First nurses in VA’s history – in honor of Nurses Week

In 1890, VHA’s predecessor–the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers–hired its first women nurses at the Northwestern Branch in Milwaukee (known today as the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center).

Able-bodied men who were residents of the National Homes served as wardmasters, nurses, and assistant nurses prior to 1890. An 1880 National Home board of managers report recommended that two wardmasters be paid $15 per month and have supervision of all wards–day and night–under supervision of the post surgeons. “These men should be strictly temperate, skillful, good-dispositioned, intelligent, and faithful. The other nurses should be divided into two classes, viz, nurses and assistant nurses. The nurses should have $8 per month for the first year, $10 per month for the second year, and $12 per month thereafter. The assistants should have $6 per month for the first six months, $7 per month for the second six months, and $8 per month thereafter.” The National Home veteran population was approaching old age by 1900, so a solution to replace them as nurses was sought.

The nursing profession in America was in its infancy after the Civil War. Hundreds of women had served as nurses during the war, but most had no formal training. The first nursing school in America opened at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 1873 and taught Florence Nightingale’s philosophy and practices of nursing care. New nursing schools opened up across the country afterwards. Read the rest of this entry »

“SHOUT: Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services”

MAMF Special Projects Writer Caroline LeBlanc is seeking stories for:

SHOUT: Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services”

This anthology seeks first-hand experiences—good, bad, and in between—as an LGBT veteran or family member, during and/or after military service. Our goal is to create a book that will allow you to tell parts of your story that will also be helpful for others to read—others who live or want to understand the LGBT veteran experience. The last chapter of the book will list resources available to LGBT veterans.

Do not submit any materials previously published in print or online. Identifying information should be included in the body of the email only.

What Genres to Submit:

Fiction: up to 1200 words.

Non-Fiction (memoir, essays, and other non-fiction): up to 1200 words

Poetry: up to 40 lines.

Reviews: up to 1200 words about a movie, book, music, etc. that you think are important for others to know about.

Resources: submit information on resources you have found particularly helpful. (Name, webpage, telephone number, and services)

 You may submit up to 2 pieces in each genre. Each piece must be attached in a separate file. All pieces in a given category must be submitted in the same email. Pieces in separate categories must be submitted in separate emails.

Submissions are accepted between March 20 and June 20, 2016. For more information or for guidelines on how to submit, please visit:

 our projects website





VA History: Frank Hines

April marks both the birth and death anniversaries for VA’s longest tenured leader—General Frank T. Hines. He was born on April 11, 1879 and died on April 3, 1960.

-1Frank T. Hines was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and during his second year at the Agricultural College of Utah, in Logan, he enlisted in the 1st Utah Volunteer Artillery. He served with distinction in the Philippines during the Spanish American War and, after the war, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the artillery corps of the Regular Army. In 1904 he was promoted to First Lieutenant and in 1908 was a Captain in the Coast Artillery Corps. In 1912 he was detailed to the Quartermaster Corps.

During World War I was promoted to Major and detailed to the General Staff. In February 1918 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. President Woodrow Wilson nominated him as a Brigadier General in April 1918 and placed him in charge as Chief of Embarkation Services for the Army. He received the Distinguished Service Medals from both the Army and Navy for his proficient work during World War I. Read the rest of this entry »

VA History – Harry Belle Durant Stark – WWI Nurse –

-1The use of poisonous gasses proliferated during World War I with nearly one-third of the troops being exposed to them. We tend to think of only soldiers being exposed, but some nurses were, too. Harry Belle Durant Stark, an Army nurse, was one of the few known women to have been exposed to mustard gas during World War I.

-2Harry Belle Durant was born in Florida around 1891 and grew up in Alabama. She graduated from the Saint Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in Birmingham in 1911. She became a Red Cross nurse, serving first with the Mexican Border Service, before becoming part of the Army Nurses Corps during World War I. She was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from August 1916 to March 1917, before being assigned to Base Hospital No. 24 in Pittsburgh. She sailed for overseas war service in Europe on February 16, 1918 and was transferred to Evacuation Hospital No. 6 in France on July 22, 1918, where she served as Assistant Chief Nurse. Evacuation hospitals received patients directly from the front lines. She was exposed to mustard gas while working in the evacuation hospital and later returned to the U.S. in February 1919.

After the war she married Gustave Frederick Stark and started a family, but the effects from being gassed took a toll on her. At this time we know very little about her exposure, but everyone developed symptoms of some kind. In 1926 she was admitted to the Veterans Bureau hospital known as Castle Point in New York. After 1930 the Veterans Bureau became the Veterans Administration.

The prognosis for gassed soldiers and nurses was often grim, but varied, and was dependent on where on the body they were exposed, for how long, under what circumstances, and many other factors. Mustard gas could blister the eyes and skin, strip the lung’s mucous membrane, cause nausea and vomiting, and much more. Many veterans suffered from lung damage and ended up in tuberculosis hospitals. Some suffered brain damage and were admitted to psychiatric hospitals or committed suicide, and some, like Harry Belle Stark, never recovered the vigor of life. Numerous veterans who were gassed during the war spent years of their lives in veterans hospitals.


Harry Belle Durant Stark spent nearly 12 years of her life in the Castle Point veterans hospital and died on April 17, 1937. At the time, she had been in that hospital longer than anyone else ever had. She was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. We remember her service and sacrifice.

1937_Mrs Harrybelle Stark_gassed WW1 nurse dies_Castle Point_NYT96741824

1920_11_18_70k American gassed in WWI_NYT103496887

Photos: top right – Harrybelle Durant, around 1915,; left  – Harrybelle Durant Stark, around 1918,

From: VA Historian

The Museum of the American Military Family is compiling stories for a book reflecting on war…


Attention New Mexicans, who are serving in the military, are military veterans, are members of a military family, and would like to write about your experience in that capacity…

 Paul Zolbrod, Writer-in-Residence for the Albuquerque-based Museum of the American Military Family is seeking stories for its anthology “From the Front Line to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War.”

This anthology will include first-hand stories from all perspectives—service members, family members and friends who share their perspectives and experiences. Submissions can be about the recent Middle East campaigns, Vietnam, the Korean War era or World War II—and everything in between. All branches and ranks of the military should be represented.

How you can contribute:

Your story can be as long or as short as you choose. Just make it heartfelt, honest and interesting. We are looking for stories of trial and triumph and loss, stories that demonstrate the warmth and humor of military family life along with its inevitable tensions, offbeat stories that illustrate the variety that accompanies military life in war times–in other words– anything you want to tell of.

You don’t have to consider yourself an accomplished writer to participate. We will provide editorial services to sharpen your contribution.

The book will be arranged by stories of:

  • Pre-deployment,
  • Deployment
  • Post-deployment
  • Legacy & Aftermath

For more information or to submit a story, please e-mail Writer-in-Residence Paul Zolbrod at

The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2016. Tentative publication date is scheduled for the fall. All stories become part of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collection Library.



VA History- Dr. Ida Maria Stein – Nazi Germany Refugee – Walla Walla VA hospital

Seventy-five years ago, in the fall of 1940, Dr. Maria Stein became one of thousands of European refugees who fled certain death under Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime and came to America. No one could have predicted then that this German pediatrician would end up becoming the first woman doctor at the VA’s Walla Walla hospital.

Ida Maria Stein was born on November 11, 1893, in Altenburg, Germany. Little is known of Maria’s family and early life other than that her father was an affluent industrialist and her mother was Jewish. She  obtained her medical degree from Heidelberg University in 1917 and married an assistant professor from the University of Prague the following year. After she finished her medical internships, she served roughly 4 months as a volunteer physician in the Austrian Army during World War I.  After the war she worked as a pediatrician at the children’s hospital in Gottingen (Germany) under Dr. Friedrich Goeppert, father of future Nobel Prize laureate Maria Goeppert Mayer. Dr. Maria Stein was 10 years older than Maria Goeppert, but they became close friends. Read the rest of this entry »




Day in and day out, selfless and loving Americans provide care and support to family members and friends in need.  They are parents, spouses, children, siblings, relatives, and neighbors who uphold their unwavering commitment to ensure the lives of their loved ones shine bright with health, safety, and dignity.  During National Family Caregivers Month, we rededicate ourselves to making sure our selfless caregivers have the support they need to maintain their own well-being and that of those they love.

One of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens and people living with disabilities, and my Administration is dedicated to lifting up their lives and ensuring those who care for them get the support and recognition they deserve.  Earlier this year, older Americans and caregivers, as well as their advocates, came together at the White House Conference on Aging, which provided an opportunity to discuss ways to identify and advance actions to improve quality of life for our Nation’s elderly.  Through the Affordable Care Act, we are providing more options to help older Americans remain in their homes as they age, and the law is giving caregivers the peace of mind of having access to quality, affordable health insurance.  Additionally, I will keep pushing to make paid family leave available for every American, regardless of where they work — because no one should have to sacrifice a paycheck to care for a loved one.

When our men and women in uniform come home with wounds of war — seen or unseen — it is our solemn responsibility to ensure they get the benefits and attentive care they have earned and deserve.  Caregivers in every corner of our country uphold this sacred promise with incredible devotion to their loved ones, and my Administration is committed to supporting them.  We have extended military caregiver leave to family members of eligible veterans dealing with serious illness or injury for up to 5 years after their service has ended, and we remain dedicated to providing greater flexibility for our military families and for the members of our Armed Forces as they return home and handle the transition to civilian life.

For centuries, we have been driven by the belief that we all have certain obligations to one another.  Every day, caregivers across our country answer this call and lift up the lives of loved ones who need additional support.  During National Family Caregivers Month, let us honor their contributions and pledge to continue working toward a future where all caregivers know the same support and understanding they show for those they look after.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2015 as National Family Caregivers Month.  I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.