Story by Ronald Wolf on 05/16/2019The week of May 6, 2019, was National Nurses Week. The American Red Cross hosted the Military Health Systems annual National Nurses Week Wreath-Laying Ceremony at their headquarters in Washington, DC. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Red Cross nurses joined in the tribute to the nurses who have offered comfort and help for more than 150 years, in war and peace for servicemembers and civilians.
"Nurses are Superheroes" is the theme of the 2019 Military Health System Nurses Week.
The setting and joint effort was appropriate because the Red Cross was the first national nurse organization in the United States and has a long history of partnering with the US military.
Clara Barton and associates founded the American Red Cross in Washington, DC, in 1881. During the next several decades, the American Red Cross conducted our domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, aided the United States military during the Spanish-American War, and worked for the inclusion of peacetime assistance as part of the global Red Cross network.
The long, direct association between the Red Cross and the US military began in World War I.
The Red Cross staffed hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military. Additional Red Cross nurses came forward to combat the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918. After World War I, the Red Cross focused on service to veterans and expanded a number of programs health care and nutrition.
Col. Julie M. Stola, US Air Force, Command Nurse and Chief of Force Development, Air Force District of Washington, welcomed everyone and introduced guests of honor.
Rear Adm. May Riggs, Deputy Director of the US Navy Nurse CorpsReserve Componentand Interim Chief Nursing Officer for the Defense Health Agencysaid nurses provide "comfort and care to military families and their loved ones when they are deployed." Nurses, Riggs said, are on ships, in the field, on planes, in emergency care clinics, in the classroom and volunteering for humanitarian missions. They are performing "heroic acts almost every single day." Riggs called the audience a "Who's Who" of the nursing profession.
Wartime nursing began to be considered an important component of military healthcare and greatly improved beginning with the Civil War.
Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, Commanding General of the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, and Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, said, "Today's wreath laying is an opportunity to honor nurses who paved the way for our present generation of nurses" and "nurses continue to play an integral role in the success of our Military Health System."
Dr. Linda MacIntyre, Chief Nurse of the American Red Cross, stated "Nurses remain trusted health clinicians and advocates, bring hearts and minds together in providing care. At the center are the individuals and communities we serve."
The Army and Navy Nurse Corps were founded in 1901 and 1908, respectively. The Air Force Nurse Corps dates its beginnings to 1949.
Holcomb quoted Maya Angelou on the importance of nurses: "As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may not remember your name, but they will never forget the way you made them feel."
"Thank you for being a part of the profession of nursing. Thank for your dedication, service, compassion, and selfless service to the nation," said Holcomb.
Dedication, service, compassion, and selfless service are all in a regular workday for our nurse superheroes.