Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Janis Nark, who served as a nurse during the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.
Janis Nark was born in Detroit and attended nursing school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after graduating from high school. When recruiters visited her nursing school in 1968, Nark became interested in the military. At 20, she joined the Army Student Nurse Program, which paid for her last year of nursing school.
After she finished nursing school, Nark completed basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Her first duty station was at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington, where she worked in the disease and toxic exposure ward and the orthopedic division.
Nark spent six months in Washington before deploying to Vietnam. She served in Cam Ranh Bay from 1970 to 1971 and worked 12-hour shifts most days. In Vietnam, Nark also participated in the Medical Civilian Assistance program, which provided aid and basic medical care to local civilians.
After returning to the U.S., Nark left active duty and joined the Army Reserve. She served at Fitzsimons Army Medical Hospital in Denver. She worked as a civilian nurse and a ski instructor during the winter. Nark also graduated from Army’s Command and General Staff College.
In 1990, the Army called Nark back to active duty for one year during Operation Desert Storm. She served at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in orthopedics. In 1992, Nark visited Washington, D.C., for the 10th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That visit inspired her to write “The Wall,” which she gave on Memorial Day in 1993 at the memorial in front of a crowd of Veterans and President Bill Clinton.
In her speech, Nark described her initial hesitation to visit the memorial in uniform, as well as her experiences serving as a woman and nurse during wartime and returning to the U.S. from Vietnam. She also shared how difficult it was for her to mentally heal from war and spoke about the burden that war places on individuals long after it is over. She concluded by discussing the importance of the planned Vietnam Women’s Memorial and her hope that it will offer a space for female Vietnam Veterans to find peace and healing.
In 1995, Nark retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel after 26 years of service. She is currently a member of the board of directors for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Nark also works as a fashion designer at her own clothing company and is a motivational speaker.
Thank you for your service!
Watch Nark deliver her 1993 speech, which begins at the 24:45 mark:
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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: Kimberly Kassis
Editor: Christopher Wilson
Researchers: Alexandria Davenport and Caroline Seyer
Graphic Designer: Helena Strohmier