Oliphant opened the ceremony by thanking all those in attendance for showing their support to Army nurses; she then read the names of Army nurses killed in recent conflicts. She was followed by Maj. Slavomir Bilinski, KUSAHC medical review officer, who delivered the benediction. APG Senior Commander Gen. Bruce T. Crawford was in attendance and spoke about the importance of those who serve our Army behind the scenes.

"In order to accomplish what our Army has done over the last 14 years, we needed some unsung heroes to be a part of that.Their sole purpose in life is not self, but it is service to others. So when I think about those unsung heroes that are out there at the very foundation of this great Army, and at the very foundation of this great nation, I often think about the Nurses Corps," Crawford said.

Retired nurse Heide Jackson offered words of remembrance for her fallen comrade. Jackson worked alongside Ortiz at KUSAHC and said she "always presented each day with a smile and had the special ability to calm the most distressed patient or employee."

The ceremony concluded with a recitation of the Army Nurses Creed and an a capella rendition of "You Raise Me Up" performed by Spc. Javon Griffith.

When asked why it's important to recognize the ANC and all Army nurses who have served this country, Capt. Traci Ho said, "It's good to remember and remind ourselves why we joined from time to time. It is also imperative that we embrace the past, engage the present and envision the future of the Army Nursing Corps."

Ortiz was assigned to KUSAHC as the Chief Nurse of the General Medicine Clinic prior to her reassignment to the 28th Combat Support Hospital, 3rd Medical Command in an area known as the "Green Zone" in Baghdad, Iraq in September 2006.

On July 10, 2007, the green zone came under a heavy mortar attack. Ortiz, who was not wearing body armor at the time of the attack and was returning to the hospital from the gym, was mortally wounded. She was the only U.S. citizen among three people killed. Ortiz was the first Army nurse to perish since the Vietnam War.

The flag flown in her honor was folded and will be placed in the KUSAHC Ortiz Training Center, a multi-purpose room dedicated to the late nurse.

The ANC has provided care to U.S. Army Soldiers and personnel since 1901, when the group was established as a permanent corps within the U.S. Army Medical Department. The ANC mission is to provide responsive, innovative, and evidence based nursing care integrated on the Army Medicine Team to enhance readiness, preserve life and function, and promote health and wellness for all those entrusted to our care.

For more information about the Army Nurse Corps, visit