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ETBU graduate called ‘role model’ for service in hospital in Iraq


MARSHALL, Texas (BP)–Universities across America take pride in their graduates succeeding after graduation.

East Texas Baptist University’s Carolyn Harvey has learned of one particular graduate who has left her home in Marshall, Texas, to help those who are in need of nursing care at an Army hospital in Iraq.

Harvey, dean of the Frank S. Groner Endowed Memorial School of Professional Studies Department of Nursing, recently received an e-mail from Sonia Montiel.

“I am an ICU nurse in a Combat Support Hospital in Balad, Iraq,” Montiel wrote. “We give medical care to American Soldiers as well as Iraqis. I am very proud to be here and to have the opportunity to do something for our country.”

Montiel received her bachelor of science degree in nursing from East Texas Baptist in June 2003 and enlisted in the Army in September 2003. She is assigned to the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Fort Bliss, Texas, and is deployed to Balad, Iraq. Balad is located about 45 miles north of Baghdad.

“I have such deep admiration for Sonia,” said Carla Smith, assistant professor of nursing at ETBU. “While in nursing school, she was known for her compassion and caring attitude, not only for the patients she cared for, but for her classmates as well. Even though English was her second language, she was able to accomplish her goal of becoming a registered nurse. She is definitely a role model, not only to students, but to faculty as well.”


Montiel came to the U.S. 10 years ago but did not speak English. She had graduated from a military nursing school in her homeland.

“When I came to the U.S. I tried to validate my nursing license but I could not do so,” she wrote. “I had to start all over again.”

Montiel still has family in San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico as well as in Marshall, Texas.

“I became a United States citizen two years ago,” she wrote. “When I raised my right hand and pledged to defend my new country, I decided to join the Army. I am very proud to wear the uniform and be a soldier.”

Montiel credits her college experience for helping her carry out her duties on the war front.

“From ETBU I got the knowledge, skills, discipline, and Christian principles that are helping me in this mission. As a nurse it is a great honor to serve and care for our soldiers,” she wrote.

Even though she has only been a citizen for two years she has learned many things about the heart of the American soldier.

“I know many families have a son or a daughter or another family member deployed somewhere in the world,” she wrote. “Be proud of them. I have seen them perform, doing their best. They are men and women serving our great country.”

Harvey said when thinking about Montiel she thinks about Hebrews 13:2: “For thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

“She seems too good to be true but she is 100 percent genuine,” Harvey said. “She was not sent to Iraq. She requested Iraq. That is a big difference. We are very proud of her.”

In an e-mail interview, Montiel said the most difficult aspect of her job involves helping wounded soldiers.

“The most difficult thing for me as a human, as a nurse, as an American soldier is to witness the loss of a precious life of one of our warriors,” she wrote. “Today I understood why I am here. Being at the bedside of a wounded soldier … a really young hero. I must admit it is very hard and I pray to God for strength to continue our mission.”

The East Texas Baptist University Department of Nursing recently commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the first nursing graduates.
Mike Midkiff is ETBU’s director of public relations. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ETBU GRAD.