Grand Junction, Colo.,
10:50 AM

Navy veterans turned healthcare heroes; a salute to Intermountain Health’s veterans

Victor Sutphen III and Nichole Sutphen

Each year on Veterans Day, we honor and remember the courage, sacrifice and unwavering commitment of the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces.  

Two of those people are Victor Sutphen III and his wife, Nichole Sutphen. Victor served three years in the U.S. Navy and Nichole served six, both as hospital corpsmen. They now work at St. Mary’s Medical Center; Nichole is an Operating Room RN shift supervisor and Victor is a senior technology analyst. 

Nichole joined to serve her country and discover what she wanted out of life, while Victor joined to serve his country, see some amazing things and earn money for college. They each took the ASVAB, a military aptitude test to see where they would be a good fit, and both scored exceptionally high. Although their recruiters encouraged them to pursue different routes, they both felt their heart and career was in the medical field.   

“I had this feeling that I was going to regret not going the medical route, so I ended up signing as a hospital corpsman for the Navy,” said Nichole. “Ultimately, it led me down an amazing career path. I don't know anybody that has had the unique experiences that I have and I’m very fortunate.” 

“I felt the need to serve after the Persian Gulf War ended and I discovered there weren’t enough Corpsmen, which caused many naval reserve medics to be called to active duty,” said Victor. “My grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman who later became a pharmacist and owned a drug store, so serving the community was instilled in me at a very young age. I wanted to do the same thing.”  

Like Victor, Nichole also comes from a military family. Her father was born and raised in Laos and was recruited by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Nichole thrived in the military. She was one of the first females in a Navy leadership role at Recruit Training Command, and the first female recruit petty officer in charge in years to be entrusted to run Drill Hall Week.  

Nichole and Victor have been married for 19 years and have six children. They first saw each other in boot camp 23 years ago, though they didn’t speak. Several weeks later, they found themselves at the same military school.  

They were both sent to corpsman school in Iowa where they learned how to be combat medics and do everything from setting up field hospitals to performing surgeries in the field and providing medical care to Navy personnel. Corpsmen train as soldiers as well as medical technicians and serve alongside both Navy and Marine forces. After, both Victor and Nichole went to Virginia to continue their education in medicine – Victor as a pharmacy tech and Nichole as a surgical tech. 

“We were taught so many incredible emergency lifesaving procedures,” Nichole said. “It’s helped me so much in the medical field today. We were taught how to do minor surgeries, tracheotomies, intubation and more. I’m very grateful for that training.”  

When they left the military, they were living in Florida when Nichole got a job offer from St. Mary’s. She said she would come if Victor could too. They were thrilled to find out the hospital had a job in IT that was perfect for him. They say they bring their military values, work ethic and training with them every day to St. Mary’s.  

“Serving in the military gave me a sense of pride in my country and it prepared me for the career here,” Nichole said. “I have a strong sense of accountability and I strive for excellence every day. I had some of the best training I could’ve gotten in the military, and I think it has served me well.” 

“The Navy teaches you discipline and how to be accountable and responsible,” Victor said. “That was life-changing for me and I keep those things with me every day. I try to do good to others and teach our children to do the same. That and the professionalism I learned were some of the best lessons in life that anyone could ever learn.”