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In Honor of National Nurses Week 2003

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise today in recognition of National Nurses Week, celebrated this year from May 5 through May 12. Our annual tribute to the women and men who give comfort to the ill and injured across the country reminds us that nurses stand daily on the front lines of the health care profession. This year, however, we should also be reminded of the brave nursing professionals who serve on and behind the front lines of battle: America's military nurses. With our campaign in Iraq coming to a close, it is fitting to honor the patriots who mend and support our Armed Forces in the field, in addition to those who keep us healthy at home.

The first official military nurse corps in the United States was established in the Army at the turn of the last century. American women, however, had served as combat nurses in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War and, until the creation of the Army Nurse Corps, did so without recognition and as volunteers. In grade school we learned the story of Clara Barton and the gracious care she gave to soldiers wounded in the Civil War. But there were many women throughout American history—quite often the wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of military men—who took up the role of nurse and treated the injured. They were compelled by genuine concern, kindness, and patriotism, and they used whatever supplies were available to them in their homes and neighborhoods.

In the First and Second World Wars, nursing was the predominant service women were allowed to perform as participating members of the military. During these wars and in conflicts since, nurses have sacrificed their safety and, at times, their lives in serving overseas as medical professionals. Here in our Nation's Capital, as part of the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall, there is a very poignant statue dedicated to the nurses who joined our troops in Southeast Asia. The image illustrates the important integration of medical care givers in successful military operations and the strength of these women who traveled to Vietnam and faced the same dangers and perils our soldiers did. In the gulf war, Afghanistan, and Iraq, military nurses have continued to exhibit this resolve and calm while tending to our Armed Forces. For a wounded soldier abroad, I can imagine no greater comfort.

My appreciation for those who serve our communities and our Nation through the nursing profession stems from my experiences growing up on the campus of a Veterans Administration, VA, hospital. Additionally, my mother, sister, and wife all have nursing backgrounds and I have witnessed their commitment to quality health care and to their patients throughout my life. As we honor the women and men who are dedicated to this profession in clinics, hospitals, and VA facilities across the country, we also honor those nurses who are themselves veterans. They are soldiers of a different, yet equally brave, stripe and they are certainly heroes to the wounded troops they help to bring home. I hope my Senate colleagues will join me in recognizing and thanking America's nurses, military and civilian, for the incredible, indispensable, and courageous work they do.

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