There’s no question that it takes a certain kind of person to dedicate his or her life to care for others. At Gentiva, our associates demonstrate that dedication each day by exemplifying our mission — To improve the quality of life through the delivery of compassionate care and uncompromising service. Sometimes, as in the case of Brian Hill, a physical therapist and Director of the Gentiva Ocala/Lecanto Branch, living our mission can, literally, mean putting one’s life on the line.
Prior to joining Gentiva, Brian spent 12 years in the Army. Although his tour of duty was complete, Brian remained an active member of the Army Reserve and was embarking on a future with Gentiva where he could utilize the expertise and skills he acquired along the way. Only six months into his Gentiva career, Brian was notified he would be deployed to Iraq.
“With the state of the world today, I knew I would be called to serve again, I just didn’t know when,” Brian says, “I had mixed feelings about it because it meant leaving my family and friends and my new job, but it was something I absolutely wanted to do. It was my chance to serve my country. It’s what I’m trained to do.”
At the time of his deployment, Brian was a company commander of the 345th Combat Support Hospital. The Army was beginning to launch a special therapy program that placed a physical therapist in a Combat Arms Unit so soldiers could be treated in the field and kept in the battle, rather than traveling long distances to combat support hospitals for care. Because of his experience, Brian was selected as the first Army Reserve physical therapist to participate.
“Being selected for this was a thrill,” Brian says, “If I was going to leave my job and my family, I wanted to do it for a program that would have a dramatic impact on the military.
Stationed in Ar Ramadi, about 70 miles outside of Baghdad, Brian was the only physical therapist in the vicinity and covered eight different Forward Operating Bases in the Anbar Province.
“My job was to travel to each of these bases and treat every type of musculoskeletal injury,” Brian explains.
In active war zone there is never a dull moment.
“I had no idea what lay ahead each day,” Brian adds “My convoy might last 30 minutes or the entire day, and it was always a stressful situation because our convoys were regularly hit by improvised explosive devices and direct fire.”
Once Brian finally arrived at his location, his job was to evaluate the wounded. Often, this exceeded the hours in a day. If casualties arrived, he would switch gears and move from physical therapy to triage.
Casualties were very intense. His courageous efforts earned him the Bronze Star and the Combat Medic Badge for rendering medical care while under fire.
During his year in Iraq, Brian worked with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, treating nearly 3000 soldiers and Marines. Neither of these units had ever worked with a physical therapist, so Brian’s Gentiva sales skills were put to the test.
“I had to sell myself as both a soldier and a physical therapist to a bunch of combat units who were concerned with the enemy, not their own welfare,” says Brian, “It was one of the hardest sales I ever had to make, but also on of the most rewarding.“
Though his time away from friends and family was difficult, Brian always knew he had the support of coworkers.
“Gentiva associates were like an extended family to me,” Brian adds, “I was assured my job was waiting for me when I returned—even though this was a huge sacrifice on behalf of the company—and I received frequent e-mails, letters and packages that made my time away more bearable. My co-workers kept me updated on what was going on in the world of sports and life in general, and others took on my role in addition to their own. Now that I have returned, that support has continued and couldn’t be more grateful.”
Although it was a great personal sacrifice, Brian has no second thoughts about his time overseas.
“Serving my country is one of my greatest achievements,” Brian says, “I’m proud to have served with some of the bravest individuals I’ve ever met. To play a small part in helping them heal not only made a difference to them, but it also made a difference to me. Now that I’m back at home I hope to carry that feeling with me and make a difference in lives of all of our patients. In their own way, all patients are fighting a battle. My goal is to help them win the fight.”
Brian was recently informed he will be facing a second tour early next year. Brian’s Gentiva family and friends support him in his courage, strength, and patriotism in helping to keep us safe.
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