Memorial Day: Remembering the Nurses That Have Served

Cynira Clay - 05/22/18

Many people look forward to Memorial Day as the official start of summer. To some, it's a welcoming long weekend and an extra day off of work that can be used to plan the seasons first trip to the beach, a family BBQ or even an extra day to lay around in bed but the significance behind the day is far more than that. 

Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is a day to remember and celebrate the loved ones who died in military service. Naturally, that means remembering the soldiers that go to war but many people tend to forget the unsung heroes of war, the ones who don't go in to fight the battle, but instead, are there to help save the lives of wounded soldiers and to provide comfort to those soldiers who cannot be saved...nurses. 

There is a significant number of Army nurses, Air Force nurses, Navy nurses and other Military nurses who have given their lives to care for wounded soldiers. According to the Highlights in the History of the Army Corps, Military nurses have served in numerous wars, including the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm. Over the years, Military nurses have also served with NATO troops in Bosnia, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Kosovo. Let's take a brief look at some of the highlights of Military nurses. 

The establishment of the Army Nurse Corps on February 2, 1901 as an official branch of the U.S. Army formally opened the door for women in the military. In World War I, there were 403 nurses on active duty, including 170 reserve nurses who had been ordered to duty (as a result of incidents on the Mexican border) in twelve Army hospitals in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. By 1917, there were 1,176 nurses on duty which then grew to 12,186 nurses one year later. 

Once World War II came around, "more than 59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before. Within the "chain of evacuation" established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. The skill and dedication of these nurses contributed to the extremely low post-injury mortality rate among American military forces in every theater of the war. Overall, fewer than 4 percent of the American soldiers who received medical care in the field or underwent evacuation died from wounds or disease." (The Army Nurse Corps, Accessed May 15, 2018). 

Today, nurses who serve in the Nurses Army Corps sign up for a tour of duty of 6 months. Active duty nurses may be sent back to serve several times. One third of the nurses in the corps are men and ages range from 20 to 60. There are ten different nursing specialties in the corps, providing care for soldiers and their family members.

So while you remember those soldiers, take a moment to remember the nurses who are also on the frontlines.