Hospital Corpsman 1, U.S. Navy
San Diego Eye Bank
Reaching adulthood in Johnstown, PA, Wayne Dietz knew two things: He was interested in medicine, and he wanted to see a world beyond Johnstown. After a year of college at the University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown, he joined the U.S. Navy.
One of his uncles had been in the Navy and influenced him to go that route as well.
Because of his specific interest in medicine, Wayne entered the Navy with a guarantee to go though hospital corps training. After completing hospital corpsman school in Great Lakes, Illinois, he was stationed with the 3rd Marine Service Support FFSG in Okinawa, Japan for thirteen months. While Wayne didn’t find the transition from civilian to military life particularly difficult, he admits that Japan was an “interesting experience.” He initially didn’t want to go there, but is glad that he did. “It was very hot and humid, and while I was there we were hit with a category 5 typhoon, he recalls. “Luckily we were safe within the hospital when it hit.”
While serving in Asia, Wayne also had opportunities to visit the Philippines and Guam, both of which he remembers as “exceptionally beautiful.”
When he returned to the U.S., he went to Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA for a year and half long training program to specialize in urology. He liked that this was a broad opportunity to deal with x-rays, surgery, and lab work. He followed his training by working in the OR with urology surgeons at both the Naval Hospital in San Diego, and at Camp Pendleton.
After 10 years with the Navy, Wayne decided to leave because he wanted to settle permanently in San Diego. “I think I left at the right time,” he says.
Knowing he wanted to stay within medicine, he saw an opening at the San Diego Eye Bank, applied for the job, and has been there for 35 years. He says his military experience helps him as an eye banker because it helped him develop “QA mentality” with “good organizational skills and structure.” He likes that both the military and eye banking stress teamwork and working for cause greater than any one individual.
Wayne remembers a specific instance in the early 90’s when 12-15 infants needed corneas. Seeing parents of these babies in tears and so grateful that their children would experience life being able to see was really moving for him. “Eye banking may not be as dramatic as working with organs, but people are able to SEE. So many take sight for granted. It makes a profound difference in people’s lives, and therefore the job is very rewarding.”
Like a lot of veterans, Wayne admits there are ways one can tell he served in the military without even asking him. Dead giveaways are the precise way he folds his clothes and makes his bed. Looking back on his service, Wayne would recommend the military to most people, saying, “Even just a year or two is good. It can help with college fees and discipline.”