World War I Reconstruction Aides Made Veterans.

The reconstruction aides of World War I played an integral role in the war effort. They often worked 14-hour days caring for the wounded, with their workload growing as the war raged on. By the end of the war the aides had treated thousands of wounded.

After World War I ended, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker wrote to Marguerite Sanderson, who at the request of the US Army Surgeon General planned and led the World War I Reconstruction Aide Program:

In reviewing the work of the Medical Department of the Army during the war in the months that have followed the armistice, it has seemed to me that perhaps not enough recognition has been given to the group of men and women who accomplished such striking results in the way of reconstruction of the unfit and damaged men of our Army.

Of this group, I learn that you rendered conspicuously important service. Your assistance to the orthopedic surgeons in helping them lay plans for the training of women to undertake the reconstruction of injured men in the hospitals; your management of their duties and your efforts to fit them into the military establishment—all were to such good purpose that much pain was relieved, and the number of hospital days for many men was lessened, and the amount of their permanent disability was greatly reduced. This was a distinct contribution to the Army and to the country. (personal communication, February 1921)

Some 60 years later, reconstruction aides and dietitians who had served during World War I were finally given the recognition they deserved when they were granted active military status for their service and thus potentially became eligible for benefits administered by the Veterans Administration.

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