MARIETTA—Jonathon “Jon” Hicks became a combat medic, in large, because of a half-truth by his Army recruiter. That little deception was instrumental in him finding his way to Washington State Community College (WSCC) where this month he’s being recognized as Student of the Month and for his service to our country.
Hicks made his way to the Army recruiter’s office near his hometown in Laurel, Mississippi. At just 19 years old, he had every intention of enlisting in the infantry, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. A simple inquiry by the recruiter, however, revealed Hick’s lifelong dream of becoming a nurse and ultimately changed the trajectory of his military career.
Hicks said the recruiter convinced him that if he signed up as a combat medic, “I would be infantry with a medical background, which was a lie,” he laughed. The reality was that while he got to live with the infantry personnel, go on all the missions, and be present in a combat zone, “Infantry guys are their own breed,” Hicks explained. “Infantry did their thing. I didn’t get to come out until something bad happened. All the dangerous stuff that happened in between, like kicking doors in, I had to stay in the truck for that.” Initially disappointed by that reality, Hicks not only adapted to the medic role, he excelled.
Hicks served his country for five years, which included a 1-year deployment in Afghanistan. The experience in an active war zone, however, left Hicks questioning his desire to become a nurse. In fact, by the time he left the army, he had lost all interest in working in healthcare. “I was done with anything related to the medical field.”
For several years, Hicks let his nursing dream lie dormant. During this time he pursued a wide range of careers from non-emergency medical transportation to Veterans support at a local attorney’s office. He even enrolled in college, but found no fulfillment in his pursuit of a degree in psychology or accounting. “I couldn’t find a sense of belonging in any of them—not like I did in the medical field. I think I was just experiencing burnout and wanted to explore other avenues. [My time in Afghanistan] gave me a false sense of what the medical field and day-to-day interaction with patients would really be like,” Hicks explained.
Unfulfilled by the other careers he tried out, Hick finally came to the realization that he needed to get back on track and revive his dream of becoming a nurse. Now 33 years old, having relocated to Belpre, Ohio to be near his wife’s family, Hicks is finally back on track– in the classroom and excelling in his pursuit to earn his nursing degree.
While Hicks’ imposing physical stature may typify his military background, his southern mannerly demeanor is well-suited to a bedside manner perfect for putting patients at ease. “Jon is NOT your typical student,” said WSCC Associate Professor of Nursing Tracey Bogard. “As an adult learner, he is very dedicated to passing this program and becoming a nurse. He actively participates in class and weekly tutoring, takes advantage of open labs, and seeks clarification from instructors as needed,” Bogard explained. She added that “I love the fact that he calls me ‘Ma’am’ because he’s genuinely being true to his southern roots.”
She attributes his exceptional classroom performance to the influence his military experience afforded him. “As a medic in the Army, he came to WSCC with experience that most of his peers cannot even imagine let alone conjure up on their own.”
Bogard also shared that during one of their one-on-one meetings Hicks made the statement, “Ma’am please don’t take this wrong, but this program is more rigorous than boot camp.” To which he quickly followed with, “But I appreciate it because I am learning so much.” Bogard said that interaction with Hicks will forever be one of her favorite memories of him.
While Hicks enrolled in college with a significant amount of medical experience, he credits his success in the classroom to the support he has received from his instructors including Bogard, Sarah Collins, Assistant Nursing Professor Renee Tamm, and Dr. Ivan Zepeda. “The four of them have gone above and beyond as instructors and I sincerely believe they all want to see me succeed. They have never treated any student like they were a burden on them nor have they ever just tried to move numbers through like cattle. They’re always available and willing to help in any way they can.”
Hicks is slated to graduate from the nursing program in the spring of 2024. His long-term plan is to ultimately become a nurse practitioner who specializes in either orthopedics or psychology.