Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) onboard Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) celebrated the 106th birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps on May 13 with a cake-cutting ceremony in the Building 10 flag lobby.
Navy Capt. Sarah L. Martin, WRNMMC chief of staff, a nurse, and guest speaker at the celebration, explained the Navy Nurse Corps has remained an integral portion of Navy Medicine since the corps was officially designated on May 13, 1908. May 1908, Congress established the nurse corps within the U.S. Navy, and by October of that year, 20 women had been appointed to the Navy Nurse Corps and were readying for their tours at several naval hospitals. These nurses, who came to be called “The Sacred Twenty,” were the first women to formally serve as members of the U.S. Navy representing the Nurse Corps, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command.
Martin added the Navy Nurse Corps “has come a long way” since it was established, and “it’s a honor to be a nurse every day. Even though we may not practice at the bedside absolutely every single day, what we contribute in each of our areas is valuable.”
Army Col. Ray Antoine, acting director of nursing at WRNMMC, agreed the Navy Nurse Corps has “a rich tradition. From the induction of The Sacred Twenty to today, we’ve had outstanding Navy Nurse Corps officers who have served to care for our wounded, ill and injured. As a sister service, [the Army Nurse Corps] is so proud to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we continue to move forward caring for America’s sons and daughters.”
In a letter read at the celebration saluting the Navy Nurse Corps from Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, the U.S. Navy surgeon general and chief of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, he stated, “the men and women of the Nurse Corps have honorably served and evolved with the nation’s needs in times of war and peace.”
“Today we honor the outstanding accomplishments, courage, and commitment of Navy Nurses who have set the bar high for military medicine around the world. Our Nurse Corps officers fly with wounded from battle-torn areas; provide care in the fleet and on hospital ships; establish native nursing schools, clinics, and small hospitals in remote areas of the world; and administer or command Navy medical treatment facilities worldwide. Our nurses are published and renowned scientists, researchers, teachers, providers and clinicians. Their continued work and dedication have earned them a prominent place in the United States Navy. They are an integral part of readiness, ensuring our Sailors and Marines are medically ready to complete their mission, anytime, anywhere. To the more than 4,000 active duty and reserve Nurse Corps personnel, I thank you for your service, sacrifice and dedication,” Nathan concluded.
Rear Adm. Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, director of the Navy Nurse Corps, agreed, stating in a letter also read during the celebration, “Navy nurses have and will continue to serve worldwide giving fully and selflessly to advance the health and wellness of others. Over the past 106 years, the role of Navy nurses has strengthened and expanded.” She concluded the members of the Navy Nurse Corps embody the essence of nursing — care, compassion and promptness.
Following the reading of the letters, Navy Capt. Shirley Bowens and Ensign Mia Galassi, by date of rank, the most senior and junior commissioned officers in the Navy Nurse Corps at WRNMMC respectively, cut the ornate birthday cakes with the Navy sword, continuing another military tradition.