Saluting our Vietnam Veterans

By Ken Harrison

At a special ceremony in November, Hartford HealthCare honored several colleagues who served in the military during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of three, their experience, how it shaped their lives and, ultimately, led them to the roles they are in now.

Left to right, are: Sherri Vogt, Julie Van Elswyk, Charles Johnson, III, James Baranowski, James Taylor, Willie Simmons, Ray Baldwin, Roger Moscater, Rusty Kimball, Steve McCarty, Bill Kowalewski, Larry Sekscenski, Major Dan Eddinger, CT MOPH Commander, HHC President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks, Hartford HealthCare at Home VP Laurie St. John.

Bill Kowalewski

For Bill Kowalewski, the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War was made for two reasons, one patriotic and one pragmatic. Losing his father when he was just 12, Kowalewski remembers how hard his mother worked to support him and his sisters in Brooklyn, N.Y., and especially how much she wanted her son to go to college. When he turned 18, he had to decide whether to enlist in the Army or wait to be drafted. Knowing his service would help pay for college tuition and wanting to have the opportunity to serve his country, Kowalewski decided to enlist. In addition to paying for his education, the Army also gave Kowalewski one of his closest friends, who ultimately sparked his interest in healthcare. Today, he is the executive director of Southington Care Center, a 130-bed facility that specializes in short-term inpatient rehabilitation and nursing care, long-term care and outpatient rehab services. There, he cherishes opportunities to make meaningful connections with the people coming in for care.

Rusty Kimball

For Rusty Kimball, it was his ambition to become a professional photographer that led to him join the Army. Following basic training, Kimball was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he was a photographer at the Institute of Research. There, Kimball honed his skills taking pictures and making films about cutting-edge military programs focused on the safety, health and wellness of soldiers in combat zones. Five years later, Kimball took a job at The Hospital of Central Connecticut taking photos in the operating room and other clinical settings, before moving into his current role as photographer for Hartford HealthCare’s Central Region.

Julie Van Elswyk

For Julie Van Elswyk, a desire to pursue a career in nursing led her to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, where she gained valuable experience in a number of different clinical settings. After stints at both Madigan Army Medical Center and Walter Reed, where she helped open the military’s first outpatient surgical unit, Van Elswyk became the nurse leader at Hartford HealthCare’s Cedar Mountain Commons. She is currently a nurse liaison for Hartford HealthCare at Home.

Photos by Chris Rakoczy