Veterans Day is a time to celebrate and honor those who have served our great nation. A time to look back and say, “Thank you for your service.”

At Corewell Health, countless team members have served in a variety of capacities in the U.S. military.

The maternal fetal medicine team, for example, has team members who have gone above and beyond for their country, committing years to service. This includes Lisa Thiel, DO, and Eryn Hart, DO, who have worked together for nearly 15 years.

There’s also Jordan Hicks, business intelligence developer at Priority Health, and Tony Lisuzzo, PA-C, physician assistant at Corewell Health.

The four are just a sampling of the many Corewell Health team members who have served the nation. Their stories are rich with examples of courage, commitment and leadership—qualities they continue to bring to their work every day.

Marines Corps infantry machine-gunner

Jordan Hicks remembers the moment he entered the military recruiter’s office. He was 19 years old.

“I walked in, went to see a recruiter and said, ‘Sign me up,'” Hicks, now 36, said. “The war in 2005 was crazy. I was going to school, and it wasn’t working out. So I signed up and shipped off in two weeks to become an infantry machine-gunner.”

He went on to serve four years, including two combat tours in Iraq.

While he didn’t have it all planned out, that journey would become one of the most important of his life.

“In my first deployment, it was mainly foot patrols and mounted patrols in armed vehicles,” Hicks said. “We would go out for two or three days at a time on missions and go on patrols around Haditha, Iraq.

“My second deployment to Ramadi was more of a community-building mission and, instead of patrolling, we would meet with local police, with the Iraqi Army, and train their machine-gunners and infantry as well.”

His team built support systems for each community, helping them become safer and more self-sufficient.

Through it all, Hicks learned much about the value of teamwork, camaraderie and courage. His experiences would go on to serve him throughout his life, including in his current role as a business intelligence developer with marketing analytics at Priority Health.

“I enjoyed the deployments most—being overseas and working nonstop for months at a time,” Hicks said. “The guys I was with were all in the same boat, so we had each other to joke around with and make the best of it.”

In difficult times, camaraderie with his squad kept his spirits high.

When Hicks returned home, he eyed school as the most logical next step. He enrolled at Schoolcraft College, where he earned a degree in business management. After working in marketing for 12 years, he then studied computer science at Oakland University and learned how to code.

He joined Priority Health in June 2022.

“I would never go back to doing anything else,” Hicks said. “When I first got here, it felt like people weren’t even speaking English. But after a few months, I was able to grasp concepts—and now I love working in coding with my team.”

He said he’d never be able to do what he’s doing today without the perspectives he gained in the military. It helped him develop a deep appreciation for people’s journeys.

Every Veterans Day, he establishes a small memorial at his house. He phones a few of his military buddies, too.

“On Veterans Day, I call three of them every year and do my best to keep in close contact,” Hicks said. “Only one is still serving.”

They catch up on old times, and they take a moment to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“I lost 12 guys when I was in … really good friends of mine,” Hicks said.

For many, that’s what Veterans Day is all about.

“We celebrate those who are not with us any longer,” he said. “And you are always grateful to be here now.”

‘Third-generation sailor’

It was the summer after 9/11. Military recruitment was at an all-time high.

Tony Lisuzzo, then age 26, knew what he wanted to do.

“Both my father and grandfather were sailors,” Lisuzzo said. “So I consider myself a third-generation sailor.”

He joined the U.S. Navy and, after boot camp, joined the Navy’s Hospital Corps.

Lisuzzo later headed to Navy Hospital Portsmouth to work in a family practice clinic.

“I liked doing procedures, so I applied and went to surgical technician school,” he said. “I was slowly climbing my way up in medicine and following what interests me.”

He then deployed to Kuwait, where he worked in a field hospital for a year.

“Think of MASH,” he said. “It’s very similar. There are doctors there who have a lot of time to teach, so they almost treat you like a resident and you have the opportunity to learn so much.”

Lisuzzo wanted to increase his scope of practice, so he finished up his time in service and came back to Michigan, where he went to Oakland University to earn a degree in biology.

He then spent a year at Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak, working as a surgical technician on the heart team. He later went to Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, in Chicago, to become a physician assistant.

After graduation he returned to Beaumont Hospital in Troy, where he worked in the surgery department.

“I had the opportunity to work with over two dozen different physician assistants,” Lisuzzo said. “I was learning everything from plastics to ENT and broadening my scope of work.”

Lisuzzo, PA-C, is now a physician assistant with the Spine and Pain Management team at Corewell Health in Grand Rapids. Several other doctors on his team are veterans, too.

And he’s proud to call himself a sailor.

“Being enlisted in the service broadens your world,” Lisuzzo said. “You grow up in a community like the Midwest and, all of a sudden, you’re thrown into this thing with people from all over the world. It’s amazing to meet diverse people from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It changes your view of the world.”

The feeling of teamwork is amazing, he said. It’s one of his favorite things about being enlisted in the service and working in medicine.

On Veterans Day, he reaches out to close friends to check in and stay connected. One of his fellow sailors served as the best man in his wedding.

“We have to look out for each other and check in,” he said. “Some people have PTSD, so you have to look out after your brothers and sisters you have met along the way. It’s a day that you reflect a little bit more on the people you served with, and the stories that you share.”

‘I’m the only Navy girl’

Lisa Thiel, DO, comes from a big military family. She followed in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who served in the Army and Air Force. And most recently her brothers and nephews have joined the ranks of service, too.

To be a little different, however, she joined the Navy—but she credits her family’s commitment to service in leading her down that path.

“I’m the only Navy girl in the family,” she said. “For me, it was a no-brainer to sign up and serve my country. It helped that a portion of medical school was paid for, too.”

She met her husband in medical school in Philadelphia and they both completed their residencies at Michigan State University in civilian residency programs.

She served as a fellow at University of Philadelphia Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in maternal fetal medicine for three years and spent four years in Washington, D.C., working at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I had such an amazing experience there,” she said. “I was one of six maternal fetal specialists and became the chair of maternal fetal medicine at a very young age.”

That was at age 33, when she had just had her second baby. She was just out of fellowship and newly trained in the field.

“The military gave me the confidence to take on the leadership that was a natural characteristic and use it in a way I didn’t know I had—at an age I wasn’t expecting,” she said.

She participated in the Wounded Warrior Project, which was centralized at Walter Reed, and many of her patients were part of the program.

“That experience gave me the confidence to apply for a large institution like Spectrum Health,” she said.

Now working in maternal fetal medicine at Corewell Health, Dr. Thiel and her colleagues are launching a fellowship program where residents can specialize in maternal fetal medicine.

“I found my niche and where I wanted to be,” she said.

Dr. Thiel specializes in treating women whose pregnancies aren’t going as planned, or pregnancies that have a high level of risk for moms and babies.

“Some of the pregnancies that I have worked with were simply heroic,” she said. “Many patients go through really difficult cancers or complicated pregnancies and deliveries.”

She’s even the godmother to a few of the children she has delivered, and she connects with the families regularly. She calls on birthdays or milestones, cheering them throughout their life journeys.

On Veterans Day, Dr. Thiel said she feels recognized and appreciated—and social media has served as a great way to share memories and experiences with other service members.

One of her favorite memories came the year she ran the Marine Corps marathon. The 10th mile of the marathon is known as the “blue mile,” where gold star families hold American flags to create a tunnel for runners.

“It is silent during that entire mile, and (it’s) just for runners and the military families,” Dr. Thiel said. “It’s very sobering and humbling. It almost made me want to stay in active duty.”

Dr. Thiel said she remembers seeing the many pictures and the names of lives lost.

“There was not a dry eye there,” she said.

During the run, you don’t even realize your feet are sore, she said.

“It was super-empowering,” she said. “And you realize you do what you do for a reason.”

Roots that run deep

Eryn Hart, DO, and her family members have shaped a legacy of service.

Her dad served in the Vietnam War and the first Persian Gulf war. Her grandpa was wounded as a soldier in World War II. One of her forebears even served in the Revolutionary War.

“I guess you could say my family’s roots run deep in service,” she said.

It seemed only natural that she would join the military. She received a commission through the Health Professionals Scholarship Program and, in 2001, joined the Navy as a medical student. Her clinical rotations were a part of her military service.

While she didn’t get involved in military operations, she spent four years as a civilian-trained OB/GYN resident.

“I ended up at Walter Reed … on my first assignment, where I took care of wounded warriors’ spouses from Project Enduring Freedom and Project Iraqi Freedom,” she said. “We saw a lot of the Army and Marine veterans who were needing care.”

She then went to Guantanamo Bay to care for pregnant women for two weeks, and was later stationed in Florida and Texas, where she completed a fellowship in maternal fetal medicine as a civilian.

She served her final duty station on active duty at Camp Lejeune. She’s still a reservist in the Navy and she serves as assistant senior medical executive in charge of more than 40 doctors on the West Coast.

“The thing I’m most proud of is being called into New York City at Elmhurst Hospital to care for COVID-19 patients right in the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “I was on the ground in a civilian hospital running a Navy ICU, where I would care for patients with COVID-19.”

She spent three months there, working with some of the first patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Today, Dr. Hart is a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Corewell Health. She has worked with Dr. Thiel for nearly 15 years and they’re working side by side as their team launches a new fellowship program and outreach.

“As maternal fetal medicine physicians, we are the internists, intensivists and surgeons for pregnant women,” she said.

And every Veterans Day, she pauses to remember “the sailors, marines and soldiers that I served with over the years,” she said. “And take time to thank my father and grandfather for their service.”