The Long Journey Home

Nestled in the mountains of Arequipa region, Peru, is the tiny town of Cabanaconde where Quechua is the main language, and where Juan Miranda was born on May 16, 1980. He is the second of 7 siblings and his family worked the land and raised animals for food. It was not an easy life, but Juan loved the farm, the wide open space and horses. Juan had to leave all that behind at 8 years old, when his family moved to the capital, Lima, in search of a better life. "I didn't like Lima too much, because the people there discriminated against us. They used to call us names like cholitos because we were from a small town and because we were very poor financially," Juan recalls.

In 1995, at age 15, Juan and his family made an even bigger move, this time to the United States. His family settled in Washington, DC, where Juan and his siblings became patients of Mary's Center and received their medical care. "Mary's Center gave us the immunizations we were missing and the physical exams we needed, and filled out the paperwork in order for us to be able to attend school. It was a very small clinic at that time and I felt that people actually cared for us." Mary's Center was one of the few places providing medical care for low income families in the District of Columbia.

Juan's nurse, Miriam Garcia, encouraged him to join the Teen Program, where his brother Felix was already enrolled. Juan was excited about the opportunity to make friends, take English classes, and get help with college and scholarship applications. "Every staff member was awesome; they all made a huge impact in my life."

"While I was in high school, there were many gangs that wanted me to join them. I was able to stay away from them because I always kept myself busy with sports and attending the Teen Program. Having the Teen Program staff guiding me and giving me advice helped me to stay focused on school and helped me achieve one of my goals."

The investment that Mary's Center staff made in Juan paid off. After graduating from the Teen Program in 1998, Juan went to Olivet College in Michigan for Pre-Med but decided to study nursing and transferred to Michigan State University in 2000.

While going through the nursing program, he came back to DC during his first summer, wanting to volunteer at Mary's Center. "When Maria [Gomez, Mary's Center founder, President and CEO] and Nurse Miriam found out that I was studying nursing, they were very happy, and they allowed me to volunteer. A few weeks later, I was hired to work at Mary's Center as Nurse Assistant, and during the summer breaks and winter breaks for about four years until I finished my nursing degree in 2004."

During his nursing studies, Juan was also enrolled in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 2004. He served the Army as a Military Police Officer for just over 10 years, working in Virginia, Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma. He even did tours to South Korea and Afghanistan, each lasting one year.

"In South Korea, I worked as a Platoon leader, in charge of American and Korean Soldiers. I still have contact with some Korean friends. They have a very beautiful culture and the people work really hard every day and they are very polite. The food is awesome!" Juan says. While in Afghanistan, I worked as a Battle Captain for my Battalion, a senior mentor for Afghan General Officers, and was the subject matter expert about Afghan Policemen. Afghanistan reminded me of my home town Cabanaconde, because the Afghan people were very kind and humble, and in the rural areas, people worked the land like my family had done when I was young. The food was awesome as well!"

Juan received several military decorations and medals, including the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and a German Armed Forces badge for Military Proficiency.  Besides these accomplishments, he also obtained a Master's Degree in Business and Organizational Security Management from Webster University in 2011. He also achieved the following certifications: Program Management Professional, Conventional Physical Security/Crime Prevention, Emergency Management, Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, Interagency Logistic from Emergency Management Institute (FEMA), Operation Security (OPSEC) level II, 6-Sigma Green Belt, Anti-Terrorism Level II, Critical Incident Peer, Military Police Officer Advanced level, Special Reaction Team (SRT), National Incident Management System (NISM), national Response Framework, and Basic Officer Leader Course

While savoring all these achievements, Juan remembered the joy he had achieved from working as a Nurse Assistant at Mary's Center during his nursing school days. "I got the greatest satisfaction when helping others, especially in our community. I felt that this was the right place for me because I was happy. So after leaving the Army, I felt that I needed to come back to Mary's Center. It's time to give back to my community."

In April 2015, Juan was appointed Site Director of Mary's Center's flagship location in Petworth, DC.

About his homecoming, Juan says, "I'm very excited and blessed that Mary's Center has opened its doors to me again. I'm here to reinforce our mission and to ensure that our patients are receiving the best care from our entire staff and facilities. I'm ready to give 110%."


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