Red, white and blue

With Veterans Day this Sunday, I am thrilled to share a peek inside the lives of two Michiganders who have courageously and selflessly protected our every freedom. As your health reporter, I was excited to connect with Rosemarie Kenny, a former U.S. Army healthcare specialist as well as to chat with former U.S Air Force drill sergeant Brad Calahan about healthcare for veterans.

Be sure to join the conversation—Share your story if you are a veteran or active military member or let us know what you have planned to celebrate our armed service members this week!

Don’t forget to read Annette Kingsbury’s article Veterans Day observance is Sunday for more information about this weekend’s tribute.

And finally, check back later this week as we post some of North Hill Elementary School’s student letters to veterans.


Based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, there are 731,023 Michigan residents of the 9,876,187 state population who served in our country’s armed forces.

Here are two of their stories.

An all-around job

Rosemarie Kenny of Holly, Mich. shares her experience as a former U.S. Army healthcare specialist with us for Veterans Day 2012..

Joining the U.S. Army and becoming a healthcare specialist, or medic, has prepared Rosemarie Kenny for the rest of her life, she said.

Kenny enlisted in 2006 and has recently begun a new chapter in her life this past July as she left the Army.

But lets back up a bit.

With health knowledge from Swartz Creek High School, Kenny quickly moved to basic training and on to 16 weeks of medical training in Texas.

If that seems quick, a month later, she was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq where she responded to sick calls—“the colds and little ‘boo boos,’” she joked.

But Kenny gained more experience and worked with trauma cases as she served as a medic on several route clearance convoys and more.

“I got both sides—the sick call and I also got the trauma—things that you might not even see in an ER,” she said.

Kenny’s strong support group of superiors and fellow medics was vital.

“My first tour is really what made me into the medic that the next couple years would prove me to be,” she said. “The opportunity to try and make a difference—to try and save a life—that’s something that I won’t forget.”

It wasn’t long after returning home that Kenny was deployed again to serve her second tour.

She further honed her medical expertise but quickly learned that being an Army healthcare specialist was more than sutures and stretchers.

“Not only were we medics, but we were also counselors and friends—It was an all-around job,” Kenny said. “Each day that [our comrades] went out by the wire, they felt safe knowing that they have someone whose sole purpose was to take care of them.”

But her second tour also holds one of her fondest memories yet, for that is when she met her husband, Tyler.

At the time, Rosemarie volunteered to join Tyler’s Army National Guard unit, which often didn’t require a medic. Since the unit was conducting off-base missions, she was the woman for the job.

Shortly after returning home, the two were engaged and married a year later.

They now live in Holly, with their 7-month-old son, Aedan and “he’s amazing,” she said.

For Veterans Day this year, the Kenny family plans to visit Rosemarie’s favorite restaurant, Olive Garden for a special celebration together.

“Veterans Day is a day to remember those that serve—past and present, and to recognize the sacrifice,” she said. “It’s not always the greatest job but someone has to do it and they should be remembered for it.”

“It’s something that not a lot of people do and it’s prepared me for the rest of my life.”

Kenny offers a few tips of advice for those considering joining the military or becoming an armed forces healthcare specialist.

Being a military medic is “one of the best jobs out there,” she said. “You get treated very well.”

And, going through training, make sure you “know your stuff,” she said. “Because nowadays we’re in the time of war so you’re going to be called upon to use that knowledge—Make sure you pay attention and you know what you’re doing.”

A good lesson to apply to all aspects of life—“Just appreciate every moment of it.”

And finally, “don’t be scared of blood,” she joked.


Brad Calahan of Southgate, Mich. recounts some highlights of his career as a U.S. Air Force drill sergeant in lieu of Veterans Day this year.

Thirty countries in 12 years

For Brad Calahan of Southgate, “the military was the way to go.”

Growing up in Flat Rock, Calahan joined the U.S. Air Force in 2000 as an 18-year-old.

“Twelve years went by pretty fast in the service,” he said, leaving the Air Force after an injury earlier this year.

And he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I got to see the world,” he said.

Shortly after joining the Air Force, Calahan began traveling. After completing basic training in Texas, he was stationed in Germany, Afghanistan, Turkey—“I went all over the place,” he said.

As a ground support mechanic for aircraft, Calahan worked with stealth bombers for a couple years, held a position flying on a Boeing 747 E-4B aircraft—“Basically, the national airborne operation center flying Pentagon for the Chief-of-Staff and the President,” he said, and more.

His 12 years of service have taken Calahan to more than 30 countries.

“I think I’ve seen more of Europe than I have the United States,” he said, noting that visiting more of the U.S. is atop his traveling list these days, along with Australia.

“There’s knowledge with age.”

Calahan spent his final three years training young recruits as a military basic training instructor or drill sergeant in Texas where he met the most rewarding aspect of his Air Force career.

Recounting his own experience in basic training, “It made me grow up really quick, that’s for sure,” he said.

And one of the greatest lessons he’s retained since then is to learn from those with the experience.

“[Those] who have been through it know what they’re talking about. So sit back and listen to your elders and take a chance to actually learn from them,” Calahan said. “There’s knowledge with age.”

That is why his last three years with the Air Force were so rewarding. It was his turn to share his knowledge.

“Just seeing the change,” he said of his first base training flight class graduates. “These kids came as 18-year-olds, undisciplined and unmotivated and ten weeks later, they were highly disciplined and highly motivated.”

Seeing his graduates and their families with “pride on their face and looking you in the eyes, thanking you—that’s a big thing,” he said.

Calahan said his older brother, Chad—also in the Air Force and currently deployed to the Middle East, is the main reason why Brad chose to join.

“He kind of paved the way for me,” he said. “Military service helps you appreciate things in your life, makes you see the world and it makes you realize how good we actually have it.”

Healthcare for veterans

Serving in two different military realms, both Rosemarie Kenny and Brad Calahan agree that veterans’ healthcare is monumental.

“The hardest part about [leaving the military] is trying to get into the Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system,” Calahan said.

“I was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD). Dealing with the effects of that for months with no treatment or no one to turn to was very hard,” he said. “It’s a good thing that our nation is finally starting to recognize the real medical issue of PTSD and starting to reduce the stigma that used to come with it.”

Even Kenny, who was trained to “make sure our soldiers’ mental well-beings were [OK],” agrees that PTSD and similar disorders are key issues still facing veterans’ healthcare services and will continue to be.

With the winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, so many soldiers, marines and airmen will be returning home, looking for such healthcare, she said. But, “it’s greatly improving, I know a lot of people are proactively receiving benefits and counseling and things that they need.”

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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