Military Service a Positive Experience for Two Rainbow Employees
Rainbow RN Case Manager Kendra Gerleman and Rainbow Foundation Assistant Jessica Miller share a common bond, one they didn’t know they had right away. While each of them took different paths into the military, their experiences helped shape who they are today.
Kendra joined the military with dreams of being a Navy Corpsman and in hopes of paying for school. She was in the Navy for nine weeks and stationed in the Great Lakes III Naval Station in Chicago for basic training before she reinjured her right knee. Kendra was then placed on light duty before she ended up with an ELMS (entry-level medical separation). With her military career over, Kendra turned her full attention to another dream, becoming a nurse.
“It has shown me a lot of discipline and respect,” said Gerleman. “I wish I could have been in longer, I enjoyed my time in the Navy and I got to meet a lot of new people.”
Jessica’s grandfather served as a medic in World War II. After talking with a recruiter in high school, she joined the U.S. Army for five years from 2003-2008. Jessica got to travel the United States, but also was able to see the world, receiving orders to go to Seoul, Korea for a year, before going to Iraq from 2005-2006. She also made pit stops in Ireland, Germany, and Alaska in between deployment travels. While her military service helped her pay for some of her college education, she learned some valuable life lessons that have stayed with her even to this day.
“Traveling to different states and countries and meeting different people along the way has really expanded my perspective,” said Miller. “Even though we all have differences, we’re all human and just want the same basic things. I know I have become more compassionate and empathetic as a person because of being in the military.”
Over her last two years at Rainbow, Kendra has met and cared for several patients. Some of her most rewarding experiences include being able to participate in Rainbow’s veteran pinning ceremonies, while witnessing the joy on the faces of those patients and their families.
“Those ceremonies have had a great impact on myself,” Gerleman said. “When the patients are getting pinned, they have tears in their eyes and so do their families and then I do too. Rainbow Hospice Care has shown them great respect and the blankets, plaques, and pins are just tangible items that the patient and family can hold on to but they can take the memories that Rainbow has given to them, and share them with the community forever.”
Kendra doesn’t consider herself a hero for being in the military for a short time, but now has a greater respect for all the people who dedicate their lives in service to their country. Her Uncle Lew was in the Army for over 20 years and spent some time stationed in Korea.
“Most people aren’t able to talk about their time in the military but their family can tell their story and that is truly great,” Gerleman said. “I know when I tell a family that I served in the military they are all very grateful and thank me for my time. I just shrug it off as if it’s no big deal, but to those older veterans, it means the world. With the pinning ceremonies, we can let them know we respect them and that they deserve to be honored in more ways than one.”
Like Kendra, Jessica shares a certain camaraderie when talking with other veterans and Rainbow’s veteran patients.
“I feel so much gratitude for our veteran patients and am honored to be in their presence when I meet them,” Miller said. “We could talk about everything from the training right down to deployments. There is nothing to hide, no matter how awful the situation was, I never feel judged.”
It’s easy for some Americans to overlook Veterans Day or think that’s the only time we should honor our military servicemen and women, but Jessica knows it’s something we should be doing every day throughout the year and thinks Rainbow’s pinning ceremonies are a good example of that.
“Our veterans have sacrificed relationships, holidays, births of their children, weddings, graduations, funerals, baptisms, and even meals and shelter at times,” Miller said. “Pinning ceremonies become the moment in time where we stop what we’re doing, acknowledge their sacrifices, and truly thank them wholeheartedly for all they have done in the name of freedom.”