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Army and Navy nurses commemorated the 112th anniversary of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) with a ceremony recently.

The celebration, which recognized the contributions and sacrifices made by Army nurses, marked a melding of both Army and Navy traditions at the medical center.

The history of the Nurse Corps be can traced back to Feb. 2, 1901 when the female Army Nurse Corps became a permanent corps of the Medical Department under the Army Reorganization Act passed by Congress. Nurses were appointed in the Regular Army for a three-year period, although nurses were not actually commissioned as officers in the Regular Army. In 1947, Congress established the Army Nurse Corps in the Medical Department in the Regular Army, and provided permanent commissioned officer status for members of the corps.

Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks, WRNMMC commander, participated in the Army Nurse Corps celebration, and shared some facts about the ANC: Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee was a physician known as the founder of the ANC. During World War I, the Army Nurse Corps reached its peak strength and numbered 21,480.

Col. Anna Mae Hayes, chief of the ANC from 1967 to 1971, was promoted to brigadier general — the first nurse in the history of the American military who gained general officer rank. Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho assumed command of the U.S. Army Medical Command on Dec. 5, 2011 and sworn in as the 43rd Army Surgeon General on Dec. 07, 2011. She is the first female and first non-physician ANC member to hold the position.

Stocks said it was a true pleasure to “publicly thank the Army Nurse Corps for what you do here every day, not just for our patients, but for us in the Navy.” He explained service members at the medical center reach out to each other across service traditions, “to make Walter Reed Bethesda a truly joint, one team, one experience for our patients and each other.”

Following Army custom, the senior most and junior most ANC members (by position) cut the anniversary cake together. Col. Ramona Fiorey, WRNMMC chief of staff, and 2nd Lt. Marison Parrel, a new Army nurse completing orientation at the medical center, her first duty station, added a Navy ritual to the tradition and fed each other cake.

Fiorey celebrated a second anniversary the same week — 26 years as an Army nurse.

“It’s important to celebrate your heritage so that you don’t forget where you came from,” she said. “Recognizing the ANC birthday is celebration of a rich history. The celebration is a reminder to current Army nurses that the contributions of those who came before us make it possible for us to enjoy the many opportunities we have today. And it reminds us that we must also contribute to building that heritage for those who will come after us,” Fiorey added, echoing the anniversary theme “Embrace the Past — Engage the Present — Envision the Future.”

She recalled joining the Army after 10 years as a civilian nurse: a pivotal choice for her career.

“Making the decision to become an Army nurse was for me, a fork-in-the-road professionally. I took the right one,” Fiorey said. “I’m proud of this profession that I am a part of, grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, and hopeful that I have contributed a little along the way. What can be better than that?”

Parrel became an Army nurse Oct. 9, 2012, after enlisting in the Army nearly 10 years ago, in April 2003. She served as a combat medic for seven years. The former staff sergeant began nursing school in August 2010 at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

“It has always been a dream for me to become an Army nurse since I enlisted in 2003,” said Parrel, who explained taking care of fellow service members and their families is not just a job for her, it’s a passion. “I love being able to serve them with everything that I [can] offer,” she said.