Honoring our Military Medical Corps

One of the things that I’ve been noticing this year is an increased awareness of the role the medical corps played in military life and combat. I’ve seen a lot more recognition of nurses and doctors this year in remembrance pieces than at any other time and I think that is good and necessary. When I honor my military dead, I try to honor those doctors and nurses and other medical people who served too. They all too often get forgotten and they shouldn’t be.(1)

One group of veterans that often get completely forgotten in WWI history is African American (or other nationality) nurses. I will admit to never having really thought about this myself (and I should have. I typically parse out military groups like the Tuskeegee Airmen in my veneration, for special recognition, because of how hard they had to fight just to be permitted to fight!); then I started seeing this movie coming up on my amazon and Netflix suggestions feed: “Searching for Augusta: the Forgotten Angel of Bastogne” about a Belgian, bi-racial nurse during WWII, and I thought: why the hell are we forgetting these women?(2) It occurs to me this happens to female military veterans in general…even now.

I don’t think that those of us who honor the military dead necessarily consciously think to include medical personnel, yet they are veterans too, every bit as much as non-medical personnel and they are the ones working on or near the front lines in many cases, to get our soldiers home, and they suffer every bit as much as any other soldier. They should be remembered too. They should be honored.

Here are a few good articles:

Women in the military (general)

Women in Vietnam

African Americans in medicine in Civil War

Medicine in WWI

https://www.ncpedia.org/wwi-medicine-battlefield

How WWI changed the way we treat injuries

 Here are a couple of places that I often donate to, often as an offering to Asklepios or other Healing Deities (like Eir or Hygeia) that I honor, or sometimes for the military medical dead in general:

Doctors Without Borders

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Fisher House Foundation

And here is a whole list of military charities, most of them in some way connected to medical care.

Here is the documentary I noted above — definitely worth the watch!

RedCrossNursen

Notes:

  1. Nurses especially take the brunt of this when they showed every bit as much valor as the men (and sometimes women – there were always women who fought one way or another, even if they had to disguise themselves to do so) who fought. They saw daily the results of combat and in many cases, like Vietnam, nurses were damn near on the front lines unarmed. In Vietnam, my understanding is that they weren’t issued weapons of any sort and it is not unknown for medical encampments to be targeted.
  2. I see it happening in my first career field too, ballet. There were African American ballet dancers with Balanchine’s first company for instance, and one of them, Raven Wilkenson was truly extraordinary. They too often get erased from ballet history which leads to the bullshit that I have heard often in my career “well, no one will want to watch a [black, Asian, etc.] Swan in Swan Lake,” or “ballet doesn’t really want [insert minority of choice] dancers” and it’s utter bullshit. Tell it to Misty Copeland, Maria Tallchief, Jose Manuel Carreno, Carlos Acosta, Yuan Yuan Tan, Evelyn Cisneros, and Shiori Kase to note a few. Talent is talent. Period. This of course has nothing to do with WWI or WWII history or the military dead, but I’ve been thinking about this recently and the erasure really pisses me off. When I was training as a dancer one of the most incredibly gifted women I had the privilege of working with was an African American girl (We were young when we trained together in the first company with which I worked). Even then, I occasionally overheard the parents of other dancers saying things like “she’s the best dancer there” – she really was. Claire, to this day I envy your extensions! – “ but don’t you think it would look strange to have a black ballerina?” No, bitch, I don’t. STFU. It’s called ‘acting’ and ‘performance’ for a reason and the only prerequisite is talent. Fortunately, our director wasn’t amongst those who thought in this backward way, but I wonder at how many people were encouraged out of the field (and art and music too) by such nonsense, how much talent and genius and artistry we’ve lost because of our stupidity.

 

(apologies for any typos. I have a bitter migraine right now. I’m sitting here waiting for the migraine meds to kick in…)

 

combat nurse

(While I can’t find a definitive source for this image, I see it listed repeatedly as combat nurse Valya Gribkova retrieving a wounded soldier from the battlefield, WWII)

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Posted on November 9, 2017, in Ancestor Work, Ancestors, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Yes to all of this…

    Two of my veteran friends had very different lives outside of the military, but both had advanced degrees when they were drafted for Vietnam. Both of them refused to go to officers’ training corps and instead insisted on being enlisted because of their family traditions of such, and both ended up in the medical corps (one in the Army, one in the Air Force), and both saw horrors one could only have nightmares about otherwise. They’re both some of the most admirable individuals I know; one of them is Stephan Schwartz (who I mentioned in a comment a few days ago), and the other is Lou, my department head, colleague, friend, and co-religionist (he’s an animist and has come to more of my rituals than some declared Antinoan polytheists have!).

    Related to the latter as well, and something to keep in mind this month: Native Americans have a per capita military service rate higher than any other ethnic group in the U.S., and if one knows someone who is Native American and between the age of 30 and 80, about 3/4 or more will have served in the military in some capacity. It wasn’t just the Di’ne Code Talkers of WWII that served, it was in every war we’re ever had in the U.S., down to modern times. I know you know this, but others may not, so…! 😉

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  2. I feel this would be the best space for this:

    Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT9BTuBtCJs

    Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eADLWvWqK5Q

    May you always be hailed Mary (Mother) Seacole.

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