July 24, 2019
Tallahassee local Carmen French started her path in the medical profession when she was 16, becoming a First Responder and a Certified Nursing Assistant before even graduating from Florida State University School. She is currently enrolled in TCC’s nursing program.
“Everything nursing school has put me through is beyond worth it,” said Carmen. “I wouldn’t change a thing because it made me a better person.”
While nursing school has been full of challenges for Carmen, she’s reaped many rewarding experiences out of it – including the chance to travel to D.C. with Honor Flight Tallahassee.
Honor Flight Tallahassee is a non-profit organization that transports local veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service.
The TCC nursing program requires 10 hours of community service in order to graduate, so Carmen set out on a mission to find a place she wanted to volunteer her time to. In doing research, she found Honor Flight Tallahassee, which sparked memories of attending the very first Honor Flight homecoming to honor her grandfather, who served in the Navy during WWII.
“My parents and I went to honor my grandfather who served in WWII in the Navy,” said Carmen. “He unfortunately died before Honor Flight was created.”
This opportunity of a lifetime was completely spontaneous, as Carmen didn’t expect she’d be accepted as a last minute volunteer. At the time of researching, the event was just two days away, but Carmen decided to reach out anyway. The day before the event, Mac Kemp, Director of Honor Flight Tallahassee, encouraged her to show up at the Tallahassee Airport.
“I thought of my grandfather and how I wish he could be a part of something like this so I got out of bed and drove to the airport,” said Carmen.
Once she arrived at the airport, Carmen was greeted by Mac Kemp and instructed to offer wheelchairs to veterans who were unable to walk. Tommy Sims, a local veteran, approached Carmen with questions about how to find his guardian and where to go. Sims would end up being her assigned veteran. During their flight to D.C., Carmen learned Tommy was is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam War, where he served in the Air Force and was awarded the Bronze Star, a highly recognized honor in the Armed Forces.
Carmen also met Gail Davies, who served in Vietnam as a battlefield nurse.
“Gaile was such an inspiration to me and only cemented what I already knew: nursing is what I was born to do,” said Carmen. “It is living in service to others that makes life fulfilling. Between her and Tommy, I was star struck by what these veterans had been through.”
In D.C., Carmen and Tommy, as well as the others in attendance, toured the Nation’s Capital and visited monuments.
“[At the Korean War Memorial site], Tommy and a few other veterans said something I will never forget,” said Carmen. “’We were just kids when the war started. We were 18 years old and didn’t know any better. We had never been away from home before only to experience things young men shouldn’t have had to go through. No one will understand what we’ve been through.’ That broke my heart and brought a few tears to my eyes.”
Towards the end of her trip, Tommy suggested to Carmen that she should see what being a nurse in the service entails. Carmen went home that evening with a “fire ignited” in her, feeling very humbled and honored for the experience. She and Tommy stayed in touch after their adventure, and he will be present at her nursing pinning ceremony on Thursday, July 25.
“Honor Flight Tallahassee made me want to do something bigger than myself,” said Carmen. “I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be.”