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IN FOCUS


It was a scene that would play out


again and again in 2008 and 2009, when O’Connell commanded the hospital in the Khost Province in Eastern Afghanistan at a base that was so frequently under attack by insurgents that it was dubbed “Rocket City.” Patients, almost all Afghans, arrived day and night with trauma injuries from gunshot wounds, motor vehicle accidents, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Despite the pressures, the hospital’s staff treated more than 4,000 patients with an amazing 99.8 percent survival rate during O’Connell’s time there. “It was kind of like M*A*S*H in


many ways,” recalled O’Connell, who mostly supervised but sometimes jumped in to hold down an artery or perform CPR. “It was tremendously exciting. Being part of such a great care team and being able to take care of someone and bring them back from the brink—it was just an amazing experience. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”


A LIFE-CHANGING DECISION O’Connell is one of many Loyolans


who have found their hearts drawn to military service, answering a calling that attracts less than 1 percent of Americans today. They share some- thing in common with their alma mater’s namesake: St. Ignatius of Loyola, was, after all, a former soldier whose spiritual transformation came while he was recovering from battle injuries. And no matter what their assignment, these men and women live out Loyola’s mission every day, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect and defend others. Sometimes the attraction to the


military life is unexpected: It could be spurred by a grandparent’s tales of fighting in a long-ago war; a love of country, adventure, and travel; or the practical incentive of an ROTC scholarship to help pay for college.


26 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO


For O’Connell, ROTC started as a fun break from her grueling pre-med coursework, but it quickly grew into something more. “There was such a camaraderie,


and folks were always willing to help each other,” she said. “I didn’t really consider the Army as a career until my senior year, when I decided I wasn’t going to medical school and needed something else to do. I’ve been taught all my life to provide service to others, and the Army seemed like a good way to do that.” Cadet Samantha Uppleger (’18) sur-


prised her family with her decision to join ROTC, but she was convinced the


military would suit her personality. “I’m a very athletic, outdoorsy person, and in high school I did a lot of volun- teer work at my school and church,” said Uppleger, a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish. “The desire to serve others has always been a part of my life. When I realized there were opportunities for the two passions to intersect, I was willing to try something different.”


ONE CALLING, MANY ROLES It was that same commitment that


drew Lt. Col. Nick Bugajski, chair of Loyola’s Department of Military


PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIGADIER GENERAL CYNTHIA O’CONNELL


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