Providing Hope and Recovery for Those Who Bravely Serve Their Country

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By Hilary Ryan Buryanek

I spent 11 years in a military role in the Army finding my purpose and identity while serving in a career for which the price of failure was great and the joys of success abundant. I spent one of those years serving active duty at Camp Leatherneck established in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan and various others with the National Guard doing state active duty assignments such as helping with tornado recovery. I felt a sense of indescribable loss coming home, not knowing who I was in the world, and nostalgia for times spent before deployment with the previous experience of a 21-year-old’s self-assurance and confidence in my identity, purpose, and goals in life.

Veteran Hilary Ryan Buryanek surrounded by trees

There were nurses I met through a Christmas celebration during my deployment from Camp Bastion, which served as the former British Army airbase. Even from simple conversations with initial acquaintances, they served as beacons of strength and vulnerability. Their role was to minimize the suffering that any human being endured as they served primarily in Camp Bastion’s trauma clinic. “This has been a difficult day,” one said, “but I hope that the mince pies can help remedy some of it.”

As both a science and an art, nursing fulfills a mission and a greater need for the world at large, the beauty of it lying in its universality and capacity to care for human beings in their most vulnerable state. I have long felt that the spirit of altruism is ingrained in individuals and may lend credence to why nursing is a calling rather than a profession. Serving in a role in which that calling was fulfilled has proven to teach me more than I ever imagined about human nature and life itself.

Mental health was my first love entering the nursing field. However, I wanted to gain bedside experience before exploring a specialty route for knowledge and well-roundedness. I am currently achieving my goals of fulfilling my passion for mental health with prospective hopes of building the bridge to tie my military experiences into my future career so I can better serve a role in which persons are heard and understood. With challenges unique to the military and deployment, the ability to offer empathy regarding deployment difficulties in regards to reconnection and reintegration can be rare to find. However, I believe it to be a necessary connecting piece to provide the best quality of care.

No matter how lost or broken we may feel in life, finding our greater purpose can be a challenge, but that struggle is not our identity. We were created to love and be loved, and we inherently have meaning and purpose. Creating culture from that recognition has been one of my greatest joys on this journey.

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