Why it is important to me that I serve my country

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- (Editor's note: Col. Gloria Twilley is a former commander, 509th Medical Group, August 2005 - June 2008. Colonel Twilley recently won the national American Legion Auxiliary award for her essay below. She was presented with the award at their national convention in Phoenix in August.)

It is a pleasure for me to serve my country. I have served in the United States Air Force as a Nurse Corps officer for 26 years. It seems like it was yesterday when I came on active duty as a critical care nurse at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. I have derived so much gratification for being a "medic" in today's Air Force. I've always had a passion to help people and my profession allows me to do that on a daily basis.

One of my most rewarding career choices was as a flight nurse, that role allowed me to transport patients to the various military and civilian hospitals all over the United States, ensuring that the patient received definitive care for their particular ailment. The skills that flight nursing brings to today's health care setting as we continue in this global war on terrorism is phenomenal. Nurses are now literally providing critical care in the air and saving lives.

Bringing wounded warriors home is mission #1 for our fixed-wing aeromedical evacuation system. The AE's mission is to rapidly evacuate patients under the supervision of qualified AE crewmembers by fixed-wing aircraft during peace, humanitarian, non-combatant evacuation operations and joint/combined contingency operations.

The military presents Nurse Corps officers with many rewarding challenges in leadership roles as well as advanced schooling. My service to my country is only a small price to pay for the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy as Americans.

I frequently speak to new nursing students about the autonomy that military nurses have to exercise their training and skills. Nurses have the opportunity to be clinical, educators, researchers, practitioners, nurse commanders and Chief of the Nurse Corps.

I reflect upon the Air Force's first general officer chief, Brig. Gen. Ethel Hoefly, in 1919, who was a pioneer in flight nursing as well as becoming the first general nurse corps officer. Her efforts paved the course for nursing to have not only a brigadier general, but currently the nurse corps has a major general authorization. Every day I see role models like General Hoefly, who inspire me to aspire to serve my country with passion.

I have had the pleasure of being an instructor, training our medical technicians to do their roles of taking care of our patients in Air Force hospitals and clinics. Seeing that new recruit grow from a civilian to a full-fledged 3-skill-level medical technician is awesome.

When that technician graduates from their medical specialty training, they are able to walk into any clinic or hospital and function fully with minimal oversight. The Airmen, nurses and doctors that I work with on a daily basis provide phenomenal medical care and enjoy serving their country.

We're not in the military for the monetary benefits; all of the medical professionals could garner much more financial status in the civilian sector. We serve because we want to give back to our great country and most importantly take care of our wounded warriors.

The following prayer epitomizes a nurse's service to their patients:

A Nurse's Prayer

Give to my eyes
     Compassion and understanding
Give to my mind 
     Knowledge and wisdom
Give to my hands 
     Skill and tenderness
Give to my ears
     The ability to listen
Give to my lips
     Words of comfort
Give to my spirit
     The desire to share
Give to me, Lord
     Strength for this selfless service
     And enable me to bring joy to the lives of those I serve

Currently as a Medical Group commander, I have the opportunity to affect change for war veterans, retirees, active duty members and their families. Our mission is to provide unrivaled health care today and tomorrow. Often times I have the job of ensuring policies reflect the care that we strive to deliver, that customer service is professional, courteous and efficient for all of our patients.

Nursing is a dynamic profession that allows me to provide positive changes in our health care system. It also facilitates care, compassion and hope in moments of utmost despair, it's the medic that the wounded or sick Soldier, Airman, Marine or Sailor call for in times of great need.

I would not trade my nursing profession for any other even when situations seem their bleakest and I feel the same way about serving my country. I would not trade this experience for any other career choice.