By Marcy SanchezNovember 26, 2019
LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Growing up in Central Florida, Vanessa Iturri wasn't sure what she wanted in life - but she knew she wanted more.
As a junior in an early college high school program, Iturri found herself surrounded by peers who were optimistic for their way ahead, discussing future plans with hopes of attending prestigious universities. For Iturri, those ideas weren't realistic due to the financial burden of tuition.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do but school wasn't an option, financially," said the 22-year-old Tampa, Florida native.
Following high school, Iturri enlisted in the Army as a laboratory technician, eventually serving in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. There, Iturri found herself striving to improve her work environment and impacting peers, all while pushing herself beyond her own limits.
"I've always been the type of person who wants to take care of people, that was always me," said Iturri, now a specialist in the Army. "I think it comes from taking care of my brothers and sisters. My mom wasn't really in my life so I was just handed this role (as a caretaker)."
After a couple of promotions and gaining experience in her medical specialty, Iturri's altruistic character shined through her efforts as one of several LRMC Soldiers to tackle the Army's Basic Leader Course, graduating with distinction and earning the Distinguished Leadership Award, a honor influenced by peer input. She also earned the Iron Warrior recognition, presented to the Soldier with the highest physical fitness score, and was selected to the Commandants List, a lineup of Soldiers with the top 20 percent grade point average.
"Even though she's very goal-oriented it's not for selfish reasons. She wants to do better, not for herself but for those around her," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Shannahan, the chemistry noncommissioned officer in charge, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services, LRMC. "She has her goals in mind and is very adamant about accomplishing those goals."
Iturri's compassionate nature, which developed while helping raise her three brothers and sister, led to her interest in the medical field and patient care. A passion for learning has led to her pursuit of a career in military medicine. Most notably, Iturri was recently selected for commission through the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, and will be commissioned as an Army Nurse Corps officer upon the successful completion of a nursing program.
"I love being a lab tech, I love chemistry, hematology and behind-the-scenes patient care," said Iturri. "I decided after lab school that I wanted to be a nurse. I want to keep learning, school has been very important for me, (and going to school is) the whole reason I joined"
During her time at LRMC, Iturri continues to make an impression upon her coworkers and senior leaders.
"(Iturri) brings a lot to the laboratory, definitely one of our top workers," said Shannahan, an Aurora, Colorado native. "She's always willing to take on more responsibility and is very ambitious."
Iturri's ambition also shines through with volunteer work through local organizations such as child development centers, soccer teams and as secretary of the Kaiserslautern Military Community's Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving, embodying LRMC's motto of "Selfless Service."
Her actions have not only inspired peers to strive to do more as Soldiers, Iturri's been an inspiration for her own family.
"My family is very supportive, when I joined the military it really inspired my siblings. They know it was something I was meant to do," said Iturri. "My dad, of course, pushes the doctor route, but I'd like to be a nurse anesthetist. I just know that I have these goals and the Army plays a huge role in them."