From the Crimea to Vietnam: Generations of Veterans Appreciate Florence Nightingale

By Sue Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Adviser for Nursing (this is the latest in a series of posts by Hassmiller, who’s spending her summer vacation retracing crucial steps in Florence Nightingale’s innovative career)

This post is dedicated to Bob Hassmiller.

It is hard to believe that Florence Nightingale is not buried at Westminster Abbey. The offer was made, but turned down by Florence herself. For all the treasures she bestowed upon this earth while here, she was not one for a lot of pomp and circumstance. She simply wanted to do her work nonstop—to ensure that her voice was heard, and her lessons followed—but she did not want much to do with heroes’ welcomes, medals, or an honorary this or that. So in her will, and in the name of furthering medical science, she asked that her body be donated for medical research. 

However, it seems a compromise of sorts was struck at the 11th hour. Nightingale’s nephew, who was her closest living relative at the time, agreed to a “private” funeral at the very small St. Margaret’s Church in the tiny town of Wellow, which stood on the grounds of Embley Park when Embley Park reached more than 17,000 acres.

Veterans, then and now. Although not exactly what Florence wanted, he felt this was a compromise that Florence would have to live with . . . or should I say, die with. And so it came to be in August of 1910, a few months after her 90th birthday, that she was buried in the rain with the townspeople at her graveside—including one lone, very grateful veteran of the Crimean War, who remembered her from Scutari Hospital in Turkey.

This site: recommended we watch a documentary. We watched it at church, it included a reenactment of the funeral. It showed the brief service and how the elderly veteran turned and saluted, saying goodbye as he passed her tombstone, which was marked only with her initials, F.N. I looked at my husband, who was sitting next to me in the pew, and saw a tear come down his face.

I knew what he was thinking. The tear was partly for Florence, but mostly for his own experience in Vietnam as he remembered how nurses had saved his life when he lay wounded. He could relate to the veteran in the documentary. My husband is a real sucker for nurses, you see—and on that note, and with all my love, I dedicate this particular blog post to him.

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2016-11-21T13:16:37+00:00 July 16th, 2010|Nursing, nursing history|2 Comments

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  1. Bob Hassmiller July 17, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Linda, I didn’t think I’d get involved in Sue’s Blog, but for me, from Chu Chi, to Saigon, to Japan and the Army General Hospital at Valley Forge I will never forget the nurses and other dedicated healthcare professionals who not only healed me, but restored me to health. You all are wonderful!

  2. Linda Cronenwett July 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    A beautiful post to the blog today…with a tear from all of us who have been nurses for combat troups in way too many wars.

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