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The Historical PAth of Hispanic Army Nurse Corps Officers

Army Nurse Corps History Home > Army Nurse Corps Historical Documentation > Army Nurse Corps Newsletter Historical Articles

NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH
Proud to Serve: The Historical Path of Hispanic Army Nurse Corps Officers

September is recognized as National Hispanic Heritage Month. At this time, it is appropriate to take a glimpse into Army Nurse Corps History and recognize the tremendous service early Hispanic nurses made to our nation. A pioneer is defined as an innovator in any field, someone who blazes the trail, defines new terrain and territory. During WWII, a small group of Hispanic Women pioneered their path in the Army Nurse Corps. These women and all Army Nurse Corps Officers of Hispanic culture deserve recognition and appreciation for their courage and resolution.

In 1944, the United States Army inducted large numbers of Puerto Rican troops to serve in the Caribbean and South Atlantic Theater of Operations. This resulted in the Army's Antilles Department reversing their decision to not accept Puerto Rican nurses into the Army or Navy Nurse Corps. It was determined that Puerto Rican nurses could alleviate the growing language barrier in the hospitals. A plan to procure and commission Puerto Rican Nurses for service in the Army Nurse Corps resulted.

The Surgeon General's Office, the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Commissioner of Health of Puerto Rico and a group of reputable physicians collaborated to determine criteria that would be used to grant Puerto Rican nurses entrance into the Army Nurse Corps. Considering the impact of commissioning these nurses and its affect on the civilian population of Puerto Rico, the following criteria was considered during the selection of these nurses: the candidates were not holding key civilian positions, that the majority were not employed in government positions and that their private employers were willing to relinquish their services. In addition to this consideration, the Department Surgeon interviewed the potential recruits, investigating their educational and professional qualifications.

In accordance with the above criteria, thirteen nurses were commissioned into the Army Nurse Corps. They were Venia Hilda Roig, Rose Mary Glanville, Asuncion Bonilla-Velasco, Elba Cintron, Casilda Gonzalez, Olga Gregory, Eva Garcia, Carmen Lozano, Margarita Vilaro, Medarda Roasario, Aurea Cotto, Julie Gonzalez and Marta Munoz-Otero. These nurses completed assignments at the Post of San Jaun, P.R. and Camp Tortuguero, P.R. The Puerto Rican Army Nurses were applauded for their bilingual language abilities. Spanish-speaking patients expressed great appreciation for the nurses from their homeland that could speak and write letters for them in their native language. The nurses also received praise from the continental doctors and nurses.

Stepping outside traditional boundaries and exhibiting a tremendous desire to contribute their talents, this group of nurses served with pride. They provide all present day Nurse Corps officers with inspiration to meet the challenges presented to them. During the month of September, we recognize these women and all past, present and future Hispanic Nurse Corps officers who have proudly served and continue to serve throughout the world today. Army Nurses: Ready, Caring and Proud!

Historical Data located at the Army Nurse Corps Archives, United States Army, Office of Medical History, Office of The Surgeon General, Falls Church, VA.