Honoring Our Nation’s Heroes in New Jersey

(Pictured Above: Officials and medical staff of Cooper University Hospital gather after honoring Cooper trauma surgeon Dr. John Chovanes (in the tan suit) as the first ever Cooper Military Employee of the Year. Army Sergeant Corey Terry spoke at the event and is standing second on the left).

DK ONLINE: It is always an honor and privilege to be among our nation’s finest; those patriots who lay it all on the line for the U.S. of A. It’s one of the best parts of my job, and it couldn’t have been any better Tuesday night.

Camden, New Jersey was the site of a talk on a specialized military medical training program. Even better was the fact that a veteran combat surgeon and doctor received a career award there too, as it was a total surprise!

It all began with U.S. Army Sergeant Corey Terry speaking on the Special Operations Combat Medic Course (SOCM) of the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center. It’s key training for Rangers and medics in Special Forces, Civil Affairs, Navy SARC and other groups.

Sergeant Terry has one heck of a story himself.  He told the audience at Cooper University Hospital it was 9/11 that motivated him to serve his country. He recalled wanting to jump head first into one of the most elite forces only to be told to hold on by the recruiters, who advised him it was pretty hard work. He tried out, got in and served. Four continents and 35 countries later, and he is training the next generation of our nation’s bravest.


Army Sergeant Corey Terry displayed this military trauma bed used by medics to treat those injured in conflict.

As he spoke, Cooper Trauma Doctor and United States Army Reserve Medical Corps. Lieutenant Colonel John Chovanes stood in the back probably thinking he was checking in on a routine talk about a very important endeavor. This was true but he’d end up becoming a big part of the story as the receiver of Cooper’s first ever Military Employee of the Year Award. The recognition was perfectly timed too. The surgeon is days away from his 5th deployment overseas.

Dr. Chovanes started out his medical career as an EMT and was one of the First Responders answering that horrific call when 9/11 happened, and changed our nation (and the world) forever. The years would take him through the Middle East with his most recent stop in Fallujah two years ago. I was told he was the lead surgeon for the 948th Forward Surgical Team, a unit that saved numerous lives.


Army Sergeant Corey Terry discusses a defaced mural of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in Camden, New Jersey.

After the event Lieutenant Colonel Chovanes and Sergeant Terry took my photojournalist and I into a room where we would see a true piece of history. It was a dated artistic tribute to overthrown dictator Saddam Hussein defaced, which was profound after Iraq’s liberation. I can only imagine what the Iraqi people were feeling in that moment when decades-old tyranny finally came to an end.

I first started reporting on military affairs as part of my general assignment duties in 2004 during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I never could help but feel a sense of pride as an American and a journalist to tell the stories of our heroes. That has not changed to this day.

To all serving and those who have served, a heartfelt Thank You!

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