PARAMUS, N.J. – In this time when communities are working together to overcome the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus, Army ROTC Cadets are no exception. Whether volunteering, or being activated as part of the Simultaneous Membership program, Cadets from across the country have been doing their part to help those in need.
Rutgers ROTC Cadet Hannah Lederman was activated through her unit, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery Regiment, early last month to help out at the Veteran’s Memorial Home in Paramus, New Jersey. She and other Soldiers from her unit have been performing medical and administrative work to augment the recent lack of nurses at the facility.
Receiving the mission was an unexpected surprise, said Lederman.
“I got a text from my chief at about 3 p.m. on April 9th, saying I had to report the next morning at 8 a.m. to the Veterans home for a COVID-19 support mission. I was excited yet caught off guard by the short notice, but nonetheless I packed my things, emailed my professors, and drove on,” she said. “I did not know how long I would be away from home, and never did I anticipate still being here through the summer. I was concerned with how I would continue my classes while on the mission, but fortunately many of my professors have been understanding and I successfully completed the semester on time.”
Lederman, who will be a junior this fall, said the medical work she does has been eye-opening and rewarding.
“I don’t have any medical background, but I plan to pursue a medical career in the Army. That said, I have taken life science classes such as chemistry, biology, and genetics, so my medical knowledge is limited,” she explained. “But this is a great experience that has exposed me to more higher-level skills like taking vitals and recognizing abnormalities amongst the patients.”
“Originally, I was not allowed to take vitals because I am not a medic, so I was just doing administrative work like answering phones, charting vitals, etc. But I did convince a few medics to teach me how to do vitals, and the LTC Medical Director, allowed me to prove to her I could take them on my own. After that certification, I began taking them under supervision from the medical staff from that point on, so that's mainly what I've been doing,” added Lederman. “I’ve also got to help with the COVID testing for a few days, which was pretty cool.”
Working with such a vulnerable population, Lederman has had to face some emotional situations.
“There was one woman who I had to tell that her husband had died. After that, she was also COVID positive and refused to eat, so I would sit down with her during meal times and slowly feed her. None of the other nurses could get her to eat so I did feel a unique connection with her,” she shared. “Unfortunately, she passed away within about a week and that was hard to deal with.”
“Oftentimes I’ll talk to battle buddies when that happens, and just knowing they are there for me and we can openly talk about loss like that is beyond comforting -- they definitely make the mission easier to get through,” Lederman said.
“It has been very humbling to help these veterans in the last stages of their lives,” she said. “I love listening to their stories about when they were in the service and just being there as someone willing to listen to them. It is also sad to see them in their current states, but knowing they lived fulfilling lives is comforting.”
Lederman said ROTC taught her leadership skills and the value of initiative; both prepared her for the mission at the Veterans Memorial Home.
“My work throughout this mission has taught me that I can be a leader to anyone, regardless of rank,” she said. “Simply doing the right thing and being there for your battle buddies sometimes shows leadership even more-so than being in charge of someone or something. Being willing to learn new skills and make yourself more useful demonstrates your potential as a leader, and gains you a lot of respect.”
This experience has also imparted a few nuggets of advice that Lederman shared.
“I would tell other Cadets to take every opportunity offered to them and volunteer as much as possible. Regardless of what the experience is, there is always something to learn and always new connections to be made,” she shared. “These experiences and connections can help you immensely in the long run, no matter what your career path is.”