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Why We Serve: Patriotism Prompts Nurse to Rejoin the Air Force

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2007 – A sense of duty and patriotism caused a women’s health care specialist to rejoin the Air Force at age 42.

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Air Force Maj. Marcia A. Potter is among a group of 10 servicemembers who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa who have been selected to tell the military’s story to the American people through the Defense Department’s “Why We Serve” program. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Maj. Marcia A. Potter, now 46, enlisted in the Air Force in 1980 after graduating from high school in Clayton, Ohio. After serving a four-year hitch, Potter left the military to pursue her education. She would earn a master’s degree in nursing and become a family nurse practitioner.

Today, the married mother of three is back in the Air Force, wearing an officer’s gold oak leaf insignia with an Iraq duty tour under her belt.

About a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Potter was living in Indiana when she heard the military was looking for doctors, nurses and other experienced health care providers.

“I thought: ‘That’s where I need to be,’” Potter recalled.

After discussing matters with her family, Potter rejoined the Air Force in 2003, receiving a commission for her professional medical expertise.

Potter is among a group of 10 servicemembers who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa who have been selected to tell the military’s story to the American people at community and business events, veterans organizations and other gatherings as part of the Defense Department’s “Why We Serve” public outreach program.

Why We Serve began last fall and was originally the idea of then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace. Representatives from all the service branches participate in the program, which is conducted in quarterly segments. Potter and the other nine servicemembers in her group constitute the fifth iteration since the program began.

In January 2007, Potter deployed to Iraq, where she worked out of Balad Air Base until her return to the states this May.

“I was the sole family nurse practitioner in Iraq providing women’s health services,” Potter said, noting she also treated male servicemembers and Iraqi citizens.

Servicemembers can become dehydrated in arid climates like Iraq if they don’t increase their fluid intake, Potter pointed out. Electrolyte-rich beverages are good to drink in desert areas, she said, while the intake of dehydrating drinks such as sodas and coffee should be limited or avoided.

“I think the services are attuned to providing for the overall health needs of their troops,” Potter said.

While at Balad, the major volunteered her off-duty time to treat local Iraqis injured in terrorist attacks.

“I got to know a lot of the patients,” Potter said, noting the Iraqis soon became open and engaging with her despite differences in language and culture.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference between people in terms of what they desire for themselves and their family,” Potter pointed out.

The Why We Serve program “is a fantastic program” that enables servicemembers to tell their stories directly to the public, Potter said.

“I want the American people not to walk in my combat boots, but to follow in the footsteps of the people whose lives touched mine” in Iraq, she explained.

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