Major Melinda Rayter joined the United States Army on August 31st, 1999, at age 37. She works as a certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist both as a civilian and for the 909th Forward Surgical Team.
Her motivation for joining the Army? “I’m a trained trauma resuscitator. I know I can save a life. And that is the job of the Forward Surgical Team.”
Rayter knows that if you can save a life, you should. She currently works as a registered nurse anesthetist at Methodist Hospitals, NLC and SLC. Throughout her career she has been looking for new ways to help the people around her: with the Army she saw an opportunity to protect the people protecting our country.
What strikes her the most about the army is that “Very young people are going through all this hardship and no one really knows,” The training pushes them past the limits they thought they had. They perform their jobs with poise and grace in conditions that are sometimes very austere and under the constant threat of attack.
In spite of this, they get the job done with a courageous commitment to professionalism that is rare. Rayter feels that if these young soldiers are willing to sacrifice and suffer for our country, the least she can do is patch them up when they fall.
The battle cry or motto of the 909th Forward Surgical Team is "Militaris Primoris, Semper Curantis” which is Latin for "First a Soldier, Always a Healer". Even in her spare time Rayter is helping others.
“I live that lifestyle in the civilian world too. I’m always in that mindset that I’ve got to take care of my soldiers or my patients or my community. So I’m always striving to be a better officer, a better anesthesia care provider, and a contributing member of the community. I wouldn’t call it passion… it becomes a part of who you are.”
During the unit’s time in Afghanistan, Major Rayter and her wife, Flo Bringas, were tasked with watching over the other soldiers and their families. Rayter’s commander asked Bringas to serve as the Family Readiness Coordinator for the unit. Bringas is in charge of helping the soldiers’ families through any hardship that may befall them while their soldier is away, so that the soldiers do not have to worry. Added stress in the Army means distraction, and possible injury. Before her wife was deployed for the Army, Bringas “never realized the pain, the struggle, the loneliness,” that goes with staying home. She is glad she can help others cope, and doing so helps her. “It’s an amazing network, an extended family.”
Major Rayter and Flo Bringas are involved in many Veteran's support organizations to include the Valpo VFW Post 988, American Legion Riders Memorial Post 17 , a philanthropic ladies motorcycle riding club call the "Bee's Knees" that supports a variety of charities and causes in the community, and are active supporters and members of the Indiana Patriot Guard. The Indiana Patriot Guard is open to anyone willing to volunteer and is comprised of civilians, veterans, and even some active duty service members. The main mission of the Patriot Guard is to show sincere respect for fallen soldiers, veterans, their families, and communities by attending military funerals, welcome home celebrations, and to shield mourners from the possibility of disruption or protest at these events.
Major Rayter states, "My experiences with the Indiana Patriot Guard brought me into contact with some of the very finest individuals that I've ever known. The Veterans (mostly Vietnam Veterans) in the group serve as my true north whenever I struggle with decisions regarding my responsibilities as a Field Grade Officer."
In conclusion, Major Rayter believes in one simple idea above all else. "Greatness is a lot of small things done well, consistently over time. Anyone can achieve or contribute to their fullest potential. It just takes commitment".