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U.S. Navy Lt. J.G. Joseph Kolaszewski, from 2d Marine Division based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, explains procedures to a nurse with University of Tennessee Health Science Center at the Memphis Community Vaccination Center in Memphis, Tennessee, May 12, 2021.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justin Brown

Navy Nurses reflect on helping people in need during Nurses Week

14 May 2021 | Lance Cpl. Justin Brown 2nd Marine Division

As Nurses Week comes to close, some of the military nurses, with diverse backgrounds, supporting the Community Vaccination Center in Memphis reflect on their profession and share a common goal-helping people in need. 

Among the nurses, U.S. Navy Lt. J.G. Joseph Kolaszewski, a former U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, commissioned into the Navy’s nursing profession and is one of the many Marines and Sailors with 2d Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, deployed in support of the state-run, federally-supported Community Vaccination Center at the Memphis Fairgrounds in Memphis, Tennessee. 

“Being a nurse was the best way I could give back,” said Kolaszewski.

Kolaszewski’s pathway to become a nurse is unique. He served as a team leader for 2d Reconnaissance Battalion for 13 years and wanted to continue to serve his country. But after his final deployment, he realized he needed to do more for his Marines and Sailors.

“I’ve always approached nursing with the mentality that I should ensure that the people I’m working with, the Corpsman specifically, and that I can pass down as much knowledge and education to them as I possibly can,” Kolaszewski said. “They’re the ones that are going to be in the thick of it, so making sure that they’re ready is my number one priority.”

Military nurses from all along the East Coast were called upon to bring their expertise to support the Memphis CVC. 

“I love being able to help people in person,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Rebecca Gerena, the Memphis Vaccination Response Team’s lead nurse. “With the work you put out, even if I don’t immediately see results— knowing I’m able to make an impact and make people feel better is what I live for.” 

Gerena began serving her country years before commissioning into the nursing profession; prior to that, she served as a Corpsman for 14 years. She decided commissioning to become a nurse in the U.S. Navy was the best way to affect change and said she hasn’t looked back. 

“There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to see the positive impact I have on my patients,” said Gerena.  

Several nurses at the Memphis CVC emphasized being a nurse in the military is no different than being a nurse anywhere else. Nurses receive many opportunities to go out and help people, and to them, it brings individuals together.

“Our Navy-Marine Corps team is honored to be part of the whole-of-government response in supporting the American public,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. B. S. Peterson, commander of the 2d MARDIV Vaccination Response Team. “Our Marines and Sailors are working hand-in-hand with local, state, federal partners, and FEMA to serve the people of this great city and fight the pandemic.”

U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.

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