Alison Rae Young (4th Quarter, 2007)

4th Quarter, 2007
Vo-tech Scholarship Winner
Alison Rae Young

Alison Rae T. Pier was born and raised in Guam and later moved to Hawaii with her family, where she graduated from high school. In 1998, Alison enlisted in the US Army Reserves as a diesel mechanic where she served until she entered active duty in 2002. Her fours years of active duty service includes a year-long overseas tour in the Republic of Korea and a one-year deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Alison completed her military service in 2006 and has since decided to enter into the health care field in order to continue serving San Diego’s large and growing Veteran community. In January 2008, Alison graduated from the Nursing Assistant Training Program at Maric College in San Diego, California. Her education there allowed her to gain a California State Certification as a Nursing Assistant and she now works at the Veterans Administration Hospital in La Jolla, California as a Health Technician.

A Portion of Alison’s Winning Essay:

Alison Rae Young

In June of 2004, I was ordered to deploy with my military unit for a one year combat tour in Iraq. I worked 17 hour days, seven days a week during the year that I was there. Although my primary mission was to run the Air Operations Section, I often spent what little spare time I had at the Combat Area Support Hospital (CASH). Wounded Soldiers and Marines were brought there; critically-injured Soldiers and Marines were stabilized for onward movement to Germany where they could receive the appropriate medical attention. Those with more minor injuries were patched together and sent back to their units in order to continue their combat missions. Those with traumatic brain injuries were usually disoriented and confused. There were even more with amputated limbs and those who lost their eyesight, hearing, and some seemed to have lost their spirit.

I talked with them—but mostly listened. I was amazed how much my simple presence comforted them. They could show their true emotions of fear and uncertainty with me, more than they could with their male counterparts, where a wall of courage and fearlessness must stand at all times.

During the quiet times (which were few) I reflected on my neuropsychology and psychology courses and training; I considered what these Soldiers and Marines would need to assist them to become healthy, functional citizens once again. I thought about what their world would be like when they got back home and what kind of support they would need.

Since I spent so much time at the hospital tents, I was there when helicopters brought in wounded Soldiers and Marines. As many as five bodies were in each helicopter and when I looked up above the landing pad, I could see as many as seven helicopters waiting to land.

I had no medical training outside of basic first aid but I lent a hand wherever I could. Triage stations where chaotic and I would watch in amazement as the nurses and doctors did their job with skill and finesse. There were times when I felt useless and all I could do was watch and pray and wait until they were stable enough so I could do my part. I wanted to do more. Even from my perspective, I could see how those working in triage and emergency medicine could suffer from compassion fatigue as the pressures were pervasive and chronic. I still wanted to do more.

I have been out of the Army for a little over a year now (honorably discharged in June 2006). It was a difficult transition to make since I had spent the last eight years of my life in the Army. I was only 17 years old when I enlisted, and I had never been an adult and not in the Army. There were a lot of adjustments to make, the biggest one being that I had to make major life decisions without the Army telling me what to do.

So I worked hard to break into the San Diego job market. I was confident that I would be able to find a position that was challenging and rewarding. Currently in Corporate America, even my biggest accomplishments at the office left me feeling empty. I lacked that sense of fulfillment and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from making a difference in people’s lives. I realized that I want to work in a position that allows me to educate, mentor, and guide others.

My undergraduate education provided a foundation to understand human behavior, multicultural issues, and the impact of emotional health on physical well being. What is most clear to me is that I want to work with people—to help people, to make their lives just a little better because of something I did for them. I thought back to my time in the hospital tents in Iraq. I thought back to the wonderful feelings I had when I was able to care for the wounded Soldiers and Marines. I thought about the Soldiers and Marines that thanked me for the time I spent with them and the care that I gave. I thought back to how I wanted to be able to do more for them. I want to be a nurse. My life, work, and education experience has given me a solid foundation for a career in nursing.

As a Native Chamorro woman from Guam, I lived and worked closely with people of Guam, Native Hawaiian, and Native American communities—where I mentored students and families while integrating cultural practices with western ideals of success. As an Army Officer, I lived and worked overseas (Korea and Iraq) and further broadened my horizons with international and intercultural communities. As a result, I am able to work well with and communicate with people from a wide range of ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

My worldwide travels throughout the South Pacific and Australia, East Asia, the Middle East, Central America, and Europe exposed me to the differing life experiences, the needs of people throughout their life spans, and the human condition. I am accustomed to manual labor as I worked as a waitress, on the assembly line, and as a mechanic. My military experience (both enlisted and officer) gave me an understanding of people whose lives do not truly belong to them and the sacrifices that have to be made. I am proficient in conversational Spanish and continue to work towards increasing my knowledge and understanding of the Spanish language—including formal education and training.

As a Registered Nurse, I will be able to work with people in a way that is hands-on and personal. I plan to work with San Diego’s large veteran community and continue to work with wounded Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen—both men and women of all generations.

It was an honor to serve with so many incredible individuals and I look forward to continuing my service. I believe that the shared bond of our combat experience will enable me to work with the veteran community in ways that many cannot. Since I do not have any formal education, training, or experience in nursing I am working to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. As a CNA, I will be able to build experience that will untimately lead to my overall success in the nursing field.

Copyright 2007, All rights reserved.

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