Individuals throughout the country who unite in common cause to remember, honor and teach power Wreaths Across America. The sense of patriotic duty and a genuine desire to keep our nation's history a piece of the present get people involved in the mission. 

Our volunteers are remarkable and selfless in their work throughout the year to remember our fallen heroes, not just in December leading up to National Wreaths Across America Day. Wreaths Across America represents volunteer community service that's personal on many levels.

Dr. Julie Decker is an assistant teaching professor of Nursing at Penn State University, College of Nursing at the Altoona campus.

During her doctoral work with female veterans, Julie bonded with a "powerful and wonderful group of women." Even though she has never served in the military, the women took Julie in and "adopted" her as one of their veteran sisters.  Each year these women participate in National Wreath Day at Arlington National Cemetery, and they invited Julie to go with them just a few years ago.

"The rest, as they say, is history," Julie shares. "I was immensely moved by these women to see their dedication to honoring their military comrades. Upon seeing the masses of people at Arlington, it became a very emotional trip for me."

Julie says it was overwhelming to visit "Nurses Hill" in Section 21.

"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me. The greatest spark of emotion for me at Arlington National Cemetery was having the profound honor of laying the first wreath in that section on the grave of Col. Ruby Bradley,  one of my great nursing heroes." Bradley was one of the 77 nurses held captive by the Japanese during World War II. She went on to become one of the most highly decorated females in the U.S. military.

Julie is quick to point out many of the techniques still used today by nurses, such as triaging patients were developed as far back as the Civil War and beyond.  Julie shares this valued history of the contributions of military nurses as part of her undergraduate teaching curricula. She says a frequent reaction among young nursing students is, "I had no idea what military nurses did."

Throughout our history, military nurses, both male and female, have endured the same physical and psychological stressors in combat and captivity as the very soldiers they've treated from the battlefield. Nurses have sheltered and calmed the ill and wounded, friend or foe, and have restored humanity to a world of chaos. Many a young soldier far away from home has whispered with their dying breath final wishes and message of love for family to a military nurse.

Julie underscores that fact by sharing the story of 1Lt Sharon Lane whose body was found lying in protection over her Vietnamese patient in an American POW camp during the Vietnam War.

Julie is appreciative of the teachings of her parents, which she has handed down to her children.

"Growing up, my father had friends who were in Vietnam, and one of the greatest lessons they taught us was you always support your military because they're there at a minute's call to protect you," Julie explains. "Money was tight for us but starting in October with every payday we would buy things like lifesavers and beef jerky and things like that. Closer to Thanksgiving we sent a box to my father's friends serving. It really sparked something in me, and I've never forgotten that. My husband and I have instilled the same sense of commitment to honor our military in our children. That's why we love Wreaths Across America."

Julie strongly believes in the valor of the nursing profession and in the Wreaths Across America mission that she sees as a powerful force for good.

"Military members are our protectors," Julie expresses. "They must be honored during their life as well as in their death. Those men and women who have so honorably served this country should and must have their names spoken, and their legacy discussed whether it's a Private on up to a four-star General. These people have signed that blank check to defend our country and to protect us from our enemies both foreign and domestic. For that, we as a country must come together, and we must remember those who have passed away in service to their country. As Calvin Coolidge said, 'a country who forgets her defenders will soon herself be forgotten' and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to veterans both living and deceased."

Teaching about military history comes naturally to Julie and her family. She and her family have been living historians since her children were young. Her husband portrays Major John Britton, a Civil War surgeon; her daughter has moved up from the Civil War to portraying a WWII WAC and her son is also involved in WWII living history.

These are some of her family's living history photos Julie has shared with Wreaths Across America.

Thank you, Julie, for sharing your passion for the nursing profession and the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor and teach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More