FALLS CHURCH, Va. —
Army 1st Lt. Lizamara Bedolla remembers tanks rolling by her house, electricity turning on and off, and the turmoil of war in her home country of Nicaragua. When she was 4 years old, she fled to Mexico with her family as they waited for visas to be approved allowing entry into the United States. As time passed, her family tried to make their way to the U.S. border, where they hoped their visas would be granted.
“We know you’re down there!” Bedolla said border agents yelled as her family navigated through underground sewer systems. Helicopters flew above. They were detained, but after a week, Bedolla and her family received their visas. They eventually settled in Houston.
Two years later, Bedolla saw an Army recruitment commercial while watching television. At just 6 years old, she told her mother she wanted to be in the Army when she grew up — and 12 years later, that’s exactly what she did.
“I felt such a responsibility to the country that had given me, my sisters, and my family so many opportunities to succeed,” she said. “I had a really strong sense of loyalty and a really deep desire to give back.”
Bedolla started basic training two weeks after graduating from high school. She then spent more than a decade serving as an operating room technician, where she worked with nurses…