COLUMN: Hill Supports Honoring US Cadet Nurse Corps

A recent column in The Salem News applauds Rep. Hill's support of the US Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act, and points out his recent work to honor a local cadet nurse in South Hamilton:

Column: Let's honor the women of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps
By Dr. Barbara Poremba

In the dark days of World War II, 180,000 young women answered the call to duty and voluntarily enrolled in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. As part of their intensive training at local hospitals, these uniformed nurses were assigned to live and work at military hospitals across the country, where they cared for seriously wounded soldiers returning from the war in Europe. They also provided 80 percent of the nursing for civilian hospitals while more experienced nurses were overseas working in evacuation tents. In 2017, a plaque was dedicated in Eisenhower Park, New York, and inscribed “They saved lives at home so others could save lives abroad.”

The corps operated under the U.S. Public Health Service and military and was active from 1943-1948. It is the only uniformed service that was not given veteran status on discharge. Think about that. Young women who enlisted in a uniformed all-female nursing corps in wartime, who trained and worked under military standards and who are credited with saving the health care system from collapse, have never been honored for their service to our county and consequently, are unknown to most.

That is wrong. In 1996, the first bill was introduced to address this oversight. But that bill and others have failed to pass over the next 22 years. This must be swiftly corrected as there are few members of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps still alive and those that are, are well into their 90s. Surely the cost of providing veterans benefits to these women would be minimal by any government standards compared to those provided to other veterans over their lifetimes.

Right now, there is a bill before the House of Representatives to grant veteran status to the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. HR 1168, the United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act, was introduced by Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, D-New York, and Congressman Leonard Lance, R-New York. Locally, it is backed by state Sen. Bruce Tarr and state Rep. Brad Hill, who recently honored cadet nurse Mary Maione in South Hamilton. Congressmen James P. McGovern and William R. Keating have also formally signed on as cosponsors.

Surprisingly, Salem Congressman Seth Moulton, himself a veteran, has informed cadet nurse Maione, now 94 years old, that he will not support this bill. This is a “great disappointment” to both her and her family who want to see her honored in her lifetime.

As a nurse, I would urge my congressman to reconsider his position on this bill. There are a number of nurses who I am sure will agree and who would see his help in passing this bill as supportive to the nursing profession.

I urge other nurses, veterans and those who have been cared for by nurses, to support the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act to finally bring proper honor and recognition to cadet nurse Mary Maione and other women of the corps for their service to our county in wartime. They took an oath and they met their obligation.

“As a cadet nurse, I pledge to my country my service in essential nursing for the duration of the war.”

Every day that is delayed in passing this bill is a dishonor to the service of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.