Memorial Day Musings
As with most holidays, the true origins of Memorial Day have managed to get lost in the fun and festivities associated with the actual day. Case in point- I say Memorial Day; you say beaches, bikinis, and barbecues. While the association is certainly correct, did you ever stop to think why such an association has become the norm? Didn’t think so- so here goes… Over the years, thousands upon thousands of brave, uniformed Americans performed the ultimate act of heroism by giving up their lives in bloody battle so that the rest of us can do as we please (aka beaches, bikinis, and barbecues) and enjoy the freedoms this incredible country has to offer. And today, Memorial Day, is all about commemorating and honoring their sacrifices…along with the sacrifices of the military nurses who quietly went along with them in order to help save lives. See, I wasn’t just waxing poetic because it’s Memorial Day. This is about YOU. Nurses have played and continue to play an integral role in the U.S. military, and today, we here at MSC, bring you some fascinating facts about your sisters and brothers who have entered the war zone for the sake of this great country’s heroes.
1. The United States entered WWI in 1917, and over the course of the 1 year, 7 months, and 5 days that America participated in the war they sent over 10,000(!) military nurses across the Atlantic to serve. Of those, between 200 and 300 unfortunately died. Some due to illnesses like scarlet fever and influenza, some due to military accidents, and still others due to enemy fire.
2. So you’ve graduated nursing school and are about to start your first real nursing job. A crisp set of scrubs? Check. Shiny, new Littman? Check. A ticket to Vietnam? Ummm, what?! That’s right! For the graduating nurses of the 60’s and 70’s, it wasn’t all organized clipboards and badge reels. Nope, they were shipped straight off to Vietnam where they had to serve for a minimum of 1 year. Today the service term is 6 months, although ‘active duty’ nurses can be sent back a couple of times.
3. In 1901 the Army Nurse Corp became an official branch of the Army Medical Department and today there are 10 different nursing specialties within the Nurse Corp. These specialties include the likes of Public Health Nurses and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, among others.
4. Thought POW status was reserved strictly for soldiers? Think again! During WWII, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were held by the Japanese for three grueling years.
5. Lest you think that the military nurses were all but forgotten about in the realm of statues and memorials, I’ll have you know that located in Washington DC, not too far from the Vietnam Memorial, is a beautiful bronze statue of a nurse caring for a wounded soldier. This memorial is truly one for the ages, because it symbolizes what the nurse is all about it. It doesn’t matter what the situation is; if someone is in need of medical attention, the nurse is there to perform her ‘magic.’
Whether you’re working this holiday shift or whether you were lucky enough to get the day off, remember, today is actually about you, your people, and what you stand for. Happy Memorial Day!