By Courtney Keener, Connection
staff writer and English writing major, CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus student and Army veteran Ruben Urquidez is pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Colorado College of Nursing at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and is expecting to graduate in May 2018. Urquidez served as an Army medic at Fort Carson in Colorado and did two tours in Afghanistan. He’s a graduate of Denver South High School and attended several local colleges before finishing up his nursing prerequisites at CU Denver. Urquidez works for the Office of Veteran & Military Student Services at both CU Denver and CU Anschutz helping to process education benefit requests for his fellow student veterans. With Veterans Day coming up, “The Connection” recently sat down with him to learn about his experiences.
First, thank you for your service. We’ll be observing Veterans Day soon. What does the day mean to you?
Ruben: Veterans Day means to honor those who have served before us and paved the way for us to be here today. Without veterans’ loyalty and duty to our country, we may not be able to have the rights and freedoms we still hold today. I’m glad to see how many of these veterans are going to school and bringing their experiences to benefit many different workforces and communities around the country. To me, Veterans Day means celebrating not only veterans’ time in service, but also their time serving the public afterwards, and contributing to help our country move forward.
The Connection: Your continued contributions to the community will be in nursing. What did you learn about the profession while you were serving as a medic?
I was in the Army for four and a half years and healing the wounded on the front line was our main priority. I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and 2014. No more than three days into my first deployment I had my first trauma patient. A translator came in our aid station and told us a young boy would be coming in with a cut on his hand, so my senior line medic let me handle the patient by myself. But, it turned out it was much more than a cut. The boy’s entire left hand had almost been blown off because he was playing with a UXO (unexploded ordinance) in the village. I was quickly able to apply a tourniquet and assess the boy for other wounds before my senior line medic realized the severity of the situation. It was the fastest two hours of my life, but it got me prepared to deal with other emergency situations throughout my career.
The Connection: Was it your experience as an Army medic that sparked your decision to pursue nursing?
Ruben: Actually, it was the other way around. I decided to get into nursing before I joined the military. I knew I wanted to work in a field where I got to interact with people and help make a difference in their lives. But I didn’t come to this decision until I was 21, going to school part-time and working full-time. So, I decided to be a medic in the military to serve my country, test the medical field to see if it was for me and gain the education benefits available to veterans to help me go to school and achieve my nursing degree.
The Connection: How has the Office of Veteran & Military Student Services (VMSS) helped support your academic success?
Ruben: I was able to quickly find help through the other student veterans at VMSS. Through my work-study there, I’ve been able to get tips on studying and about what works for individuals transitioning out of the military. Most importantly, the office has given me a place on campus where I feel comfortable and have access to the resources I need to succeed. And, the office is fun. There're always a lot of us laughing and hanging out, giving each other slack about not being part of each other’s military branches. Also through VMSS, I was awarded a $1000 Combat to Classroom Scholarship and have been able to take advantage of the Heroes Clinic at the CU School of Dental Medicine at CU Anschutz.
I understand that the CU Heroes Clinic
is funded by a grant from Delta Dental of Colorado and that it provides free dental service to veterans enrolled full-time in participating Colorado universities. What’s been the impact of this service for you and the student veteran community?
Ruben: Personally, it’s really helped my budget. I’ve gotten teeth cleanings and x-rays twice a year and I’ve saved a little over $1,000. I know dental work and oral hygiene are important to everyone and I encourage other student veterans to take advantage of the clinic. It can save you a lot of money.
The Connection: I’ve got to ask, who’s that little, furry friend with you in the picture?
Ruben: That’s Sonic the hedgehog. We named him after the cartoon. He’d visit us every once in a while when we were on guard duty in Afghanistan. We were always glad when Sonic showed up. Night shifts were pretty boring and he was definitely a good distraction when we were trying to stay awake. Late nights studying are nothing compared to a dark, lonely night keeping watch. Sonic was good company.