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Why I Serve: Fulfillment from Helping Wounded Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Sept. 16, 2004 – "I enjoyed the camaraderie, the discipline, the interaction between soldiers," said Army Staff Sgt. Heather Martin after three years testing the waters of military life in the Army Reserve in her native Ohio. That was nine years ago, when she opted to dive into active duty service.

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Army Staff Sgt. Heather Martin said she's found tremendous gratification in the Army helping soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan restore their lives. Photo by Donna Miles

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Today, as an occupational therapy assistant here at Brooke Army Medical Center, Martin said she's discovered tremendous fulfillment helping wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild their lives. Most of Martin's patients have lost arms or use of their arms in combat.

During sessions ranging from 45 minutes to an hour, Martin slowly helps them move beyond their injuries.

"I teach them how to have a normal life day-to-day things like how to button their shirts or brush their teeth," she said. "When they first get here, they're often depressed. And it's tremendously rewarding to watch them gain independence and transform into social people with a positive outlook on what's ahead for them."

Martin said she feels a strong affinity with her patients. "They're like my brothers and sisters," she said. "You really feel what they've been through, and their pain. My job is to take care of them when they get back."

And while she's not serving in Southwest Asia or other hot spots around the world, Martin said she feels she's playing an important role in the war on terror. "I may not actually be on the front lines, but somebody has to be there for the soldiers when they get back to help them get to the point where they can be soldiers again," she said.

Although she acknowledges that she "never planned on staying" on active duty, she's now convinced that she could never find anything quite as rewarding as military service in the civilian world. "I love my job and I love what I do," she said.

"The Army has been very good to me. There's a real sense of family and you know that there will always be somebody there for you," she said. "I'm not sure that there's a job on the outside that could offer that much."

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Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Brooke Army Medical Center
Why I Serve

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