Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Maria I. Ortiz dies 'of wounds suffered from enemy indirect fire'

A soldier from Pennsauken has become the first Army nurse killed in combat in Iraq. Officials say 40-year-old Captain Maria Ortiz was treating injured Iraqis when a mortar barrage hit the Green Zone in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Hers is the story of tenacity and sheer determination to serve her country. Twice, U.S. Army Capt. Maria Ortiz had been called to serve in Iraq and twice. At the last minute she was told they didn't need her. So on the third time she volunteered to go right into the eye of the storm... she ended up in Baghdad.

Her fiancée Juan Casiano says, "She wanted to go there. She wanted to make a difference."

40-year-old Army Capt. Maria Ortiz of Pennsauken was a military nurse assigned to the 28th combat support hospital, part of the Army's 3rd medical command working in Iraq.

"She wasn't only a person that went to Iraq because there was a war, she was there with a mission," said her twin sister Maria Luisa Medina. Medina says her sister was a person of conviction. She had a distinguished military career, serving as chief nurse of general medicine at the Army Clinic at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. She also was assigned to the Walter Reed Medical Center, and spent time in Korea before her deployment to Iraq in September of 2006.

Juan tells us, "Maria was a person of heart, a person that brought joy to everyone she came across."

A woman of strong Christian faith, she believed going to Iraq to treat American military personnel wounded in the war was a calling from God. "And she always told me that's a privilege that she, as a nurse, can tell wounded soldiers maybe at the last moments of their lives of the possibility of going to Heaven, to receive the opportunity to receive God in their hearts," her sister said.

Capt. Ortiz is said to be the first nurse to be killed in the war in Iraq. She is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a special ceremony honoring her service.

Her twin sister says, "There's no word to express how proud I am for what she did." And her fiancée tells us, "Pain is pain, but knowing the accomplishment and why she did her accomplishments is soothing the soul."

From WPVI 6