Juan DiazMajor: Nursing
Class of 2017

“I enlisted in the Marines right out of high school,” recalls Juan Diaz, a nursing graduate from County College of Morris (CCM). “I didn’t have any direction and I thought joining the military would give me that.” He wasn’t disappointed. He trained at Parris Island in South Carolina, then was sent to Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, AZ, to join Marine Attack Squadron 311. While stationed there, he received one of the most difficult phone calls of his life.

Nurses Who Make a Difference

“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” the Dover resident says. “I remember feeling powerless to help her.” She was frightened but spoke very highly of her medical team. It was then that Diaz first considered health care as a career. “My mother said the nurses made things better. I realized they had the greatest influence over the patient experience and I wanted to be part of that.”

He was deployed from Arizona to Iraq, where he worked in headquarters administration with occasional guard duties. After his honorable discharge in 2011, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill, which provides 36 months of college fully paid. “I have a lot of veteran buddies. My friends at other schools have had issues receiving their veterans’ benefits, but the people I worked with at CCM made it easy.”

He says that the camaraderie he found in the Marines also exists among the nursing students. “In the Marines and in nursing, effective team collaboration can mean the difference between life and death. Everybody has an important part and learning each others’ strengths and weaknesses makes yours the optimal team.”

When he graduated in May, one of the people proudly watching him receive his diploma was his mother, a breast cancer survivor in remission for two years. He plans next to attend a four-year college and wants to become a critical care nurse. “There’s something about that level of vulnerability with these patients,” he says. “It’s the type of situation where I feel I can do the most for a patient.”