Members of WWII nursing corps seek recognition

Photo courtesy of Eleanor Sargent   Eastern Maine General Hospital School of Nursing Graduating Class 1946. Eleanor Sargent is second from left in front row.
Photo courtesy of Eleanor Sargent Eastern Maine General Hospital School of Nursing Graduating Class 1946. Eleanor Sargent is second from left in front row.
By Joni Averill,
Posted Oct. 12, 2010, at 6:15 p.m.

Lest anyone think e-mailing is for only the young, let the elders lead the way.

I spent many enjoyable moments last week opening e-mail from a former East Machias resident who is on a relentless quest.

Eleanor Sargent, 85, and now a resident of Dover, N.H., is one of the remaining members of the World War II-era U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.

Established by the federal government in 1943, according to the Rochester (N.Y.) General Hospital website, the primary purpose of the USCNC was to ensure the U.S. had enough nurses to care for the needs of its citizens both here and abroad at a time when graduate nurses were entering the military service.

Eleanor was one of 180,000 young women who took the pledge, received their training and were deployed everywhere from U.S. Public Health Service facilities to military bases and civilian hospitals.

The quest for Eleanor and those who served with her sounds simple enough, but it needs congressional approval, and that has not been easy to obtain.

“What we’re trying to do is become recognized as veterans of the Second World War,” she said.

“We would like an honorable discharge and recognition as being a part of the U. S. Armed Services.

“Already people don’t know who we are, and we do not want to be forgotten as we did play an important part in World War II.

“And we don’t care about benefits,” she said. “We’re all so old, we’re about ready to die anyway.”

Eleanor believes there were between 120 and 150 U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps members from Maine, and she has been able to contact a couple of them.

However, what she really wants is to have families or friends of former USCNC members “get them registered at the Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

To do so, call 800-222-2294.

You need to supply the cadet’s maiden name, the year she joined and the hospital where she trained.

You can obtain a copy of the cadet’s nurse card by calling Marie Carpenter at 301-837-3091.

During the past 20 years, according to information Eleanor supplied, congressional bills to grant veteran status to the USCNC have died in committee.

The current bills in committee are HR 1522, to grant USCNC members veteran status, and HR 5483, to award the Congressional Gold Medal to USCNC members.

Eleanor urges everyone to contact their U.S. representatives to ask them to co-sponsor and support these bills.

Her USCNC story began when she graduated from Patten Academy in June 1943 and “went to work as a domestic, because we were very poor.”

“But the Lord works in strange ways,” she said.

A next-door neighbor met her, told her about the USCNC training program and helped her get enrolled the very next month at Eastern Maine General Hospital in Bangor.

Her amazing career (she retired as a nurse anesthetist at 79) took her from Island Falls to California to Down East Community Hospital in Machias and, later, to underdeveloped countries throughout the world with the Feed the Children program.

And it all began in 1943 with the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.

Eleanor knows time is short for this special group of women to receive the recognition they seek.

Being “one of the younger ones, still alive” who served their country during World War II, Eleanor hopes her country will officially recognize her and all members of the USCNC for their contribution to that war effort.

If you would like more information, you can e-mail Eleanor Sargent at egscrna@yahoo.com or Google U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, where you will find much more detailed information.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/10/12/living/members-of-wwii-nursing-corps-seek-recognition/ printed on July 30, 2014