Although Memorial Day is often thought of as the start of the summer season, in the United States, Memorial Day is actually set aside to remember the men and women of the U.S. military who died while serving their country. Originally called Decoration Day, it was commemorated on May 30 each year until 1971 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which created the three day weekend that we have today.
Most people don’t think of healthcare workers when they think of war veterans, but healthcare workers have been a part of the military since well before the Civil War.
Clara Ayres and Helen Wood both served during World War I and were the first women killed in the line of duty. Nearly 550 women died during service in WWI and while there aren’t records spelling out that they were nurses, the majority of women who served at that time were healthcare workers. It’s thought that around 1500 nurses from all countries were among the casualties.
During World War II, 16 nurses were killed as a result of enemy action though nearly 200 others died as a result of things like plane crashes or illness. Nearly 60,000 American nurses served during this time in field hospitals, on or near the front battle lines.
Seven Army nurses and one Air Force nurse died during the Vietnam War. Their names were: Capt Elanor Alexander, 2nd Lt Carol Ann Drazba, Lt Col Annie Graham, 2nd Lt Elizabeth Jones, 1st Lt Sharon Lane, 1st Lt Hedwig Orlowski and Capt Mary Klinker.
This Memorial Day, we remember all those who sacrificed their lives for the United States.