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OPINION

Honoring nurses, troops extra special this year

By TOSH BARRON | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: May 8, 2020

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"Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

— Winston Churchill

It is now beyond dispute that America has a treasure trove of health care heroes, long overlooked. We can now recognize their dedication and we cannot but recognize the appalling havoc and disaster wrought by COVID-19. This is not hyperbole. It is so obvious that we are in the midst of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis across the world and right on our shores. The front line, medical professionals and those who make the hospitals function, they all have shown us incredible courage bolstered by their expertise, mental strength, dedication and sheer fortitude.

It is timely that May 6 to 12 celebrates nurses’ critical roles with National Nurses Week, with its distant connection to Florence Nightingale — who ministered to the British wounded in the Crimean War. (Nightingale was lauded for setting the professional standards for modern nursing.)

This month of May hosts another national recognition. It is Military Appreciation Month, honoring the sacrifices of the U.S. armed forces. In this unprecedented crisis, the military, all forces engaged, has quietly joined the civilian heroes in this new kind of war at home, and has pitched in on many fronts. They too should be lauded.

The armed forces are now a part of this army at home. There are too many efforts to cite, so here are a few of the engagements:

 The National Guard has contributed in every state, and has taken on a wide range of tasks from staffing emergency operations centers, flying urgently needed ventilators and other such critical equipment, providing mortuary affairs assistance, and distributing food in hard-hit communities — to mention just a part of their body of work.

 The Army, and especially the Army Corps of Engineers, planned and erected multiple temporary field hospitals (e.g. the 970-bed care center in Detroit and the 500-bed center at Javits Center in New York City) from concept to completion, and in short order.

 The Navy deployed their hospital ships, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, to Los Angeles and New York City, respectively. USNS Mercy crew members also provided assistance to nursing homes around Los Angeles.

 The Marine Corps provided security in several venues and assisted with the evacuation of embassy personnel.

 Similarly, the Air Force evacuated citizens and staff stranded abroad, including military personnel who became infected overseas.

 The Coast Guard had the challenge of working with the cruise ships, providing, particularly, advice on passengers who had become ill. They also treated the patients, including Italian citizens, with non COVID-19, and they flew back samples and swabs from Italy to be examined in the U.S.

These “organized” examples leave out the many above-expectation initiatives of individuals from all ranks that, while no surprise, highlight the strength and character of our military.

The U.S. military has renowned research labs, and they are teaming together, and also working with civilian labs, to crack the COVID-19 codes for the essential tests and vaccines.

Last but not least, we hail the brilliant teamwork of the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, who dazzled with their precision, and delighted so many. Unfortunately, they could not hear our roars of amazement and gratitude.

There are so many stories of grief and deep sorrow, of incredible teamwork, selflessness, strength and endurance. Our hope should be that the present sense of a much closer community, with our humanity shining through, will be lasting.

Tosh Barron is a member of the board of directors at the nonprofit Business Executives for National Security and a retired vice chairman of USAA.

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