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May-28-2008 07:58printcomments

Military Nurses: VA's Shabby Treatment of Forgotten Angels

Phillip Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician, Toxicologist and Pharmacologist. He is an expert in medical marijuana treatment.

WWII nurse recruiting poster
Photo courtesy: Northwestern University

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - Apparently it has just come to light that the treatment of Women Veterans is even worse than the treatment of male vets if that is possible. There are 253 thousand women veterans seeking medical care and they have many of the same problems as men (no smart ass remarks are acceptable here).

The Department of Veteran's Affairs opposes an increase in funding for women veterans. This situation has been like this for years even going back to World War One.

Big Numbers

At the present time there are 1.7 million women veterans and the number seeking care, 253,000, is expected to double.

180,000 have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We see in television news programs seriously wounded women vets and also learn about dead ones; many today are facing the same battle hazards as men. The women's injuries, deaths and PTSD should be no surprise.

Emelda Erwin was an Army nurse
during WWII in Africa and Italy
Photo: Maine Governor's Office

I am writing about World War Two Army Nurses because there is at least information available about them. I'm not including Korea or Vietnam but I'll bet the situation is about the same.

In World War One the U.S. Army had about 20,000 nurses. When that war was over they were mostly ignored. By 1935 there were only 600 RN's in the Army. The propaganda at that time was that "women of good character" did not become (Army) nurses and it was a suspect "profession".

By June 1940 there were only 942 Army nurses but by June '43 there were 40,000 but they had to be single with no children. At the height of World War Two, there were about 60,000 with half in battle zones with 5,500 on Italy.

During one month in Anzio beachhead there were 19,000 casualties and the Germans even bombed hospitals where 4 nurses got Silver Stars for staying with their patients during bombings. Army nurses landed shortly after H-Hour landings in all invasions. Two of their ships were bombed and sunk.

Some nurses got six or more battle stars from all of the African and European battle zones.

The casualties and decorations of these nurses require publicity. Sixteen nurses were killed from battle action. Two hundred more were killed from accidents or illness.

The decorations of the nurses are impressive. I have mentioned four Silver Stars. In addition there were also Distinguished Service Medals, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Soldiers Medal, Bronze Stars, (lots of them) Air Medals, Legion of Merit, and many Purple Hearts.

Many of the first nurses were in for three and a half years. Many turned gray and many lost as much as 25 pounds during their service.

One of the worst features of the Army was the rejection by the Army of African-American nurses. There were 8,000 nurses in the states, and the Army had about 1.5 million African-Americans. In 1941 the Army accepted 56 "colored" nurses eventually raised to 160. At the end of the war there were 500. They were to take care of only "colored" troops.

66 nurses were captured by the Japanese and were prisoners for three and a half years.

The denial of medical care of women vets is beyond comprehension. One million servicemen were wounded in WWII and many were taken care of by Army nurses. It was those men who named them "Battlefield Angels!!" Ask those guys if the nurses and all other women should be given care by the Veterans Administration.

As a physician, I am almost embarrassed in writing this.

Got a question or comment for Dr. Leveque?
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More information on the history of Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of Phil Leveque about his experiences in WWII.
Order the book by mail by following this link: Dogface Soldier.

If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.

Watch for more streaming video question and answer segments about medical marijuana with Bonnie King and Dr. Phil Leveque.

Click on this link for other articles and video segments about PTSD and medical marijuana on Dr. Leveque INTERVIEWS & ARTICLES

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Judith Avery,RN April 8, 2012 11:04 pm (Pacific time)

Eye-opening info!Iam 70 now, and appalled at the scope of this problem.Shame on the military,the VA and the federal government!!!!

Angel's daughter June 5, 2008 1:50 pm (Pacific time)

In 1985 - 1987, Mom, an Angel of Bata'an and Corregidor, was in the Seattle V.A. hospital and the Tacoma V.A. Nursing home facility. The Seattle VA treated her like royalty (after the mediocre - poor treatment my dad received there.) The Tacoma American Lake facility took excellent care of her and made her last days comfortable, however the staff had communications problems. I noticed the nursing staff heard, saw and learned one thing, and the doctors heard and saw something entirely different. (Thank goodness for the nurses.)

Angel's daughter June 5, 2008 1:16 pm (Pacific time)

“When the first Vietnam POWs came home, Mom (Frankie) and Oz (Beulah P.) went to the VA and offered to come in as either nurses or civilians/former military to counsel the returning POWs. Those two certainly had the credentials and personal experience from Bataan, Corregidor, and Santo Tomas where they spent 3 years as POWs, to do it. They had their work plan drawn out - their plan of treatment was detailed in writing. The (Seattle) VA said, ‘No thanks, get lost, we will help them' .... Mom and Oz were frothing at the mouth because the VA had nothing better for the 'Nam POWs than they did in 1945 for them… Mom and Oz both saw those young exPOWs as "their boys" who they had to go tend, and the VA stood in their way of nursing "their boys…."

Angel's daughter June 5, 2008 1:11 pm (Pacific time)

From Corregidor “The men were so frightened that they were hiding inside the Malinta tunnel and they were desperately needed outside to fight the Japanese. Mom, with her background in psych nursing, was ordered to go deliver a pep talk to the men and get them outside to fight. Mom said that she had no idea what she was going to say to them, just that she had to get them fired up to go fight. She did it. She never remembered what she told them, but she always regretted it and judged herself to be guilty because it was she who sent so many to their deaths.”

Henry Ruark May 29, 2008 10:04 am (Pacific time)

To all: For me,same simple working rule applies here as for teachers in education. No NURSE, No decent care ! One without the other does not compute... May well be for some of same reasons, too, stemming from powers in control, always so ready to snatch away dollars for their own purposes, while leaving those in desperate need that much more exposed to desperate conditions. Too bad we do not have local boards responsible directly to voters --and vets and their families !!- thus vulnerable to wit, wisdom and WILL of the American public, too often left desperately uninformed on life's realities, while peddling serialized trash too often --including "pundit columns".

Pat Smith May 29, 2008 6:35 am (Pacific time)

I have mentioned this only a few times because it only results in denial and disdain; the -- wounds which go untreated because the topic is taboo and has gone unstudied – only results in denial and disdain. I remember as a teen meeting an all American new veteran who was still a teen himself at just nineteen. It was summer and he worked outside in construction, he always wore farmer jeans without a shirt in the heat. One day when they broke for a break, I took a snapshot of him and his very shy strawberry-blond haired girlfriend. That winter I found out the picture wasn’t perfect, to make a long story short; since his return home from war he was never able to have sex with his ex-fiancé. His battlefield scar was self hatred, disgust and guilt from being involved in a rape of a non-American female. He was just a kid when this happened and was so drunk, but he did sober up much at the end, he could not get off and vomited all over the girl. Today would his feelings be considered a form of PTSD? With the women overseas now, wouldn’t the rape of an American military sister in arms demand even more quilt? Many months later when I did learn of his suicide, I gave the snapshot to his old fiancé and explained his situation. She thanked me for learning he never stopped loving her, but couldn’t understand why he never told her what happened. I’ll never know if giving back the snapshot was the right thing to do, but this young girl’s mom was only full of distain for me for opening up old wounds for her daughter. Will I once again get nasty comments back here in this comment section of this newspaper for mentioning something taboo which is a reality that must be dealt with? I wrote this paragraph above in the brackets last week on an article concerning how some male vets now returning home had a very hard time with their sex life. I really wanted to post it on the articles concerning women vets receiving MST treatment at VA’s because it would not be an isolated incident to have a women vet sitting in the mental health clinic waiting to see her counselor and in walks the veteran that actually raped her along with his wife and two kids. The sad part is the VA already knows this is a reality that must be dealt with. I watched this happen and the poor girl (veteran) was placed in the psych ward while it was the wife that should have been. Then every doc, nurse and their mother started asking every woman vet at every appointment if we had been raped. This was back in the 90’s and they talked then about us women using the entrance to the nursing home instead of the main entrance. I’d never walk in any VA using the back door. Our VA here in Pa. never even had a MST counselor until about 18 months ago.

Carol May 28, 2008 7:23 pm (Pacific time)

It appears to me that there is an overall disrespect for veterans by the agencies which are supposedly in place to serve those veterans. I don't understand the implication that people are disposable. This nation is supposed to set an example that each individual (male and female alike) has value. The experience of our veterans would tend to demonstrate that, once a person has served and been damaged in some way, they should be discarded with no compassion. It seems to work out very well for the system. Its the veterans who, once again, carry the burden. May God bless all who have served and are serving in our military. It doesn't appear that the system is going to bless them. DC seems to think that they can pass some bill and walk away. What they don't understand is that people who are unwilling to or are incapable of implementing the plans simply do something else.

Nightengale May 28, 2008 6:02 pm (Pacific time)

These combat nurses were no-nonsense progressive democrats who know exactly what medical professionals are suppose to be, which would not include the loser who runs this country,  Thanks again Dr. Leveque for your service and for sharing your wisdom here with many of us who didn't have what it took to serve.


A Veteran May 28, 2008 4:15 pm (Pacific time)

God bless these soldiers who are willing to put themselves at risk to help others. I enjoyed reading this.

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