Alumni honored for dedication to service

TEMP ORARY November 14, 2012 0

Lieutenant Elyse Braxton considers herself much more mature now than she was as a student at Elizabethtown College. The 1987 graduate has been on active duty as a Naval Officer in the Nurse Corps for six years as a more mature individual.
Etown has changed in many ways since Braxton was a student at the College. According to Braxton, Founders Residence Hall D was the only co-ed dormitory on campus, though the floors themselves weren’t co-ed. The now wireless campus was not even wired for technology during Braxton’s time at the College.
While she was a student, Braxton enjoyed spending time with her friends, just as typical college students do. She worked in Admissions recruiting perspective athletes, a job she said she loved. She was involved in the athletics department where she was the wrestling statistician and team manager. “I’m proud to say I served the winning points for our Class B level volleyball intramural team either my sophomore or junior year,” Braxton said. She also swam her first mile at the College.
Though she is not able to visit the campus very often, Braxton thoroughly enjoyed her time at Etown and stays connected through Facebook and donations to the Annual Fund. “I cried when my parents left me there in ’83 and cried when I left Etown in ’87,” she said.
After college, Braxton hoped to be a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch, where she did an internship during winter break her senior year, but decided that job wasn’t for her. “If the price of stock went down, I’d still get a commission and would feel guilty about that,” she said. She instead found a job in the up-and-coming pharmaceutical industry with Merck, where she stayed for 16 years. “With humility, it was the confidence in myself, in addition to the visual resume (detail piece) that got me hired,” Braxton said. “I can’t help but smile/laugh at myself.”
Braxton became interested in helping the military 10 years ago, but she says it was not because of 9/11, but rather her love for the troops. She got involved with the USO because she thought she was too old to join the armed forces.
While attending a fundraising gala, however, Braxton started to become more interested in joining the military. Shortly afterward, she enlisted in the Navy reserves primarily as a member of the aircrew. “I was a flight-suit-wearing Naval flight attendant,” Braxton said. It was during this time that she took vacations to help the troops overseas in Germany to work with pastoral services, who provide the injured troops with clothing, toiletries, friendship, foot massages, etc., according to Braxton.
When she took a second trip over Christmas 2003, Braxton became “divinely inspired” to become a Navy nurse. She started taking classes at her community college, eventually graduating cum laude from Villanova University in 2006. Braxton claims she was much more motivated to do well during her second college career because she wanted to help the troops. “I wanted to make the Dean’s List and graduate with honors mostly to prove to myself that I could because I wasn’t as mature in college the first time around,” she said.
Over the past six years, Braxton has held numerous positions in the Navy, which included many responsibilities. According to the alumna, she has cared for wounded warriors and surgical patients on the floor, was deployed to a fleet hospital in Kuwait for a year, worked in an emergency department and trained sailors and Marines on Okinawa to make sure they were up-to-date on their qualifications.
Braxton just recently moved from the urgent care clinic to the Family Medicine Clinic, but she still has multiple duties. “I stand the watch, which means we represent the commanding officer, after working hours, to make decisions if something happens,” she said. Braxton also serves as the assistant command managed equal opportunity representative, where she ensures equality among all no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin or gender. She is also the primary military representative for the Combined Federal Campaign for Island County, Wa., which consists of about 9,000 federal employees, according to Braxton.
This past March, Braxton found out she received the Educate for Service award. “[Director of Alumni Relations] Mark Clapper gave me a draft of the citation, so I could ensure all the military words were correct, it made me look like I walked on water,” Braxton said. “I can swim in it but certainly not WALK on it.”
To Braxton, this award, which is displayed in her curio cabinet, represents the humility she practices in her everyday life. “I wasn’t a star leader on campus or even in the military,” she said. “I’ve just tried to do my best wherever I’ve been.”
“That’s what blows me away the most,” Braxton stated. “I was just being me and ‘got caught.’”
Braxton hopes current Etown students “follow [their] heart[s]” and “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” She also hopes they always remember that “with great risks come greater rewards,” a motto she exemplifies daily.

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