Q&A with Former U.S. Coast Guard Member and NA/HHA Program Director, Kathy Curran
In honor of Veteran’s Day, we spoke with former U.S. Coast Guard member, Kathy Curran-Nigl, who serves as Director of Catholic Charities Boston’s Nursing Assistant /Home Health Aide (NA/HHA) program in South Boston. From learning how to challenge herself to the unparalleled value of teamwork and education, Kathy says her experience serving our country helps her to be a better teacher today.
When did you join the US Coast Guard and what motivated you to do so?
I was 18 when I joined in 1979. I had five siblings and my father died when I was 16. My mom had no way of supporting us, and attending school was very difficult. There were gangs on every corner of the neighborhood I was in, and I wanted a way out.
My guidance counselors helped me complete high school early and apply to join the service. I knew my brothers wouldn’t let me go, so I told almost everyone that I was going to visit my aunt when I enlisted. I joined and never looked back.
What was your experience in the U.S. Coast Guard like? What responsibilities did it entail for you?
First, I went to boot camp from July to the end of October. I then moved to Brooklyn and served at a helicopter station for two years, where I worked in security. After that, I worked at a small boat station in Long Island as a seaman. I loved my experience overall, but it was challenging being a woman in the military at that time. It was uncommon and many people underestimated us. All along, I knew I wanted to study medicine. Eventually, after four years, I was honorably discharged.
How did your experiences serving in the U.S. Coast Guard impact your perspective and who you are today?
I still use the skills I learned to this day. I am always on time. I still fold my clothes the same way every day. I can be strict sometimes as a NA/HHA teacher, but I have to be working in healthcare. Joining the Coast Guard gave me courage. It took a lot of determination to make it through those four years, overcoming the prejudices of being a female. I learned teamwork and how to work with others. I learned discipline and how to focus, and how to be organized. I learned to believe in myself and never give up.