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Maria I. Ortiz

Captain, United States Army

28th Combat Support Hospital, 
3rd Medical Command

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: July 10, 2007
Buried at: 
Awards: Bronze Star, Purple Heart

CAPTAIN MARIA INES ORTIZ, a native of Pennsauken NJ, was killed in action while serving in Iraq on July 10, 2007. She died of injuries suffered during a mortar attack. 40 years old at the time of her death, Captain Ortiz was the first Army nurse killed by hostile fire since the Vietnam War.


Camden Courier-Post - July 13, 2007

Pennsauken nurse killed in Iraq

A nurse -- reportedly from Pennsauken -- assigned to the Aberdeen Proving Ground was killed this week in Iraq, the Department of Defense has announced.

Capt. Maria I. Ortiz, 40, died Tuesday in Baghdad of wounds inflicted by a mortar attack, Aberdeen Proving Ground spokeswoman Pat McClung said today.

The Defense Department lists Ortiz as being from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, while Aberdeen records show her as being from New Jersey.

Ortiz enlisted in 1991, at the age of 24. She got her degree in nursing in 1999 from the University of Puerto Rico and her master's degree in quality management from the Massachusetts National Graduate School in 2004.

While she was assigned to Aberdeen, Ortiz served as the chief nurse of general medicine at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic. She has also been stationed in Puerto Rico, Korea and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday at Aberdeen's chapel.


Camden Courier-Post - July 14, 2007

Army nurse with S.J. ties killed in Iraq

An Army nurse with roots in South Jersey died this week in Iraq, officials said.

Capt. Maria Ortiz, 40, was killed Tuesday by enemy mortar fire in Baghdad, the Defense Department said.

Army officials identified Ortiz's hometown as Bayamon, Puerto Rico. But a military spokesman said the nurse's mother, who was not named, lives in Pennsauken.

Ortiz reportedly was born in Pennsauken, but it was not clear how long she lived in this area.

She was assigned to the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

"She was very popular and very highly thought of," said George Mercer, a spokesman at the Maryland base. "It's just a terrible loss."

Ortiz was the 79th service member and third woman with ties to New Jersey to die in Iraq.

Ortiz graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 1990 and joined the Army Reserves in Puerto Rico the next year, said Mercer.

Two years later she went on active duty in a career that took her to Honduras, South Korea and Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

At Kirk, Ortiz was the chief nurse of general medicine for 18 months. She left in September 2005 for Iraq, where she served with the 28th Combat Support Hospital, 3rd Medical Command.

Ortiz earned a number of commendations, including the Bronze Star, Mercer said.


Camden Courier-Post - July 17, 2007

Memorial this week for slain Army nurse

T memorial service for a Pennsauken-born Army nurse will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Post Chapel in Aberdeen, Md.

Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz, 40, was killed July 10 by enemy mortar fire in Baghdad's Green Zone, the Defense Department said. She was the first Army nurse to die from combat-related injuries in Iraq, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Friday.

She was also the 79th service member -- and third woman -- with ties to New Jersey to die in Iraq.

Army officials said Ortiz's mother, who was not named, lives in Pennsauken. Ortiz was reportedly born in Pennsauken but grew up in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. It is not clear how long she lived in this area.

In this undated photo, Army CaptainMaria Ines Ortiz, 40, left, is shown posing with her fiance Juan Casiano in an unknown US airport. Ortiz was killed on July 10 in a mortar attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.

"She touched everyone's lives and everything about her was positive," her fiance, Juan Casiano, said from her mother's home. "She always carried a smile."

Ortiz was assigned to the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic at Aberdeen where she served as the chief nurse of general medicine for 18 months. She went to Iraq, where she served with the 28th Combat Support Hospital, 3rd Medical Command, in September.

She was the only U.S. citizen among three people killed in the July 10 barrage, one in a series of recent attacks that have added to safety concerns for key Iraqi and international officials who live and work in the Green Zone.

Ortiz's father, Jorge Ortiz, said she was not wearing body armor because she felt safe inside the walls of the central Baghdad district. It is not uncommon for people not to wear protective gear in the area, especially during hot summer months.

Some 90 Army medical personnel were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and January, said Margaret Tippy, an Army Medical Command spokeswoman.

Ortiz graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 1990 and joined the Army Reserves in Puerto Rico the next year, an Army spokesman said. Two years later she went on active duty in a career that took her to Honduras, South Korea and the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Major Kathy Presper, chief of medical management at Aberdeen, said Ortiz wanted to return to Walter Reed after her deployment. Ortiz wanted to stay in the Maryland area and aspired to be the head nurse of dialysis there, Presper said.

"She was a very dedicated person as far as following through with patients," said Presper, who worked down the hall from Ortiz for two years. "You don't get too many people who are like that."

Presper said patients used to come into her office to talk about Ortiz. Army spokeswoman Debra Dodsworth, another former co-worker, added that Ortiz "was the glue" at Aberdeen and said she hopes people will mimic Ortiz's tireless work ethic.

"It didn't matter what the circumstances were," Dodsworth pointed out, "She did this routinely."

Ortiz earned a number of commendations, including the Bronze Star, an Army spokesman said.

"It was her calling," said Casiano, an Army veteran. "I saw in her what everyone else sees: a beautiful person who brings joy to everyone she touches."

She is survived by her parents and four sisters in New Jersey and Florida.


Camden Courier-Post - July 17, 2007

Friends remember nurse killed in Iraq

Family, friends and soldiers went to Aberdeen Proving Ground Wednesday to remember Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz for the woman she was. They went to grieve for the first Army nurse killed by hostile fire since the Vietnam War.

About 250 people crammed into the chapel at Aberdeen, where Ortiz, 40, worked as chief nurse of general medicine.

Ortiz was killed during a mortar attack in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on July 10.

A pair of combat boots, a helmet and a gun stood at the chapel's altar as a reminder of her sacrifice.

Maria Luisa Medina, sister of Army Captain Maria Inez Ortiz, and Juan Casiano, Ortiz's fiance, speak after a memorial service Wednesday.

Maria Luisa Medina, Ortiz's twin sister and a first-grade teacher in Camden, said her sister found purpose in helping others.

"She's the person that I want to be like, not because she was a soldier or a nurse, but because she accomplished her purpose in life," Medina said.

Ortiz met her fiance, Juan Casiano of Philadelphia, in 1995 while they were stationed in Korea.

Casiano described Ortiz as a "woman of light" who always made others feel comfortable and loved.

Casiano said Ortiz, who worked at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic in Aberdeen, volunteered to go to Iraq.

"She wanted to make sure that she touched soldiers and Iraqis," Casiano said. "She wanted to help them find peace."

Maj. Kathy Presper said she would spend hours talking to Ortiz about her deployment to Iraq.

"She was antsy. Even with her body language you could tell she was ready to go," Presper said.

Friends at the memorial service remembered Ortiz for her compassion.

"There were so many times when she reached out for someone's hand to touch their hearts," said Martin Pate, who worked with Ortiz.

Col. William Rice said Ortiz's death has left a "hole" in the hearts of the Aberdeen's soldiers.

"I don't think she would want that," Rice said. "I think she would want courage."

Presper called Ortiz's death "shocking."

"Often times when you talk about medical professionals you think you're in a safe zone . . . sometimes we have that comfort, but now this has changed that feeling," she said.

Ortiz's father said in a telephone interview from his home in Puerto Rico in that he is proud of his daughter.

"I think I'm going to miss everything about my daughter," Gorge Ortiz said.

Ortiz was born in Pennsauken, but grew up in Bahaman, Puerto Rico.

She enlisted in 1991, at the age of 24. She got her degree in nursing in 1999 from the University of Puerto Rico and her master's degree in quality management from the Massachusetts National Graduate School in 2004.

She has also been stationed in Puerto Rico, Korea and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington..


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