Veterans Day has a special meaning to second-year medical student Greg de Gruchy.
He’s among a relative few in the UConn Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine for whom this day of remembrance is intended—himself a veteran who went on deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan during his four years of service with the U.S. Marine Corps.de Gruchy was a corporal in an Air Wing unit that worked in aviation ordinance at the Al-Asad and Al-Taqaddum air bases in Iraq in 2008 and 2009.
“We worked on gun systems, munitions, predominantly helicopters,” de Gruchy says. “In Iraq we handled a lot of our own internal security, and being ordinance we are on the perimeter of the base, so we really did have to be prepared for combat. I had to do the occasional IED patrol, we had to do vehicle stops and searches, but my predominant mission was mostly logistics, maintenance, doing buildups for close air support missions.”
In 2010 the mission was in Afghanistan, where he had the leadership role of work center supervisor, “like a subject matter specialist,” as he describes it.
Coming from a military family and feeling destined for military service, it was the combat training that drew him to the Marines.
“I knew I was joining the military at war, and I knew I was going to get a very high level of training, which is particularly useful when you’re in conflicts that don’t have a concept of a front line,” de Gruchy says. “And that was something that I’m very grateful for having gotten. I definitely received a very good level of combat competency between basic training and combat training.”
Another role he had in the Corps was helping fellow Marines deal with the stress of being part of a high-deployment unit, counseling them and connecting them with resources.
“It was something that I really enjoyed doing,” de Gruchy says. “What I found really rewarding was, it was a way that I could make a unique impact. I’ve always been interested in helping people, even before the Marines. It was an interesting manifestation of something I’ve always wanted to do, and it kind of pointed me in the general direction of working in health care when I got out of the Marines.”
Next step was UConn for undergraduate study in allied health science. He graduated in 2014 but stayed an extra year taking additional classes and doing research. Then it was on to medical school. de Gruchy says he’s not sure what area of medicine he wants to practice yet.
As UConn Health brings back its Veterans Day Observance for a second year, de Gruchy reflects on his service.
“If you’re the person who can step up and do it, then go and do it, that was a little bit of the feeling, and I’m very proud of that. I was one of many people who went, but I got to be the person who stepped up into that role and had the opportunity to go,” de Gruchy says. “People continue to make big sacrifices and need support, and it’s important to not let that be something that’s entirely forgotten.”