Women and men have served in the U.S. Armed Forces for over 100 years and on an individual, unofficial level for many years before that. This Memorial Day, we honor all those in the military who gave their lives in service, including over 940 Army, Navy and Air Force nurses who died in the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.
As an advocate for the profession of nursing, we want to share some little known facts about the leadership, professionalism and skill military nurses have given to our country for years.
1. While not officially recognized as military nurses, the Daughters of the American Revolution recruited more than 1,500 women to serve during the Spanish-American War, 21 of whom died. Nurse Anna Caroline Maxwell organized and managed the nurses for the Army and was dubbed the “American Florence Nightingale.”
2. Army nurses can trace their military heritage back to 1901, when the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was established as a permanent corps that is an integral part of the U.S. Army Medical Department.
3. The founder of the Army Nurse Corps was Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee, a physician. However, it was her deputy, Nurse Dita Hopkins Kinney, who provided leadership as the first Superintendent of the Nurse Corps.
4. More than 59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II; 201 of them died.
5. Col. Ruby Bradley, who died in 2002 at age 94, was the third woman in Army history to be promoted to the rank of Colonel. She earned 34 medals for her service during World War II and the Korean War. She became known as an “Angel in Fatigues” by caring for fellow captives while she was a prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II.
6. Nurses continue to serve in the top echelons of military leadership. LTG Patricia D. Horoho, a clinical nurse specialist, took command of the 43rd U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command. She was the first female and first Nurse Corps Officer to hold those appointments.
7. The Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908 to recognize the contributions and leadership of nursing. Rear Admiral Rebecca McCormick-Boyle is the current director of the Navy Nurse Corps and has served in her current post since 2013. Naval leaders have noted that Navy Nurses are some of the most influential medical personnel known.
8. 7,484 women served in the Vietnam War and about 90% of them were nurses. Army nurses began arriving in 1956, and Navy nurses began arriving around 1963. Eight nurses are included in the 58,000+ names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
9. From 1901 until 1955, male registered nurses were allowed to serve only as hospital corpsmen, not nurses.
10. Today, males’ 30% representation in Army nursing is six times higher than in the civilian nursing population.
We are honored to support the nursing profession and its proud history of leadership and service to the United States. This Memorial Day, let us all join to honor those nurses who died in the service of our country by all working as advocates for nurses in all areas of the profession.
~Michael and Frida Donner