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Dear Nurses — “Thank You For Your Service” Sincerely, Vets

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Opinion by Wes O’Donnell
Managing Editor of In Military, InCyberDefense and In Space News.

On the other hand, modern veterans remember the disgraceful way that our Vietnam-era brothers and sisters were treated when they returned home from Southeast Asia fifty years ago. Today, we genuinely appreciate the recognition from the American public about the sacrifices we make.

As of this writing, the world is in the midst of the worst pandemic in modern history. Despite social distancing measures implemented on a wide scale to slow the infection rate, daily new cases and daily deaths continue to increase exponentially.

The global economy has ground to a halt, with retail, travel and entertainment industries particularly hard-hit. Despite numerous contradictory forecasts and daily misinformation from elected leaders, there appears no end in sight at present.

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When this is all over, the societal scars of the COVID-19 pandemic will be visible for decades.

Heroics in the Face of Overwhelming Odds

And yet, the military has had, thus far, little to do during the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s not because we don’t want to get in the fight; rather, the battles in this new war are not being fought in Americans’ preferred warfighting domain, far from civilians. Instead, it’s being fought in hospitals all over the world.

Now, new heroes are emerging: civilian first responders, scientists, doctors and perhaps most importantly, nurses. According to a report by medical analyst Kent Sepkowitz, “Among the nine countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, the country that has the highest nurse rate also has the lowest death rate from the disease.”

In the Face of Severe Medical Supply Shortages, Nurses Are Increasingly Vulnerable

Nevertheless, nurses are feeling overwhelmed. Healthcare workers on the frontlines of this new war tell heart-wrenching stories of patients dying alone and of having to make excruciating decisions about who receives life-saving care because of equipment shortages. These shortages, quite frankly, were entirely preventable and their specter will hang like an albatross around the neck of the world’s preeminent economic and military power for years.

It is exactly because of this courage, performing their life-saving function while putting themselves and their families at risk, that we must celebrate nurses.

When this war is eventually won, thanks primarily to these unsung civilian heroes, we should build monuments in their honor. We should erect grand marble statues in Central Park or Washington D.C. that future children will point at, wide-eyed and with awe, acknowledging the sacrifices they made to save the nation from destruction.

Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash

As a former military servicemember, I am sitting this war out. Locked down and isolated, the best thing we can do to help our nurses is to stay home and not get sick. They desperately need time to procure more equipment and gain a foothold against a seemingly relentless enemy more cunning than any nurse should have to face.

We also need to speak with one voice when we say to our nurses, “Thank you for your service and thank you for your sacrifice.”

To the healthcare workers everywhere, when you are in the middle of a 42-hour shift, and there seems like no end in sight to new patients coming in the door, remember that a nation stands with you. We may be safely six feet away, but are ready to catch you if you fall.

The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent InMilitary, American Military University or American Public Education. 

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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