Palm Bay WWII nursing cadet, 94, presented military honors by Hospice of Health First
Jean Ostrow left detailed records of her World War II-era activities across the yellowed pages of her leather-bound diary, written in blue and black cursive.
Now in her twilight years, the 94-year-old Palm Bay hospice patient has been formally recognized for her years with the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.
The veteran pinning ceremony moved her son, Rick Ostrow, to tears.
"Miss Jean, we thank you for your service to our nation. Thank you for the sacrifices you made and your willingness to serve our country," Danielle Mims, Hospice of Health First volunteer coordinator, said during Thursday's event.
"You saved the lives of many soldiers so that they could continue to fight to maintain our freedom," Mims said.
Hospice of Health First personnel presented Ostrow a trio of WWII lapel pins, a folded U.S. flag, a laminated copy of her Cadet Nurse Corps membership card, and a handmade red, white and blue crocheted quilt during a ceremony in her living room.
"It's very, very nice to see Mom being honored. She's been quite a hero to me," said her son, Rick Ostrow, said, holding his mother's left arm.
Born in 1927, Jean Ostrow grew up in Escondido, California, just north of San Diego. She earned admission to the Cadet Nurse Corps at age 18 on Feb. 11, 1945.
Nearly 120,000 nurses served in the Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII to help alleviate a nationwide nursing shortage — but they are the only WWII uniformed service members who have not been formally recognized as veterans, according to the American Organization for Nursing Leadership.
"I've been doing hospice social work for like 25 years now. She is the first and only nurse cadet I have ever come across," said Mandi Walls, a Hospice of Health First social worker.
"And all the veterans that I've worked with, she's the first I've ever heard of it. So it was an honor," Walls said.
Ostrow's husband of 70 years, Sam, died in June 2019 at age 96. He served during WWII with the U.S. Army Air Corps, doing reconnaissance work.
Seated in a blue recliner, Jean Ostrow remained silent throughout her ceremony, save a handful of "yes" affirmative replies.
Rick Ostrow said his mother was raised on a citrus ranch — and she joined the Cadet Nurse Corps as a teenager "a little bit against the will of her parents." Thousands of U.S. troops wounded in the WWII Pacific Theater were transported to California.
"People who couldn't be treated in the field were flown back to the U.S. — San Diego was a major area," Rick Ostrow said.
"And so, there was a fair amount of gruesome things which she was involved in, bringing them into the hospital and getting them into their care," he said.
After graduating from the nursing corps in February 1948, he said she worked with premature babies in hospital children's wards.
"When I looked through her diary a little bit, I can see she had a lot of work with some pretty gruesome wounds and things from the war. But what sticks in her mind was the work with the children," Rick Ostrow said.