“I don’t care if it’s medical, emotional. Please ask for help. Trust your instincts. You’re human.”
It’s this passion that drives Los Angeles native Maj. Manuel Yanez to serve others. Yanez began the path to accomplishing this goal at the age of 18 when he joined the military.
“My father had specific instructions,” he laughed. “I was very idealistic, but without question, I knew I wanted to serve my country.” he said.
After beginning his career as a Military Police Officer in Turkey and serving in Desert Storm in 1991,Yanez says he had a light bulb moment and a clearer understanding of how he would help others in the future.
“I spoke with Army medical personnel and my father, together they advised me to become a nurse. I envisioned myself helping others in this capacity.” said Yanez
He enrolled in Concord Career Institute in 1996 to pursue a nursing degree. After excelling in science, Yanez graduated in 1998 and joined the Army reserve. In 2004, he entered active duty status as a medical surgical nurse with the 72nd 14th Army Reserve Unit in Landstuhl, Germany.
“In the military field you will see many things and the impact is very devastating,” Yanez said. “You simply cannot walk away from it unscathed, but it pushed me more to help those in need.” He added.
But in 2013, Yanez says he was the one in need, becoming a patient himself battling kidney cancer.
He was sent to Balboa Naval Hospital for treatment. A hospital known for its advanced medical treatment.
“I knew something was wrong with me. You have to listen to your instincts and trust them. My body was becoming riddled with cancer.” He said. “It’s a different kind of battle but I grew to understand more and more how our men and women at war feel. I was dealing with seeing trauma all day, I developed shingles, I started having chronic pain and began having flashbacks to seeing this.” Yanez explained.
After having his cancer successfully removed, Yanez began to focus on his recovery at Balboa Naval Hospital.
“Health care providers have an extra challenge as they recover from the emotional trauma of treating severely wounded Soldiers,” said Dr. Keith Wilson with Balboa Naval Hospital.
“Maj. Yanez had the courage to ask for help as he dealt with his own medical issues and the emotional trauma of intense medical interventions,” added Wilson.
Yanez says the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) in San Diego, California was instrumental in his recovery.
“They were superb. I think I would have died if it were not for them. I’m eternally grateful,” Yanez said. “The resilience skills I learned, mixed with the group therapy for my PTSD was incredible. They gave me the will not to give up.” he continued.
“By asking for help and utilizing specialized Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) performance/resilience skills, [Yanez] has been able to move past many of the emotional challenges with his recovery,” Wilson explained.
But Yanez says exceptional medical treatment was not the only gift he received during his healing process. The challenge solidified his purpose in life.
Yanez is currently awaiting a medical discharge and looking to the future and helping others.
“I believe God put me here for a reason; to help others and I’m going to do that. I believe in the Army.”