A Passion to Serve: Immigrant’s Life Goals Lead to Becoming Soldier, U.S. citizen, Nurse

By Staff Sgt. Aven Santiago

Immigrant to the U.S. from Ghana. Registered nurse. U.S. Army Soldier.

These are just a few of the many titles that help identify Spc. Benhur Ayettey; all stem from basic principles that have guided his life: to consistently seek self-improvement, coupled with a passion to serve and help others.

Benhur immigrated to Columbus, Ohio, from Accra, Ghana, with his family when he was 16. He developed a passion for helping people at a young age and wanted to get a job in the health care field. Soon after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard and went to basic combat training (BCT) in 2014.

His path through BCT was different than that of his peers. While most soldiers start their military journey in basic training, stressing about physical fitness tests or drill sergeants, Benhur faced a different type of pressure in addition to the normal ones — a naturalization test to become a U.S. citizen. While his fellow basic trainees spent whatever free time they had writing letters home, resting and relaxing following the day’s training or preparing for the next day, Benhur focused most of his available time on studying for the naturalization test. After spending several hours a day studying U.S. government and history, Benhur finally took the test.

Photo credit DVIDS/Staff Sgt. Aven Santiago

Spc. Benhur Ayettey, a member of the Ohio Army National Guard who immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana when he was a teenager, works as a registered nurse at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was intense because you had the stuff you already had to do in basic training and then you have the citizenship stuff to think about,” said Ayettey, currently a member of the 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, based in Columbus. “I really wanted to serve. I liked what the military was about. I liked that they were willing to pay for school and to help me grow.”

“It was kind of like juggling balls, but I knew how important it was to me,” he said. “I always saw people in the Army as very disciplined, uniformed and structured, and I wanted that in my life.”

A few days later during a special ceremony, Benhur breathed a sigh of relief as his name was called as a BCT graduate, as well as a U.S. citizen.

“It was exciting. It was very liberating,” Benhur said. “I remember seeing my parents there and it felt good to see them after a long couple [of] months.”

Benhur joined the Ohio Army National Guard as a combat medic to follow his passion of helping people. During advanced individual training (AIT) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, he became proficient in administering emergency medical care during both combat and humanitarian situations. He also learned first responder skills and how to triage illnesses and injuries to help save lives. After becoming an Army health care specialist (also known as a combat medic) and earning the 68W military occupational specialty, he learned his new medical credentials were applicable to a civilian nursing program through Columbus State Community College (CSCC). The education and skills he gained through the military directly transferred to Columbus State’s Advanced Standing Nursing Program, allowing him to take an accelerated path through his registered nurse (RN) associate degree curriculum, much faster than some of his classmates.

“Trying to help someone under pressure, while under stress, is a whole different ballgame and [AIT] trained me to the point where I was able to think under pressure,” Benhur said. “I was very confident [in] my skills during the nursing program, because I had already done some of the skills prior to coming.”

With his new RN degree from CSCC on his resumé, Benhur soon started a new job as a nurse at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. While nurses in the field all have proper training and credentials, Benhur’s supervisors said that it’s his military experience that makes him stand out among his coworkers and peers.

Photo credit DVIDS/Staff Sgt. Aven Santiago

As an Army health care specialist (combat medic), his credentials transferred to Columbus State Community College and accelerated him on the path to gaining his associate degree and becoming a registered nurse faster than some of his classmates.

“[Ayettey] is very dedicated; he’s a hard worker and very compassionate towards his patients. As a newer nurse, [Ayettey] seems like he has been doing this for a long time,” said Samantha Valentie, clinical nurse manager at OhioHealth Riverside. “When I think of the members that serve our country, I can see [Ayettey] in that light and I can only imagine that’s what he’s like, serving our community and country.”

As in many aspects of life, including professional employment, good communication skills can be a key facet to one’s success. Benhur said that he feels his strength in that area allows him to work with patients very effectively.

“I think one big thing is my people skills. You have to know how to talk to your patients. They are people just like you and not another number; they have hopes and dreams,” Benhur said. “[Combat medic] school taught me all of that, and I was able to apply [those] people skills to my job. People come in and families are stressed out. You have to make their experience less stressful.”

Whether it’s serving patients in the hospital room or serving his state and nation in the Ohio Army National Guard, Benhur says he is proud of his service and is passionate about helping the people he serves.

“I think it’s very rewarding. At the end of the day, I want to be a productive member of my community,” Benhur said. “Being able to do that, military-wise, whether it be going to drill or the mission at hand, then going to work and helping people in their daily lives, I think it’s very fulfilling.”

-This story was originally published on DVIDShub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.

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