Maria I. Ortiz—December 2007 Shipment Honoree
A note from LHCP President Karen Grimord:
One of the greatest joys I have is getting to know our contacts. Some I get to know more than others. To date LHCP has supported troops through 161 different contacts. They all become a member of the family during the time they are deployed. Some are the cousin you only hear from once a quarter and others are the brother or sister that you talk to every day or week. So when you get the word that one has given the ultimate sacrifice, it takes your breath away and the world stops. This happened to me in July when I received word that Maria had been killed in a mortar attack. I know that she was doing what touched her heart and that was caring for the wounded Iraqis at her hospital. My deepest sympathy goes to her family and friends. She was part of the LHCP family and will forever be with us.
Popular Army Nurse Is the First Killed in Combat Since VietnamSource: by Steve Vogel, Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007; Page B06
Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz had a smile that lighted up the hallways in every hospital where she worked, from Aberdeen to Walter Reed to Iraq.
When a patient needed extra care, the Army nurse would stay late. If a colleague was feeling blue, she was there.
Ortiz, 40, was killed last week by a mortar attack in the Green Zone in Baghdad. The Edgewood, Md., resident is the first Army nurse killed in combat since the Vietnam War, Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, the Army’s acting surgeon general, said in an interview yesterday.
“Having one of the family go down is very, very hard,” said Pollock, who also is a nurse. “You feel like a piece of your heart is gone.”
Ortiz was returning from physical training July 10 when she was caught outside by a barrage of mortar shells. She was killed by shrapnel.
“If there was such a thing as the jewel of the clinic, she was the jewel,” said Renee Smith, who worked with Ortiz at an Army health clinic at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. “Her work wasn’t finished until everybody was cared for.”
Ortiz’s death has hit hard at Aberdeen, where she served as chief nurse at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic for 18 months before going to Iraq last fall. Many broke down in tears when the clinic commander called everyone together and told the news.
“It really took everybody by surprise,” Smith said. “God, it’s a great loss.”
Patients who knew Ortiz have “run in here in disbelief,” said Maj. Kathy Presper, chief of medical management at Kirk. “She was dedicated, a step-up-to-the-plate type person.”
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Ortiz served from 2001 to 2003 as a dialysis nurse, Medical Command officials are considering whether to honor her by naming a building or clinic in her memory.
“She has many admirers and friends,” Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the hospital commander, said yesterday.
Ortiz volunteered for duty in Iraq and was eager to go do her part, colleagues said. “She was very proud of the fact that she was going to go over to take care of soldiers,” said Wanda Schuler, a co-worker at Aberdeen.
When Schuler sent an e-mail asking Ortiz whether she needed anything, Ortiz asked her to send Christmas decorations she could use to brighten up the halls at the Army’s 28th Combat Support hospital, where she was assigned. “While she was caring for patients physically, she was caring for them emotionally, too,” Schuler said. “She tried to make it as cheery as possible.”
Ortiz was home on two weeks’ leave recently and paid a visit to the clinic at Aberdeen. “She said it was going well, and she felt like she was making a difference there,” Smith recalled.
Colleagues at the Baghdad hospital held a memorial service for Ortiz soon after her death. “They gathered together, and they talked about how she touched their lives,” Pollock said.
Ortiz, who was born in New Jersey and grew up in Puerto Rico, joined the service as an enlisted soldier with the Army Reserve in Puerto Rico in 1991, and she became active duty in 1993. She was commissioned as an officer in 1999.
Ortiz was engaged to be married to Juan Casiano upon her return from Iraq, friends said.
A memorial service for Ortiz is set for tomorrow at the Aberdeen clinic. A date for burial at Arlington National Cemetery has not been set, cemetery spokeswoman Kara McCarthy said.
Army nurse killed in Iraq had ties to Md., N.J.Source: by Jason Laughlin, The (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier Post
PENNSAUKEN, N.J. — An Army nurse based in Aberdeen, Md., who died in Iraq this week had roots in southern New Jersey, officials said.
Capt. Maria I. Ortiz, 40, was killed Tuesday by enemy mortar fire in Baghdad, the Defense Department said.
Army officials identified Ortiz’s hometown as Bayamon, Puerto Rico. But a military spokesman said the nurse’s mother, who was not named, lives in Pennsauken.
Ortiz reportedly was born in Pennsauken, but it was not clear how long she lived in this area.
She was assigned to the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
“She was very popular and very highly thought of,” said George Mercer, a spokesman at the Maryland base. “It’s just a terrible loss.”
Ortiz was the 79th service member and third woman with ties to New Jersey to die in Iraq.
Ortiz graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 1990 and joined the Army Reserves in Puerto Rico the next year, said Mercer.
Two years later she went on active duty in a career that took her to Honduras, South Korea and Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
At Kirk, Ortiz was the chief nurse of general medicine for 18 months. She left in September 2005 for Iraq, where she served with the 28th Combat Support Hospital, 3rd Medical Command.
Ortiz earned a number of commendations, including the Bronze Star, Mercer said.
Soldier assigned to Aberdeen dies in IraqSource: The Associated Press
BALTIMORE — A nurse assigned to the Aberdeen Proving Ground was killed this week in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced.
Capt. Maria I. Ortiz, 40, died July 10 in Baghdad of wounds inflicted by a mortar attack, Aberdeen Proving Ground spokeswoman Pat McClung said July 13.
According to the Defense Department, Ortiz is from Bayamon, Puerto Rico. However, records kept by Aberdeen indicate that Ortiz is from New Jersey.
Ortiz enlisted in 1991, at the age of 24. She got her degree in nursing in 1999 from the University of Puerto Rico and her master’s degree in quality management from the Massachusetts National Graduate School in 2004.
While she was assigned to Aberdeen, Ortiz served as the chief nurse of general medicine at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic. She has also been stationed in Puerto Rico, Korea and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. July 18 at Aberdeen’s chapel.
Memorial service held for nurse killed in IraqSource: by Karissa Marcum, The Associated Press
ABERDEEN, Md. — Family and friends, co-workers and admirers came to Aberdeen Proving Ground on July 18 to remember Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz, killed during a mortar attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone on July 10, the first Army nurse killed by hostile fire since the Vietnam War. The attack killed two other people and wounded 18 more.
About 200 people crammed into the chapel at Aberdeen. A pair of combat boots, a helmet and Ortiz’s dog tags were displayed at the chapel’s altar.
Before the ceremony ended, about two dozen veterans proceeded to the altar and saluted the display created in her honor.
Ortiz’s sister, Maria Luisa Medina, a first-grade bilingual teacher from Camden, N.J., said, “She’s the person that I want to be like, not because she was a soldier or a nurse but because she accomplished her purpose in life and she did everything for the Lord.”
Ortiz, 40, worked as chief nurse of general medicine at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic on base.
Her father, Jorge Ortiz, said she was off-duty and returning from a workout when the attack occurred.
Jorge Ortiz also served in the Army and said he is proud of his daughter’s sacrifice.
Her father said Ortiz spent much of her time studying, “She was precious. She was a beautiful girl,” Ortiz said in Spanish.
Ortiz said he talked to his daughter a month before she died, “I think I’m going to miss everything about my daughter.”
Ortiz was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
She enlisted in 1991, at the age of 24. She got her degree in nursing in 1999 from the University of Puerto Rico and her master’s degree in quality management from the Massachusetts National Graduate School in 2004.
She has also been stationed in Puerto Rico, Korea and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
Ortiz is survived by her father, her mother, Iris Santiago, four sisters and her fiance, Juan Casiano.
Her father said Ortiz will be buried Aug. 9 at Arlington National Cemetery.
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Marie during the month of Dec 2007 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Marie’s family and friends today and in the years to come.