NORMAL — Illinois State University senior Jillian Jones knew she wanted to be a nurse, but she didn’t decide to be an Army nurse until a visit to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio near the end of her freshman year.
She saw a young soldier whose legs had been amputated above his knees walking on his stumps.
“When I saw that, I was convinced. That was it,” Jones said. “I was humbled by him and the idea that he was able to come home because of the medical team.”
She only saw him from afar. She never learned his name.
“He’ll never know the impact he had on me,” Jones said.
Friday night she will be one of three students to be commissioned as second lieutenants, and Saturday she will be among more than 1,200 graduates receiving their bachelor’s degrees.
“She is going to be a wonderful nurse leader,” Janet Krejci, dean of ISU’s Mennonite College of Nursing, said. “Going into ROTC is very difficult, but going into ROTC and nursing is daunting to say the least. … She has juggled an enormous workload.”
Jones volunteered at a hospital in her hometown of Darien while in high school, but she never considered going into the military until she was approached by the ROTC.
“Both my parents were scared at first,” Jones said, but once they learned more about the opportunities for leadership and education, they agreed with her decision.
David Sanford, senior military instructor in the ROTC program, said, “It’s pretty impressive to see what the nursing students go through with clinicals and such.”
Sanford, who met Jones initially when he was a fellow student, said Jones had to complete the same training as everyone else in the ROTC program while going through nursing school.
Jones said she was fortunate to get involved with ROTC before her nursing classes started junior year, “so I got all the hard stuff done early.” That included a summer training camp — a required step in ROTC — which she passed after her sophomore year. Usually, it’s done after junior year.
She said her peers and the ROTC staff “were all very understanding.” But being the only nursing student in the ROTC battalion was difficult, she said, because “I didn’t have a battle buddy who did it all with me.”
However, Krejci, who came to ISU from Marquette University, which has a larger ROTC program with nursing students, was supportive.
“The dean — she’s been amazing,” Jones said. “She came to all the military balls. … She took the time to personally get to know me.”
Jones said her ROTC training helped her in nursing.
“It’s really helped me with my composure with my peers and it helped me with my nursing career,” she said. “I was really hesitant before. It taught me to jump in.”
What: Illinois State University winter commencement
When: Saturday, 9 a.m. (College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine Arts and Mennonite College of Nursing) and 1 p.m. (College of Applied Science and Technology, College of Business and College of Education)
Where: Redbird Arena
Highlights: ISU will award 1,245 bachelor’s degrees, 215 master’s degrees, 51 doctoral degrees, and President Al Bowman will address the graduates.