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March of 2022 marks two years since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Nevada. “Changed by the Pandemic” is a KUNR series featuring stories from people whose lives and careers have been drastically altered by the pandemic.

Nev. National Guard soldier shares her experience as pandemic response mission comes to a close

A headshot of a Nevada Army National Guard soldier. She is wearing a uniform and looking toward the camera while standing in a parking lot.
Spc. Adrianne Lopez
Nevada Army National Guard
Spc. Lauren Damiano stops for a photo at a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at the College of Southern Nevada’s Charleston Campus on Mar. 7, 2022, in Las Vegas.

The Nevada National Guard is ending its COVID-19 relief mission on April 1 — two years from the day it started. More than 1,500 members served during the Guard’s longest domestic operation since World War II.

Many volunteered to support the mission temporarily, but Army Spc. Lauren Damiano served as a combat medic for the entirety of the mission. Damiano, who is a Las Vegas native, reflects on her experience and shares what lies ahead.

Part of the reason I joined the National Guard was so that I could help out in my community. I was working in an insurance office and I was reevaluating things. I actually ended up going back to school for nursing and was planning on graduating and getting a new career in the nursing field.

I wasn’t expecting to push back my licensing, but I can’t say that I regret it because I have been able to learn a lot about the clinical setting through nurses that I’ve worked with on the COVID mission.

I feel like I’ve definitely given some relief to some of the patients. I had so many people just so relieved they were able to get the vaccine and that we were here. They were just so grateful to see us and having us — the military — be a part of this and be in their community and actually getting to see us on a day-to-day when they were doing testing or vaccines.

I’m still going to school. I actually changed degrees; I’m going to school for physical therapy now.

I’m actually really going to miss being a part of this mission. It was really eye-opening to see our community come together in the way it did. To all go and fight against one thing. We were all on the same track with what we wanted to do, and that was get back to normal. It’s just really rewarding to be a part of that and to see it happen in our community. It just makes me proud to be from here.

This story was produced by KUNR’s Lucretia Cunningham as part of the series Changed by the Pandemic.

The music in this story is “The Long Way Home” by Scott Buckley, which is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution.

Lucretia Cunningham is a former contributing reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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