This is a paper I wrote for my English class this semester. I wanted to share it with my family because this explains some of the experiences I went though in the army. Some of this was very tough for me to write.
Suffering Was My Decision
by: Brandon Fowler
It was my decision to suffer. Nobody forced me to do it. I was driven to become a nurse and in so doing; I suffered. My suffering did not happen as a result of my chosen profession, but rather on the journey to my profession. My journey begins on March 4, 2009 when I raised my right hand and agreed to everything the United States Army was willing to throw at me. This adventure included mental and physical suffering. Some is still ongoing today.
On November 26, 2007 my family gathered watching with love and respect as our grandmother and mother quietly passed away after a very long and laborious battle with bone and breast cancer, I watched the hospice nurse administer morphine to ease her pain. This wonderful nurse kept Gramms comfortable so that she would die with the least amount of agony and ignominy. This nurse handled the arrangements for the mortician to come and insisted of total respect for Gramms body; all the while comforting us and spreading her love to our family. It was at this moment that I made the firm decision to become a nurse. To offer myself to my community in a way that I never thought about and to honor the memory of Gramms by helping those that are sick or dying was my chosen destiny.
Within a year of her passing I found a job at a convalescent center as a CNA. My hope was to get my foot in the door of a medical facility, any medical facility would do. I thought that if I could get a job in anything medical that I would be able to make the right contacts and gain the knowledge I needed to pursue the education I was seeking. While I was working for Avalon I became friends with Jeff, a nurse that was sensing my troubles with deciding how to proceed with my education. He told me how he became a nurse by joining the Army. Jeff explained that it will take me about a year and a half of training before I would become a nurse. I would get paid to learn nursing and I would also get a bonus for doing it. I had never heard of such an offer. As far as I knew, people had to pay for an education, not get paid for one. I made the decision to talk to a recruiter.
After some discussions with a recruiter I went to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Command) station in Salt Lake City and raised my right hand to Uncle Sam swearing to uphold my duties as a United States Soldier. At this point I was proud of my decision and excited to embark on a new adventure. My next stop was basic training at Ft. Sill, OK. It was a rough ride with people I had just met yelling at me and making me do things like push ups, sit ups, and running. For the next nine weeks it was a constant physical and mental battle. As I was graduating from basic training I figured that at this point I would get treated like an adult instead of a four year old.
I boarded a plane and went to Ft. Sam-Houston, TX where I quickly discovered I would not be treated like a four year old anymore, but rather like an eight year old. At this next stage of training on my journey I still suffered more physical punishment by way of exercising and more yelling. This was a sixteen week course on becoming an EMT and a Combat Medic. We were given a little more freedom and were allowed to go where ever we wanted while not in class as long as we were back by the 10 pm curfew. The homework and tests were brutal. Despite the difficulties I was learning much and I knew it would help me later when it really counted.
My next course was nursing. I thought I had finally arrived at what was going to be some of the best training I would ever receive in my life. I was partially right, and yet a little bit wrong. This section of training was divided up into 2 phases. Phase 1 was the purely didactic portion of my nurse training. There was still some physical punishment involved such as having to run in circles with eighteen inch diameter logs in the middle of the night. Physical training, and the occasional yelling session still persisted. Things were better at this point and much easier to feel human again. As long as we showed up to class and passed our tests, we were pretty much left alone to live as we pleased. We remained at Ft. Sam-Houston for phase 1 of the LPN course which lasted 8 weeks.
For phase 2 my class was sent to Ft. Lewis, WA where the real training began. This portion of training was the final 44 weeks of this year and a half experience. We were allowed to live off post and were completely free to do as we chose except that we had to be to class unless properly excused. Still passing our tests was mandatory and failure to do so would mean expulsion from the course. We did lose a few people that just couldn't or didn't want to put forth the effort. We studied anatomy and physiology, pharmacy, nursing theory, and many other subjects that are necessary.
I spent some time in surgery where I saw inside of a womans abdomen, witnessed a c-section, and a knee reconstruction. Other areas of the hospital a spend time was labor and delivery where I got to deliver a baby, pediatric ward, med/surg, nicu, picu, and pacu helping people recover from surgery. I felt very fortunate to get more training then the standard nursing student.
Upon graduation we were officially nurses that were permitted to practice in any military hospital freely, or with the proper transference of our license, we could practice in our home states. I chose to move back to Utah to serve my community the way I decided to a few years prior. After a few months of looking I found a job as an office rat for a home health agency. A few months after that I managed to convince the head nurse at the VA nursing home to hire me full time.
Along the way I had some other trials such as figuring out how to get back to Utah to get married during the course. Finding housing, and moving back to Utah at the end were also some big challenges. I have struggled with meeting an “ideal weight” since I was 21, and that was something I tried working through in the Army but never succeeded with. This weight issue haunts me to this day as I am still in the reserves and still can't pass weight. I did struggle from time to time with learning and passing tests due to the intense nature of the course. I would occasionally find myself burned out and struggled to concentrate. While there were many times that I felt I suffered physically and mentally, I am thankful that I made the decision to join the Army in an effort to serve my country, my community, and my family. Everyday that I go serve my patients is a tribute to Gramms and her positive attitude while she battled cancer. She very rarely said anything negative about her situation. Because of her example, I go everyday with a positive attitude and the drive to cheer people up who perhaps are having a bad day, or are saddened because of their situation.