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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Albany Branch Medical Clinic celebrates Navy Nurse Corps' 96th Birthday

By Cpl. Denyelle D. D'Aveta | | May 20, 2004

"Each broken body, each face drawn with pain takes a piece of your heart. Pleading eyes are desperate for assurance. 'Will I be alright?' Yes... but it is a lie." Gaping wounds leave gaping holes in your soul. Endless faces without names, with endless pain. Smells of seared flesh and human blood cannot be scrubbed off. We had no experience in dealing with combat casualties... we had to learn many things on the job."

This is a quote from a Navy nurse in Vietnam.

Throughout the years many servicemembers have relied on the expertise of Navy nurses to keep them healthy and many times save their lives.

For one day each year in May, those nurses are recognized during the Navy Nurse Corps birthday. The event celebrated the heritage and tradition of the Nurse Corps and was in conjunction with National Nurses' Week.

Here, at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, the Branch Medical Clinic celebrated the Nurse Corps' 96th birthday May 13th, by remembering those nurses who have paved the way and recognizing all of the Nurse Corps nurses and the civilian nurses that work along side them.

After words were spoken about the history of the Nurse Corps, the nurses were all presented with roses and personnel enjoyed refreshments. While some took photographs and some enjoyed quiet conversation, there were those who took extra time to remembering those who have gone on before them and the challenges they faced.

"I am proud and honored to be here," said Capt. Patty Underdahl, executive officer, Naval Reserve Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Fla. "Throughout the years the nurses have helped hold Naval medicine together, I am glad that I am a part of that."

It all began in 1907, when Rear Adm. Presley M. Rixey, M.D., USN, wrote in a Surgeon General's report of the desire to have trained nurses added to the medical facilities for the efficient care of the sick and injured servicemembers. In addition, he wrote of the valuable service that could be rendered by the nurses in teaching the members of the hospital corps. Rixey believed that the most serious omission in Navy Medicine was the lack of skilled nursing - a benefit that civilian institutions enjoyed. On May 13, 1908, after presenting several bills before Congress, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and Rixey's vision to have a Navy Nurse Corps became a reality. There were more than 1,550 nurses in the Nurse Corps by the conclusion of World War I. By World War II, nurses were recognized as commissioned officers. In fact, few people know that the first woman to achieve the rank of rear admiral in the Navy was a nurse. However, it is not a job that only women hold. In 1965 the Nurse Corps became integrated and allowed men to serve. Now the percentage of males in the Nurse Corps is approximately 25 percent.

Since 1908, Navy Nurse Corps Officers have served with pride and distinction worldwide in support of our service men and women.  Rixey's vision has been greatly surpassed by not only practicing and teaching, but also by guiding healthcare delivery and researching ways to improve healthcare in various practices. Navy Nurse Corps officers have attained recognition as leaders at every level within Navy Medicine.

Marines are always prepared to "fight the fight," and nurses are always there to keep them in it.