Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – New Jersey native Florence Parker always dreamed of being a nurse.
“So (my Aunt and I were) in downtown Philadelphia and there’s this big sign (that says), ‘The United States Navy wants you,’ and they had the nurse on there. I went in,” recalled Parker.
Schooling was expensive, so Parker decided to take another path- Joining the U.S. Navy Nurse’s Corps in 1953 during the Korean War.
“I got my mother’s signature, went back to my aunts, we went over to Philadelphia, gave them the signature, raised my hand, said ‘I do,’ and he said, ‘The nursing corps isn’t accepting anyone right now, welcome to the Navy,” said Parker.
Not exactly what she’d hoped for, Parker was enlisted into the Hospital Corps with the U.S. Navy.
She was off to Bainbridge, the Naval Training Center in Maryland for boot camp.
“We accepted it. It was just a group of a bunch of women. We had two girls from Samoa, we had girls from New England, all up and down the East Coast. That was boot camp,” she said.
Next Parker headed to Hospital Corps school, and then on to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, where she put her training to work until she got out of the service in 1954.
“We worked with the Corpsman, the Corpsman went to Korea. We learned how to do the same things they had to do over there. We never used them, but we learned how to do them,” Parker said.
“I took care of all different types of women and they were always nice. I enjoyed myself,” she recalled.
The passion to become a nurse came from when Parker was a little girl.
“When I was about 7 years old, my mother told me what she wanted to do, she wanted to be a nurse. So I told her, ‘Mommy, I’ll be a nurse for you.’ So I planned my whole life that way, to be a nurse for her,” said Parker.
Things came full-circle for Florence in 1976 when she went back and got her Licensed Practical Nurse degree from Gateway Technical Institute in Kenosha. She said that looking back, she’s glad she took the path that she did.
“I wouldn’t turn back time. Or I wouldn’t, how do I put it? I’m not sorry I did what I did. I’m not sorry I went into the service,” Parker said. “It was the best times of my life. I felt like I was free, I was free to grow up, I was free to learn to do things and I helped people. I was doing what I wanted to do,” she said.
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