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BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks

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

A SALUTE TO ONE OF OUR OWN
BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks: 15th Chief, Army Nurse Corps
25 August 1923 to 24 November 2002

BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks

 

"The future evolves out of the present and past. To determine what the future developments and goals in nursing should be, I would have to look at where we are now and how we got there." BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks

"The nurse has served in every war since 1775. Nurses have always been in combat theaters.. As a nurse, you have to be where the action is.. where the patients are." BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks

Born in Jordan, Oklahoma on 25 August 1923, but raised in Texas, BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks, 15th Army Nurse Corps Chief, served over 29 years in the United States Army Nurse Corps. Parks career began in 1943 when she received her registered nurse's diploma from Corpus Christi School of Nursing. Spurred by patriotism, Parks and her twin sister, Margaret, joined the Army in 1944. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Nurse Corps, she completed Basic Training at Fort Meade Maryland and an initial tour as a staff nurse on the Eye Ward at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania. Her twin sister followed her footsteps in June of 1944, completing her first assignment in psychiatry. By August of the same year, the sisters were overseas. Parks assignment as an operating room nurse in a frontline evacuation hospital in the Po Valley front in Italy provided her with extensive experience. While overseas during WWII, Parks also served in India, Iran and Italy.

Returning to the United States in 1946, Parks left the military for civilian life and nursing. During this break in service, she worked with an ophthalmologist who she had trained with during her nursing program. In 1951, motivated by the outbreak of the Korean War, Parks applied to reenter the Army Nurse Corps. She applied for and received a Regular Army commission. Once again, Parks' twin sister accompanied her and they served together as staff nurses at Fort Polk, Louisiana. While expecting to receive orders to Korea, the sisters were surprised to find themselves assigned to Hawaii. From November 1951 until November 1954, Park had duty as an eye clinic staff nurse at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii. At the conclusion of this tour, Parks' sister Margaret left the service and married. Park was reassigned as a staff nurse on the Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat Ward at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where she served from December 1954 until February 1957.

At this juncture in her career, Parks completed the Ward Administrator Course. This administrative course was designed to prepare nurses for advanced supervisory positions. In May 1958, Parks was promoted to Captain. She served as Educational Coordinator at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Exhibiting continuing success, Parks was reassigned to Fort Sam Houston where she became an instructor and later the supervisor of Enlisted Medical Training at the United States Army Medical Training Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. While at Fort Sam Houston, Parks completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Incarnate Word College. She was promoted to the rank of Major in October 1960.

In 1961, Parks returned overseas with an assignment as the Chief Nurse of the 32nd Surgical Field Hospital in Wurtzburg, Germany. After a year in this position, Parks interviewed and was selected to become the Chief Nurse of the 62nd Medical Group. In this position, Parks coordinated nursing care for five hospitals and a large collection of clearing companies. The 62nd was the largest medical group in Europe. During an interview conducted in July 1992, Parks recalls setting up an Evacuation Hospital in the caves under Luxembourg City. The hospital set-up was part of an exercise with the French and Germans, one of the initial international medical exercises after WWII. Parks returned to the states in June of 1963.

From June 1963 until graduation in May 1965, Parks attended the Health Care Administration Program at US Army-Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Armed with her Masters in Health Care Administration, Parks became the Director of the Clinical Specialist Course at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. Parks stated that many dramatic changes occurred with the 91C program which she had intricate involvement. This assignment was considered her residency and she related fond memories of this year of her career. Parks was promoted in April 1967 to Lieutenant Colonel.

Upon completion of her residency, with a nation once again at war, Parks returned overseas. In June 1967, Parks began her tour in Vietnam. She was assigned as the Chief Nurse of the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. Parks was told that the hospital needed a great deal of work and she was the nurse to do the job. During her year in Vietnam, Parks was instrumental in the success of the 85th Evacuation Hospital. In her oral history interview, she recalls the disarray of the POW Ward and her actions to make it a functioning hospital unit. Parks stated, "We stripped that ward from top to bottom. I got one of my best ward masters and brought him over there and I got a young captain that was very good and put her in charge. So it turned out that much good came out of it." Although it was a year filled with anxiety and sometimes tears, Parks recalled her year in Vietnam as a tremendous experience.

At the completion of her tour in Vietnam, Parks was assigned to the Medical Field Service School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas as an instructor with a follow-on assignment as the Assistant Chief, Nursing Science Division and Assistant Professor, United States Army-Baylor University Program in Health Care Administration. Parks transferred to Fort Monroe, Virginia in March 1972 to become the Chief Nurse, Surgeons Office at Headquarters, Continental Army Command, United States Army (CONARC). In May 1973, Parks was promoted to Colonel.

With this promotion, Parks became the Chief, Department of Nursing, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She served in this position until her selection as the 15th Chief of the Army Nurse Corps in September of 1975, at which time she was promoted to Brigadier General (BG). During her tenure as Corps Chief, BG Parks was intricately involved in the evolution of the Army nurse midwife program and ultimately the advanced practice programs that followed. She also was an advocate for equal opportunity for nurses within the military and supported nurses in forward combat positions. BG Parks' greatest job satisfaction was seeing other nurses develop in their careers and reach their full potential. She once stated, "Some do, some don't. But if I've touched anybody's life, inspired them in their career, I've done my job."

BG Parks retired from the Army Nurse Corps in 1979. Upon her retirement, she resided in San Antonio, Texas. A longstanding supporter of the AMEDD Museum, BG Parks was a strong supporter for the preservation of military medical heritage. On 24 November 2002, at the age of 79, BG Parks passed away at her home in San Antonio. The Army Nurse Corps salutes the dedication, accomplishments, and selfless service of our 15th Corps Chief, BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks. BG Parks retired from the Army Nurse Corps in 1979. Upon her retirement, she resided in San Antonio, Texas. A longstanding supporter of the AMEDD Museum, BG Parks was a strong supporter for the preservation of military medical heritage. On 24 November 2002, at the age of 79, BG Parks passed away at her home in San Antonio. The Army Nurse Corps salutes the dedication, accomplishments, and selfless service of our 15th Corps Chief, BG (Retired) Madelyn N. Parks.

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