Editor’s note: This is the second essay in a 10-part Women’s History Month series entitled, Honoring Our Nation’s Women Veterans. In February, we asked readers to submit essays about their time in service or women who have served our country.
Joining the U.S. Army Student Nursing Program in 1971 helped me complete my nursing degree at Arizona State University. Graduating in 1972, my first assignment was at Fort Carson, Colorado in the old cantonment-style hospital with 18 miles of ramps and corridors. Orienting first in a female surgical ward, I then switched to a Coronary Care Unit – which ended up being my key career focus as a Cardiac Nurse. That has taken me through over 37 years of active nursing as a registered nurse.
During my 22 years in the Army, I served during two wars, Vietnam and Desert Storm – yet was not deployed overseas for either. In 1972, the ANC required graduate nurses to be stateside for a year before deploying overseas. I had quite a few returning Vietnam troops under my care at Fort Carson. By the next year, they were returning nurses stateside from Vietnam and I was sent to Fort Benning. There, I participated in Operation Babylift where abandoned Vietnamese babies were flown to the states and assigned to foster homes or adopted.
For Desert Storm, my assignment at Fort Huachuca was Assistant Chief Nurse; to accept the Reserve staff aboard while deploying the Active Duty Nurses and Medics I oversaw. One of my biggest regrets was to send my staff off to war and to not be able to support them physically; to serve my country as an Army Nurse and participate in a conflict first-hand.
My overseas assignment included Korea where I had the privilege to adopt my daughter. In Germany, I attended to the injured when two planes and a helicopter crashed into the crowd at the Ramstein Air show. As a Major, I also participated in a four-helicopter formation training flight to Milano, Italy for a joint training exercise. I also maintained the Landstuhl Army Medical Center’s Nursing Readiness Team in response to the terrorism activities in the 80’s. I also experienced the Chernobyl explode while I was there. My final overseas assignment was six months in Honduras, living in a hooch on a Honduran Air Force base as Chief Nurse for our small American hospital – the patients being mostly Indigent Hondurans; and learning Spanish.
My positions were primarily Medical Surgical and Administrative, ranging from Intensive Care to supervisory duties. Highlights included the opportunity to see the world, make life-long friends and acquire a great education and experience as a Cardiac Nurse. Serving and retiring as an Army Nurse Corps Officer made my family proud as I was a first generation military.
Linda J. Hoge-Pattison lives part time on a sail boat in Mexico and is married to a retired Marine Corps officer.