Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

It’s never too late to honor those who served the United States with great valor, especially during times of war and hardship. In April 2019, a group of federal legislators submitted a bipartisan, bicameral bill to honor cadet nurses who served during World War II. At the time, cadet nurses were not recognized with veteran distinctions, despite often serving in active warzones and filling a desperate need for medical care.

The U.S. Cadet Nurses Corps was founded in 1943, during World War II, to address the severe nursing shortage throughout the country and abroad. It made huge steps forward in removing barriers to women of color who were interested in becoming nurses. The program was open to all women between 17 and 35 years old who wanted to serve the country, and it provided training and education regardless of background. It was the largest federal nurse-training program in the United States and ran from 1943–1948. The program featured an accelerated training curriculum, helping more than 124,000 nurses graduate during its time.

Designation as honorary veterans entitles the nurses to receive veteran burial privileges, which are reserved among the nation’s most elite military ranks for outstanding commitment during a time of war.

“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation today with my colleagues to honor the women who served in the Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II,” Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) said.It’s only right that we recognize their actions and sacrifices, both at home and abroad, and grant them honorary veteran status. Our country is grateful for their service in its time of need and this piece of legislation is just one way we can express our appreciation for their efforts.”

Adding support for cadet nurses and the bill, U.S. Representative Troy Balderson (R-OH) said, “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Cadet Nurse Corps, whose service in World War II was instrumental to American victories.”

As this bill makes its way through the House of Representatives, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) plans to also introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.