Veterans Day: Recognizing those who serve

November 10, 2023  By: Caitlin Pallai

two men in military uniforms

In honor of Veterans Day, Essentia Health would like to thank all our colleagues who were called to serve in our nation's military.

While there are many stories to tell, we would like to recognize two of our providers who, through their service, have made a healthy difference in people's lives.

Born and raised in Fargo, John Seifert and Joshua Zetocha enlisted into the military early in their careers.

While on different paths that took them around the country and the world, both have returned to their hometown to continue doing what they love — practicing medicine.

John Seifert | North Dakota Army National Guard

Seifert joined the North Dakota Army National Guard in the spring of 2004 as a senior in high school.

John Seifert

"I've had family in the military — Army specifically — going back to the Civil War," explained Seifert. "As fifth-generation Army, I wanted to serve my country and continue the family tradition."

Seifert recalls knowing from an early age that he wanted to join the military, but that he wasn't sure what he wanted to do.

"I remember being in the eighth grade and taking one of those computer questionnaires that'll tell you what you should be," he explained. "It came back with physical therapist or something along those lines, which got me thinking about the medical field. I had that in my mind moving forward, and when it came to enlisting, I knew I didn't want to go cause harm to anybody else but realized I could instead go and help people."

Seifert enlisted as a medic and has been one ever since, with a rank of E7, or sergeant first class. He served tours in Iraq and Kuwait in 2007 and 2008, has traveled all over the United States and most recently went abroad to Togo, Africa, where he taught medical classes to that country's army.

In reflecting on his almost-20-year career in the Guard, Seifert emphasized how his military experience has informed the work he does now for Essentia.

As a certified physician assistant, he specializes in walk-in care at the Essentia Health-52nd Avenue Clinic.

"A lot of my experience working with patients has been from the military and those walk-in type complaints that I had to deal with as a younger medic in the field," he said. "These experiences build off each other; the Guard helps with what I do now and vice versa.

"All of my patients are a little bit different and keep me on my toes. I really do enjoy it."

John Seifert in military uniform

Seifert has enjoyed his years with the Guard, an organization known all over the U.S. and the world.

"It's an amazing organization and the relationships you build are unlike anywhere else," he said.

For Seifert, service is about going above oneself. He is inspired by others who have served or are serving in the military.

"I was very fortunate being born in North Dakota, and a lot of people have done a lot more than I have, so enlisting was kind of a way to say ‘thank you’ to those in front of me, and those in uniform beside me.

"To veterans, I would say 'Thank you for your service.' It is special just being able to thank those who have also served in whatever capacity for the U.S."

Seifert enjoys hunting, fishing, cooking and spending time with his wife, Pam; his stepdaughter, Carmen; and his two dogs.

Joshua Zetocha | Navy Reserve

Zetocha knew he wanted to attend the Naval Academy after high school.

"Going into the Navy was really something I always wanted to do because of the variety of available stations," he explained. "You can be attached to hospitals, Marine Corps units, ships or Naval Air units. It's a little bit of everything."

Waitlisted for the Academy, Zetocha decided to attend the North Dakota State College of Science. After a year, and still wanting to join the Navy, he enlisted.

At the time, Zetocha was working as an emergency medical technician alongside an Army paramedic.

"I remember him saying that Navy corpsmen were some of the best medics he’d worked with, and he recommended that I do that," he added. "And so that's what I did."

Zetocha joined the Navy Reserve in 2014 as a corpsman and has traveled from coast-to-coast and internationally, working primarily in emergency rooms. He was deployed to New York City as part of the COVID-19 response and helped treat roughly 3,000 people in three months at the beginning of the pandemic.

NYC Covid Response

Navy corpsmen also double as medics for both the Marines and the Navy.

Zetocha holds the rank of HM1 — hospital corpsman, first class — meaning he is a Navy medic who is an E6 or petty officer first class.

He will hit his 10-year mark with the Reserve in February 2024.

As a certified physician assistant, Zetocha specializes in emergency medicine and works in the emergency department at Essentia Health-Fargo.

"Emergency medicine has always been an interest to me," he said. "Every day is unpredictable and potentially different from the day before. I really like the acute side of things and the fast-paced environment. You get people in and take care of them and get them on to the next level."

Zetocha adds that his work in the Reserve has prepared him for emergency medicine.

"It's helped a ton," he said. "Every three years, for example, we do a class called Tactical Casualty Combat Care or 'T-triple-C.' It's specific to traumatic situations and specifically under fire, which doesn’t happen a ton obviously, but the trauma side of it is super helpful for transferring into the ER. It’s been incredible."

man holding young daughter

Coming from a military family, Zetocha recognizes that service involves sacrifice. It's not always easy.

"You've given up time with family, and even if it's only the two weeks a year that you're doing it, that's still two weeks you're not at home," he said. "But you know you're giving up part of your life to help others."

Zetocha met his wife, Rylee, when he was a paramedic and she was an ER nurse at Essentia Health-Fargo. They have an 18-month-old daughter and two dogs, all of whom keep them on their toes.

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