The 2014 Nurse Bracelet

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Made with a service member's uniform button

Dedicated on the anniversary date of the Navy Nurse Corps. On May 13, 1908, the Navy Nurse Corps was officially established by Congress to help meet the health care needs of the Navy. Today, 106 years later, the Nurse Corps has grown from 20 women to over 4,000 active duty and reserve nurses of both genders.

In May 1908, after several years' advocacy by the Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Congress authorized the establishment of a female Nurse Corps within the United States Navy. By October, twenty women had been appointed to the Corps and were preparing for their initial assignments at several naval hospitals.

These nurses, who came to be called "The Sacred Twenty", were the first women to formally serve as members of the Navy. Representatives of one of the few professions then generally open to their gender, and one that had been growing in society's esteem for the previous half-century, Navy Nurses gradually expanded their number to 160 on the eve of World War I. In addition to normal hospital and clinic duties, they were active in training local nurses in U.S. overseas possessions and the Navy's male enlisted medical personnel. A few had seen brief service on board ship.

The April 1917 entry of the United States into the First World War brought a great expansion of the Nurse Corps, both Regular and Reserve. By the time of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, over 1550 nurses had served in Naval hospitals and other facilities at home and abroad, including wartime hospitals in the United Kingdom and France. Shortly after the fighting's end, a few Navy Nurses were assigned to duty aboard transports bringing troops home from Europe.

Nurse Corps' strength contracted to less than five hundred during the peacetime decades, but its duties were extended to include regular service on board Navy hospital ships. Educational opportunities for Navy Nurses were improved, part of a steady rise in their professional status within the service. However, recognition as Commissioned Officers, already achieved by U.S. Army nurses, did not come until World War II. Preparation for that conflict again saw the Nurse Corps grow, with nearly eight hundred members serving on active duty by November 1941, plus over nine hundred inactive reserves. - Naval Heritage and History