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NEWS | May 20, 2021

Growing Up Fast and Answering ‘Your Calling’

By (Courtesy article) 3d Medical Command (Deployment Support)

Spc. Jennifer Liriano, a 68C, Practical Nursing Specialist with the 865th Combat Support Hospital, was highlighted in the Army’s latest recruiting campaign, “The Calling”. Every one of us has a calling and reason we serve; Jennifer’s comes from an appreciation of where she came from and the kindness she saw growing up.

Liriano was born to first-generation immigrants from the Dominican Republic and spent her childhood adapting and helping her family adjust to a new life in New Jersey.

One of Jennifer’s earliest memories was when she was four-years-old and her father attempted to take his life in front of her and her siblings. “I remember the police coming and rescuing him, that struck me that there were kind people in the world,” she said.

“Although my father struggled with mental illness as I grew up, I recalled the kindness and generosity he showed to others less fortunate than us and what that taught me,” Jennifer recalls.

As she grew up both her parents worked long hours just to get by, putting a lot of responsibility in Jennifer’s hands to help care for her family, including serving as a caretaker for her grandmother with dementia and helping her parents fill out immigration papers at 10 years old.

Adding to the household challenges, Jennifer recalls the tragic events of 9/11 where she and her elementary school classmates witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center, from their classroom.

Liriano recalls the chaos of that day, saying, “No one knew what was happening. My parents didn’t have cell phones and were at work, so when the school called to say school was closing early, my grandmother answered, but she only spoke Spanish and didn’t understand their request to pick me up. I remember being the last kid at school to be picked up and feeling so confused and alone.”

Growing up, wanting to fit in and being pressured to join a gang at age 13 – set Jennifer on the wrong path, causing Jennifer’s mother to send her to her family’s native Dominican town for an awakening. Growing up in the shadow of New York City, the trip and the people she met changed how she viewed the world and stirred a calling to serve others.

“While in the Dominican Republic, what could have been one of the most traumatic days of my life, turned into a day that would inspire me to serve,” Liriano said, as she described a day she missed the bus on a school trip.

“I missed the bus home from a school trip and found myself alone in a strange town without any idea how to get home and with no way to contact me family. Thankfully there was a kind woman at the bus stop who went out of her way to make sure a lost girl made her way safely home. I will never forget her or her kindness”

Once back in the U.S., Jennifer began to build a future for herself thanks to the help and encouragement of mentors in high school. She planned to graduate college and become an Army officer, but she had difficulty paying her tuition and ultimately moved back home to care for her ailing father. At 23, she met a recruiter who showed her the opportunities available to her by enlisting in the Army, including an accelerated path to a nursing license and scholarship support.

“I took advantage of every opportunity the Army gave me, from training and certifications, to tuition repayment,” Liriano said.

We all have our own calling and bring our own passions for service to the Army Reserve; Jennifer’s is just one of the 199,000 you will find.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the kindness I’ve seen in others. My upbringing instilled in me a heart for helping others, which I bring to my career as an Army Reserve and civilian cardiothoracic nurse each day,” she said.