Since the 1700s there have been nurses in the U.S. military, tending to injured soldiers and providing comfort to those who would not survive. The significance of the nursing profession in the U.S. army has been honored by a memorial to military nurses near the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. The memorial is a bronze statue of a nurse caring for a wounded soldier in remembrance of all nurses who served in all wars.
Military nurses have served in numerous wars, including the Spanish-American War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. More recently, they have served with NATO troops in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. In 1901, the Army Nurse Corps became an official branch of the U.S. army.
In World War I, more than 10,000 nurses served in the army. They traveled by ship for two weeks to reach the ports of Europe. Between 200 and 300 nurses died in the war, either from diseases such as influenza and scarlet fever or from military accidents and enemy weapons.
In World War II, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were held for three years as prisoners of war by the Japanese. During the Vietnam War, recent graduates of nursing school were sent overseas and spent their first year on the job as military nurses.
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.
For more information on the history of military nursing, see Scrubs Mag and Chamberlain College of Nursing.
This Memorial Day, Towne Nursing remembers and honors the men and women who sacrificed their lives to defend our country and spread democracy around the world. We also remember the nurses who bravely cared for these soldiers and gave their lives while doing so.