Every Nov. 11, the United States honors those who served in the military with a day to commemorate their service: Veterans Day.
At Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, we salute the veterans who bring their valuable experience and knowledge to our university as faculty, staff and students. This week, we recognize some of those individuals. We thank all veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.
Beverley Jean Court
Beverley Jean Court, senior director of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine’s Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, served eight years in the United States Navy.
As a young college student, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She decided to join the Navy so she could support herself while exploring the paths that would be a best fit for her.
While in the Navy, she became a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive—a Russian linguist.
“Being in the military exposed me to so many different cultures that enriched my life,” she said. “I grew up while I was in the Navy. My service taught me to treat every job I do as a career, even if it isn’t. Give it everything I have to offer and take it seriously.
“The core values of the Navy are ‘Honor, Courage, and Commitment,’ Court said. “Though that may sound like they are just words, the truth is, service in the Navy requires all of those as a way of life in and outside of work. Some of the principles and behaviors that are ingrained in me are: integrity, honesty, loyalty, attention to detail, and to respect everyone regardless of personal opinion.”
Being a part of the Navy also taught Court that teamwork is real.
“There is no such thing as ‘that’s not my job,’” Court said. “If something needs to be done, you do it, and take accountability for everything you do regardless of the outcome. These have served me well in my work and personal life.”
Although she has accomplished much in her professional civilian life, Court says nothing compares to the sense of honor of being a woman veteran.
“My mother, Betty J. (Fox) Chapman, enlisted in the U.S. Army Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC) in 1950 as a private (Grade 7),” Court said. “When she enlisted in Indiana, she had the highest IQ of any woman to join the WAC from Indiana. She and her parents were taken from their home in Vincennes, Indiana, to a theater in downtown Indianapolis, where she was sworn in on the stage by the presiding general of Fort Benjamin Harrison. By the time she was discharged around 1952, she had climbed the ranks very quickly and was a master sergeant (Grade 1). She was being groomed to be an officer, but she was ready to go home and did not reenlist. To be able to share our status as women veterans makes me extremely proud.”
Calvin Shanks, senior director of Safety Services and fire marshal for TTUHSC El Paso, served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps.
He joined the Marines because he needed a challenge in his life.
“I was not motivated to go to school and just needed something to get me moving in a positive direction,” Shanks said. “The Marine Corps presented a good challenge, plus I was drawn to the opportunity to serve my country in a branch of service steeped in pride and tradition.”
Being a part of the Marines gave Shanks a sense of camaraderie that is unmatched.
“The sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself, with a mission that extended beyond my small world, made the time in the military very beneficial,” he said. “I remember being part of the first Gulf War in 1991, where thankfully my time was short, but the impact was significant. Also, I will always cherish my time at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where I studied Russian.”
Being a part of the military helped Shanks regain focus and pushed him to move beyond his own limitations and started him on a road to serving his country and local community by joining the fire department shortly after leaving active duty.
“To my fellow veterans, thank you for your service,” Shanks said. “Thank you for the sacrifices that you made, and were willing to make, for others. To the community, please remember to take time to thank those who have given of themselves to serve their country. Without their willingness to serve and sacrifice, our freedoms, which we sometimes take for granted, could be lost.”
Roy Valenzuela, health educator in the Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine, served 11 years in the United States Army.
The idea of joining the Army came very early for Valenzuela.
“My favorite action figures growing up were G.I Joes, and I also loved the cartoon growing up,” Valenzuela said. “I would say that it was really my childhood dream to do all the things that I saw in cartoon and movies.”
For Valenzuela, being in the Army allowed him to gain a camaraderie unlike any other.
“I had the luxury of serving on a team with 11 other individuals, and we got to share our life stories with one another and defend each other like our life depended on it,” Valenzuela said. “I’d argue that the bond of brothers-in-arms is as great as or greater than the bond of blood.”
Being in the army allowed Valenzuela to have a successful career, attend school, and have a family without the financial worry that many people face.
“I was paid to see the world, which is something most people pay to do, and made life-long friends,” he said. “As far as my career goes, serving in the Army gave me insight on working with people from around the world and with different backgrounds, norms, cultures, and beliefs, which prepared me to assimilate to any population I work with in the future.”
Andrea Tawney, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for TTUHSC El Paso’s Office of Institutional Advancement, served four years of active duty in the Air Force, but was first exposed to the military in high school.
Tawney was in junior ROTC for three years in high school where she had the opportunity to experience mini-boot camps at the local Air Force base and meet the men and women who were serving.
“I knew it was my calling because I had a strong sense of pride every time I heard ‘Taps’ or ‘Reveille’ playing,” Tawney said. “I still get goosebumps every time I hear ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ Joining the Air Force afforded me the opportunity to serve my country, go to college, and travel the world with some of the most talented and selfless people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.”
Camaraderie is one aspect of serving in the military that sticks out for Tawney when she thinks of her time in the Air Force.
“One of the most memorable times in the military was arriving to Bogota, Colombia for my first tour of duty overseas,” Tawney said. “I didn’t know what to expect because you hear so many conflicting reports and worst-case scenario threat briefings. I was a young airman and had just turned 21. My first night in Bogota, I was in an apartment by myself and all of the power went out across our neighborhood. I had no phone service and no way to communicate with anyone outside of my apartment. I wasn’t sure if this was some type of insurgent attack or just a power outage in the area. Within 15 minutes, my fellow servicemen came to the door (though I was scared at first not knowing who was at my door) and made sure I had supplies to get me through to morning. This small example is what it means to be part of an armed service family when you are thousands of miles away from your own family. We take care of each other and don’t hesitate to make sacrifices for one another.”
Tawney credits serving in the military with shaping her entire career.
“The discipline, integrity and commitment to the highest standards are values that drive my efforts each day in my personal and professional life,” Tawney said. “I often tell people I wish every American could serve for at least year because the world perspective and appreciation for our great country is unmatched until you experience it firsthand.”
Stephanie Woods, Ph.D., M.S.N., dean of the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing, served three years active duty and two years in the reserves in the U.S. Air Force as a captain.
Woods joined the military because it offered a great career path for nurses. During her time in the Air Force, the U.S. was not involved in any major conflicts, but the country wasn’t that far removed from memories of Vietnam.
“I had grown up hearing the Vietnam War being fought out on the nightly news. I rarely saw anything about Vietnam nurses,” Woods said. “I began to more fully understand the impact the Vietnam War had on soldiers and on nurses. We asked them to make huge sacrifices, but we refused to honor their service. Nurses were not recognized with any national monument.”
After leaving the military, Woods became active with a group that raised money to place a memorial to Vietnam nurses on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
During her time in the Air Force in the early 1980s, Woods recalls a couple of other firsts she encountered.
“We began to see young soldiers with AIDS,” Woods said. “People, including health care professionals, were afraid. We didn’t yet know exactly how it was contracted. Patients were stigmatized. I remember seeing one technician open the door of a ward where we had a young soldier with AIDS, and the tech placed the man’s food tray on the floor and told the patient to come get it. I was appalled.”
After disciplining the tech, Woods went in to see the patient and apologize. Another impactful memory Woods has from her time in the military came from being part of a team caring for a cardiac patient who was having life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances.
“We placed the first implantable defibrillator in him,” Woods said. “We all felt like we had participated in a major miracle.”
Woods had the privilege — and challenge — of working in one of the largest Air Force hospitals in the U.S. At Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, she learned how to delegate, manage complex patients and to conduct herself as an officer and a nurse. It was a formative time in her career.
Nurses have always been a part of war and the care of veterans afterward, Woods said.
“I am very proud that no matter the situation, you can find nurses responding to those in need,” Woods said.