When he was considering colleges, Christian Craft ’98 was looking for something out of the ordinary, and VMI fit the bill. “I wanted to do something different. I thought to myself, ‘Of course, I could go to college and join a fraternity, but to go to VMI and finish … well that would be something!’” He saw the opportunity as a challenge. He was also aware of the close bond among alumni and the recognition VMI graduates receive for attending such a demanding college.
Another of Craft’s interests was the medical field, an interest spurred by being in the Rat Line and his mother’s 38-year career as a nurse. In the summer after his rat year, he trained as an emergency medical technician, taking the three-month class with some high school friends who had become firefighters. “I thought becoming an EMT and joining VMI’s Emergency Response Team would be an awesome way to help the Corps, do something different, and enjoy some extra privileges. Also, being an EMT was an all-access pass to everything going on in barracks.”
During his summers and breaks, he became more involved in the medical field, working as an emergency room technician at a local hospital. “I worked as an ER tech to make a little money to pay car insurance and have spending money for weekends away from VMI,” he explained. In that position, he did such things as draw blood, administer EKGs, move patients, and assist doctors and nurses.
Craft must have shown some affinity for the work because many nurses with whom he worked urged him to consider nursing school after graduating from the Institute. He rejected the idea, thinking, “I have a degree in economics and business from VMI, and I am going to tackle the world.”
He entered the financial field in January 2000 working for Morgan Stanley as a financial adviser and soon became a registered investment adviser. His goal was to work in the center of global finance—New York City—but, as he recalls, “9/11 happened, and, well, the world drastically changed.”
In early 2002, he joined a Richmond-area logistics firm and returned to working in the emergency room part time. He was soon to be married and was saving money to purchase a house. It was during this time he reflected on the idea of age and wisdom. “Age comes to you regardless of what you do. Wisdom comes with learning and experience.”
Working a day job in business and at night in the emergency room—often for 60 to 70 hours a week—contrasted the differences between business and patient care. “I noticed that nurses seemed to have a better work-life balance and how different it was from what I was experiencing in the business world. In a short time, the Monday through Friday schedule didn’t look quite as good as it did before.”
In September 2003, Craft applied a little wisdom and realized it was not too late to change course. He gave up his business career and enrolled in Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing in Richmond, Virginia.
Craft credited his VMI experience for helping him tackle the challenge of obtaining a second degree. “VMI taught me so much that has benefited me in my daily life,” he said. “Discipline, hard work, time management, and endurance are a few of the things VMI instilled in me. I also learned that to reap life’s reward, you must put in the time and effort, and there will always be sacrifice.”
Throughout his career in the medical field, Craft has specialized in critical care. “I was assigned a nursing rotation at the Surgery Trauma Intensive Care Unit at VCU Health in Richmond (formerly MCV Hospital). After eight hours observing, I knew that unit was where I wanted to be. So, before I left the observational experience, I knocked on the nurse-manager’s door and presented her with my resume.”
After eight years with the STICU, he joined VCU Health’s Rapid Response Team in June 2014. In that position, he is part of a team of health professionals who are on call to help with patients outside the ICU who experience a sudden change in their condition. Reflecting on the progress of his medical career, Craft said, “My journey has come full circle from being a part of the Emergency Response Team at VMI to being a critical-care nurse on call at VCU Health.”
This past February, Craft reached for another dream as he took a commission as a first lieutenant in the Army Reserve with the Army Nurse Corps, Army Medical Division at the age of 45.
What prompted him to join the Army? Since he graduated, Craft answered, “so many of my brother rats and other friends from VMI tell me statements like, ‘If I could do one thing over, I would go into the service,’ or, ‘I should have gone into the military.’” Craft admits he often considered pursuing a commission, such as when he graduated from nursing school, “but the timing was never right.”
So, how was it that the timing was finally right? According to him, his wife works with a retired Army recruiter who mentioned that medical professionals can join the Army at a later age with a waiver. As a nurse, therefore, Craft was in demand.
But it wasn’t merely a matter of applying. It was a demanding process with many steps. However, he had a lot of support, beginning with the “unending love, support, and encouragement” from his wife, Chasity, and his children, Carter and Cate. He also received letters of recommendations from three VMI alumni—Justin Wolfe ’98, David Pouleris ’98, and James Rivas ’12—all of whom serve or served as military officers. As the process went on, Craft occasionally thought it might not pan out, but he persevered, hoping that maybe it wasn’t too late to fulfill his dream of serving his country.
Craft’s next step will be to complete the Nurse Corps Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Army Medical Corps training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, later this year. “I know it won’t be easy to do that at 45 years old, but I’m sure my VMI experience will help me see it through.”
“A blessing,” is how Craft describes this opportunity to serve, and he hopes cadets see it in the same light while they’re in barracks. “The responsibilities of leadership within the military are tremendous, but there are many benefits as well. Traveling the world, forming lifelong friendships, performing invaluable tasks, and accomplishing challenging missions are just a few. The opportunity to serve our country in the U.S. Armed Forces is a true honor.”
Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects
The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.