Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Joan Furey, who served as a nurse in Vietnam and pioneered a PTSD program working for VA.
In 1946, Joan A. Furey was born in Brooklyn, New York, as the second of five children. Her father served in the Army, fighting in Germany and France during World War II, and the family often attended parades and events celebrating Veterans. Furey knew from an early age that she wanted to be a nurse. At 14, she worked as a candy striper at the local hospital. Furey made her nursing dreams a reality when she graduated in September 1967 from Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing in Brentwood, New York. She began working in geriatrics at Pilgrim State Hospital.
“What struck me was the real sense of people getting hurt and injured and my being a nurse,” said Furey in an interview for the Veterans History Project. “I just had this sense, almost that I had an obligation, to serve.”
In spring of 1968, Furey joined the Army Nurse Corps. She attended basic training in July at the Medical Field Service School at Fort Sam Houston, where she learned Army protocol and excelled at medical training. Her first assignment was at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. There, she worked in the emergency room. She later transferred to the intensive care unit and treated wounded Vietnam War soldiers.
After deploying to Vietnam on Jan. 27, 1969, Furey joined the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku, located in the Central Highlands. She spent a year in the ICU and cared for American and Army of the Republic of Vietnam soldiers, as well as Vietnamese civilians.
In 1970, Furey discharged and received a Bronze Star Medal. She returned to school through the GI Bill and received her bachelor’s in nursing from Stony Brook University in New York followed by her master’s in nursing from New York University.
After earning her master’s, VA hired Furey to help pioneer a post-traumatic stress disorder program to help Veterans. She later became the founding director of the VA’s Center for Women Veterans, a treatment program in Palo Alto, California, designed to specifically help women Veterans. She served as director from 1994 to 2001.
Furey appeared in the documentary, “The Vietnam War,” where she was the only female Veteran to receive screen time. She is the author of several published pieces and co-editor of “Visions of War: Dreams of Peace,” a compilation of poetry by female Vietnam Veterans who served as nurses.
Furey currently lives in Sayville, New York. She remains active in Veterans’ activities via Sayville Post 433 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Thank you for your service!
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Katherine Berman
Editors: Katherine Adams and Brooke Wolfenbarger
Fact checker: Ileana Rodrigues
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley