Michelle Krause, of Lohman, was determined at an early age to serve in the United States Navy.
She recalls visiting with her father and brother — both Air Force veterans — who advised her if she was going to join the military, enlist in the Navy since they would provide state-of-the art training and offered a better selection of food.
While in high school in Braxton County, West Virginia, she "signed the papers," committing to several years of naval service. In late 1983, following her graduation, she traveled to the Orlando Naval Training Center in Florida, which in years past was the only recruit training site for enlisted women.
"We were there for several weeks — long enough to learn how to march, follow orders and pay attention to detail," said Krause. "Then, I was sent to Corpsman 'A' School (introductory level medical training) at Great Lakes, Illinois, where I learned basic anatomy, first aid, physiology, and how to administer injections."
Krause said she resolved to serve in the medical field prior to enlistment since it was a noble calling affording opportunities to care for and assist large groups of people.
Her unanticipated adventure continued when she received her first duty assignment at a small naval hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina, where medical support was provided not only to Navy personnel, but Marines and their families stationed at nearby Parris Island.
"Since I graduated at the top of orientation in Beaufort, I was chosen to work in the emergency room," she recalled. "I worked under various doctors and learned to suture, intubate, administer medications, IVs and handling different types of emergencies."
She was then transferred to an inconspicuous naval station in Sugar Grove, West Virginia. The base was so small and isolated that she remembers driving by it a couple of times, never recognizing the turnoff to get there.
"I performed sick call under the guidance of an independent duty corpsman who oversaw the medical care at the base," she said. "We provided basic patient care, and I occasionally traveled to the Washington Navy Yard for my own continued professional development," she added.
When the end of her initial commitment approached, she was sent to the naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1988, finishing her final year working in the emergency room. Receiving her discharge in early 1989, she spent the next several months working for a company in Maryland that conducted testing for generic medications.
She said, "The company I worked for didn't always pay us on time, and the employees weren't very supportive of one another. I really began to miss the Navy and the friendships that I shared with my fellow sailors we were family."
In late 1989, she re-enlisted and served the next three years at Kingsbay, Georgia, at a U.S. Navy medical facility on a small base that was home to nuclear-powered submarines.
This was followed by her transfer to Naval Air Station Cecil Field near Jacksonville, Florida. There, she not only worked in the medical administrative section, but performed a variety of additional duties that included assignment as an emergency medical technician with an ambulance that was stationed along the flight line in the event of an aircraft crash.
"I did my first overseas duty beginning in December 1994, when I was transferred to Okinawa, Japan, and worked in the hospital on Camp Lester," she said. "While there, I was sent to Miramar, California, for the Field Medical Service School and learned to be a corpsman with the Marines."
She returned to Okinawa as the field medical support for Marine Corps units in training. In August 2000, she traveled to San Diego, California, for more than a year of training to become an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC).
"The IDCs learned a range of skills like routine preventative health care, conducting sick call, writing prescriptions, performing certain surgical procedures — any type of medical care that might be needed to stabilize a patient on a smaller ship that did not have a medical doctor assigned."
Initially receiving orders to support the Seabees (Navy construction battalion) at Port Hueneme, California, her duty assignment shifted when the IDC aboard the USS Coronado — the flagship of the Third Fleet admiral—unexpectedly passed away.
"I joined the crew of the Coronado in December 2001 and spent more than two years providing and coordinating medical care for the crew," she said. "We didn't do any lengthy cruises, but participated in several training exercises."
The sailor received orders for recruiting duty in March 2004 and spent the balance of her career in Sacramento, California, recruiting doctors and dentists for the Navy. On Feb. 28, 2007, she retired and joined her parents in Jacksonville, Florida.
Later that year, she met and married John Krause and went on to earn her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of North Florida. In recent years, she moved to the community of Lohman and now spends her time buying and refurbishing homes.
Her parents have since died and she has no children of her own. But Krause maintains the U.S. Navy is a large, close-knit family that has always been available for support.
"The greatest part of my time in the service was the people that I worked with," she said. "You build a close bond with those you were stationed with and forge friendships that last a lifetime."
"Part of it," she added, "was proving to the sailors and Marines that you were there for them, and that they could always count of you if they were wounded or injured. The first time one of them called you 'Doc' was truly a memorable moment."
Jeremy P. mick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.