UC Berkeley alumna honored as Veteran of the Year

Campus alumna Mia Geurts received the award for her humanitarian efforts in addition to her military service.
Mia Geurts/Courtesy
Campus alumna Mia Geurts received the award for her humanitarian efforts in addition to her military service.

UC Berkeley alumna Mia Geurts was honored by State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, as the district’s Veteran of the Year last Wednesday.

At a luncheon ceremony held Wednesday afternoon in Sacramento, Geurts — who served as a United States Army combat medic in Iraq — was presented with the award for her military service as well as her humanitarian volunteer efforts.

“I’m just honored and overwhelmed,” Geurts said. “It was kind of unexpected, and it’s an honor to be chosen by this district. I’m glad they are supporting veterans.”

After graduating from high school in Danville, Calif., in 2002, Geurts joined the Army and served for four years as a combat medic before returning to the Bay Area. While serving as a combat medic, Geurts earned a Combat Medical Badge and Expert Field Medical Badge in recognition of her achievement and medical work under fire.

“Mia’s commitment to serving others under difficult circumstances is commendable,” Skinner said in a statement. “I am honored to recognize such a remarkable young woman at the beginning of her career.”

Geurts then returned to the Bay Area to continue her education and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

“When I graduated high school, I wanted to do something challenging,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to school right away — I wanted to go out in world and try to make difference … I really loved it — I spent time all over the world.”

Geurts returned home and attended Diablo Valley College for two years before transferring to UC Berkeley, where she graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology.

While at UC Berkeley, Geurts said she became heavily involved in the Cal Veterans Group and volunteered at the Livermore Veterans Hospital through the campus group Volunteers for Medical Outreach.

“The Cal Veterans Group was a big part of how I ended up at Cal,” she said. “Coming home was kind of an unexpected challenge … it was very difficult. Being in civilian life can be kind of isolating, and the other veterans at school really helped me. The Cal Veterans Group reached out to my community college group, told us we should come to Cal and were really supportive of veterans, which I found to be very true.”

Thomas Bonner, president of the Cal Veterans Group, said Geurts’s volunteer work both locally and in Vietnam as well as her generous and compassionate nature made her “well-deserving” of the award.

“She’s an incredible person, she juggles so much,” he said. “She’s great  — she does stuff on campus with other vets and encourages people who normally wouldn’t go to college to expand their horizons.”

Geurts said she now plans to take a year off before applying to medical school and eventually returning to the Army as a doctor.

“I miss the camaraderie that there is,” she said. “I just sort of grew to enjoy the challenge, and I’m looking forward to getting to continue my medical work.”

Allie Bidwell is the news editor.