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Air Force nurses of today lay wreaths to honor nurses of the past

ARLINGTON, Va. -- On Dec. 8, the Society of Air Force Nurses gathered a group of active duty and retired nurses from around the area and headed to Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths on the tombstones of the nurses buried there.

The Society of Air Force Nurses is a Veterans program with more than 1,500 members that include Air Force registered nurses who have served on active duty, in the Reserves or the National Guard. 

One of our tenants is we will be there for each other, even in death,” said retired Brig. Gen. Linda Stierle, formerly the 12th Chief of the Air Force Nurses Corps and currently the national chair for the SAFN memorial program. “So we say that you will be remembered and you will not be forgotten. These people are not going to be forgotten. They're always going to be remembered even though they're gone.”

This event is part of a tradition the society does twice a year. The trip started with a stop at the Nurses Memorial, which oversees Section 21, the “Nurses Section.” While standing under the statue, the group of 50 read a variation of the poem “She Was There” by Duane Jaeger, a registered nurse.

“I think it's important for the active duty nurses to participate in this because these were the people that came before us,” Stierle said. “They paved the way for us, so I think it's important for the nurses of today to remember these individuals. It gives me great comfort knowing I'm doing this, knowing somebody else is going to do it for me.”

After reading the poem together, all of the nurses spread out into Section 21 with a wreath and a candy cane. Once they had placed the objects on the designated tombstones, they said a few words and offered a salute to the fallen Airmen. Some even took pictures to send to other nurses who couldn’t be at the event.

“The people who are here laying the wreaths are what we're going to be in the future,” said Maj. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, the current and 16th Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps. “This event gives us the opportunity to pay tribute and honor those individuals who are our history and give insight to those who are going to make our future.”

Hogg has participated in the wreath laying ceremony since 2006. She said she does it because it’s her way of honoring the nurses who helped turn the Air Force Nurse Corps into what it is today.

Visit our Facebook page to watch the live coverage from Arlington National Cemetery.