Juan Monterrey—a Surgical Technology student by day, Carilion Clinic Maintenance employee by night—said he enlisted in the military at 18 because, “there were adults asking me what I was going to be doing with my life. So, I joined the Navy for direction.”
He got that and so much more. Monterrey grew up in Florida, one of two sons of a woman from Nicaragua—a single mother who worked hard and expected her sons to do so, as well.
“Mom taught us to be neat, and the Navy reemphasized that. You portray an image of being under control,” he said.
He said the Navy showed him that he was capable of more than he thought. “I sustained hardships. Boot camp taught me that I can be yelled at and stressed and handle that. Now, I’m a full-time student and work. The Navy disciplined me. I have confidence in myself.”
Monterrey was in the Navy from 2007 to 2011, during which time he worked as an electrician on board the USS San Jacinto in Norfolk, Virginia. He also had two deployments and traveled to Italy, Greece, Jerusalem and Jordan. He said that going to those different countries broadened his horizons, and the Navy gave him responsibility.
“At 20, I was in charge of a multi-million dollar ship,” he stated. Now, he “envisions a future where a patient will be dependent on me.”
Once he separated from the Navy—since he said he views life as a series of stepping stones, and that was one of them—he went to a military-specific hiring conference and hooked a job with Roanoke Electric Steel (now called Steel Dynamics) in Roanoke. It was, he said, the most dangerous job he has ever had.
“The heights, the electricity, the heat … that job was pushing me beyond my limits.” And that’s when he applied at Carilion to become part of its maintenance team.
One day, he was walking around the Central Sterilization Control area where surgery equipment is taken and became intrigued. It suited him: he was an organized person, and this area called for that.
“I pushed for everything in one week,” he recalled, getting all the paperwork in, buying his books, switching to night shift, and starting school.
This is the first time in years that he and his wife, Heather, have been together. They both met in the military, but she didn’t separate until after he had.
Juan’s ideal future job will involve him being in charge—something else the Navy gave him an appreciation for—perhaps as a director of an operating room in a major hospital.
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