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IN FOCUS


arm and leg in the blast, and two uncles were barely alive. The boy’s 12-year-old sister, though injured herself, ran through mine fields to get help for the rest of the family, and soon an Army helicopter was airlift- ing them to O’Connell’s hospital. Two weeks later, the family was


discharged, all walking except the lit- tle boy, who rode in a pediatric wheel- chair that U.S. Special Forces soldiers had traveled to nearby Pakistan to get. The nurses presented a special heroism certificate to the girl, written in her native language of Pashto. “What I’m most proud of is that we were able to show the Afghan people that we’re just like them, and we were there to help and not there just as occupiers,” O’Connell said. At the same time, Loyola’s veterans


acknowledge the challenges of the military life. A father of five young boys, Bugajski deployed to Iraq only a month after his wedding and has been separated from his family for as long as a year at a time. “There is a toll with being deployed away from your family in a very serious position, and seeing the sacrifices that both soldiers and family members make on a daily basis is just an awe-inspir- ing thing for me to witness and be a part of,” he said. O’Connell was scheduled for


mid-tour leave to see her husband and teenaged daughters when her base in Afghanistan was hit with a rocket attack. “It was five days of being under siege, and the bad guys were really pushing an offensive. No way was I going to leave my hospital at that time,” she said. So instead, she missed her daugh-


ter’s eighth-grade graduation and went nearly two years without see- ing her family, though she still man- aged to help with homework and attend parent-teacher conferences over Skype. “When you’re in the mil- itary, you give up a lot, and the family members give up a lot,” she said.


28 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO


“The families also serve and sacrifice because they’re always scared for you. You can tell great war stories when you get home, but when you’re there, you try to make it seem like everything’s OK because you don’t want to worry your family even more.” Uppleger knows that the military


life can be a hard road. Even after she fractured her spine during an ROTC obstacle course, she was back to her early morning physical training a few months later, more determined than ever to pursue a career in the military. And there have been many rewarding moments, too, like when she spent a month in Madagascar teaching local soldiers English and U.S. Army tactics through ROTC’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program. “Most of my favorite college mem-


ories involve ROTC,” she said. “I’ve met people from all over the country, and because of all of the things I’ve been able to do, it’s given me a lot of self confidence. It’s really molded me into a better person.” She’s proud to have earned an


Loyola’s mission is about service, and the Army’s mission is about service. They strengthen


each other.” — LT. COLONEL NICK BUGAJSKI


ROTC scholarship and, most recently, an active-duty contract after grad- uation. She’s still waiting to hear where she’ll be assigned, but her dream job is field artillery because it demands a balance of mental and physical fitness. “It sounds like a challenge,” she said, “and I like a good challenge.” She sees the Ignatian value of cura


personalis at work in ROTC every day, and that’s part of why she’s so excited to continue after graduation. “When people think of military service, they think you’re here to serve your coun- try and to serve the citizens of the United States, which is absolutely true,” she said. “But the more time you spend in the military, the more you realize that caring for yourself and for each other is a big motivator. We really do care for each other and treat each other like a family.” L


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