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"One of my rules was that nurses were not allowed to cry. The wounded and dying men in our care need our strength, I told them. We couldn't indulge in the luxury of our own feelings." - Diana Dwan Poole, Army Nurse


November 11th marked another annual tribute to the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces over the years, our veterans. Although it is imperative that we honor these brave men and women who have risked their lives and continue to do so for our protection, it is our duty to extend that recognition to more than just an annual holiday.


One group that has been overlooked in the past is the combat nurses. In World War II alone, more than 59,000 nurses cared for the ill and fallen soldiers. These healthcare professionals have contributed greatly to our country. From aiding in military successes to serving as a catalyst in the Women's Suffrage movement, our nurses have played integral roles in the development of our country.


Nurses in the armed service are a very special community. As the opening quote demonstrates, they must sacrifice personal emotions and concerns to provide the exceptional care our soldiers require and deserve. One easily forgotten aspect of an army nurse's life is the opportunity she has to provide end-of-life care for many of America's heroes. Every day, military nurses are faced with challenges similar to those faced domestically: assisting in difficult surgeries, managing without adequate supplies, even struggling to keep facilities operating with limited funds. What differentiates these men and women is their ability to be a source of strength to an 18-year-old thousands of miles from home, to comfort a dying man who has yet to meet his newborn son, to reassure a solider that her last words will reach her fiance. The value of these nurses is immeasurable. They often are the last people to impact and care for our dying soldiers, and that should never be taken for granted.


Nationally, the Veterans Administration is creating statewide partnerships focused on increasing access to hospice and palliative care for veterans. These partnerships are a means to extend the recognition our veterans deserve. They will allow the successful integration of end-of-life care advocates, hospice, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) professional services to ensure that we can pay tribute daily to the men and women who have served our country by providing excellent end-of-life care. This year, nearly one fourth of all deaths will be those of veterans. It is our duty, as for all military medical professionals, to be there when our soldiers need us most.


The partnerships will be assessing the needs of the VA facilities throughout the country and using various methods to improve the veteran community's access to and knowledge of the services they are entitled to receive. The partnerships also seek to strengthen the relationship between VA and hospice organizations throughout the country to ensure that America's heroes receive the end-of-life care they deserve.


The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) is leading the way to salute all veterans, especially nurses who not only serve our country militarily, but also provide the compassionate care that often requires the sacrifice of their emotions, needs, and even their lives.


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. - John Fitzgerald Kennedy