Thursday, March 8, 2007

Barb Fuscaldo reflects love of military, recalls duty as nurse

Photo by Doug Davant Barb Fuscaldo has been serving the Dahlgren community at the Branch Medical Clinic for two decades.
EDITOR’s NOTE: This is the first of a four-part series on Women’s History Month by Jeron Hayes of the Naval Support Activity South Potomac Public Affairs team.

Few people at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren can say they don’t know Barb Fuscaldo. She is the Clinical Manager and Customer Advocate at Dahlgren’s Branch Medical Clinic, and was also the wife of Capt. Robert ‘‘Bob” Fuscaldo, a former commander of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and one-time chairman of the King George Board of Supervisors.

Barb has also been involved with the Dahlgren Officers’ Spouses’ Club, as well as other organizations, and is a great advocate for military members and retirees. But many don’t know that while Barb is part of the Navy family, she was first a young Army nurse who found herself in harm’s way in Vietnam. This is Barb Fuscaldo’s story, in her own words:

Little did I know that when I raised my right hand and was sworn into the Army Nurse Corp in 1967 as a naÔve 18 year old nursing student at a small Catholic nursing school in Fond du Lac, Wis., my life would be taking a new journey lasting a lifetime. I wanted to be the son my father never had but instead was the oldest of all girls.

My first duty after graduation was Fort Lewis, Wash., where I knew I was being prepared to go to war in Vietnam. After all, why else would they assign me to the nursery for seven months?

At the ripe old age of 20, I was on my way across the sea to my next assignment, filled with patriotism and a sense of adventure for ''seeing the world'' just as my detailer promised.....

I arrived in South Vietnam the night the Tet offensive started in 1968 and my biggest challenge for the next year was getting back home alive. My work involved a steady stream of sailors and soldiers coming through my unit with traumatic injuries I never envisioned.

I quickly learned to be a team member working with the best, making sure we got these ''kids'' home. It turned out to be a year both the best and the worst that would again change my life forever.

After being discharged and doing all the wrong things, I finally settled down in California and married a Navy man.

For the next 34 years, we traveled, raised four children and I continued my love of nursing in the military because I still had soldiers and sailors to bring home.

I have been asked if I would recommend a military career to other women - I had no idea where my enlistment would take me and there are no guarantees for today’s woman but I would say ''go for it''.

You will meet people that have a dedication to doing what they believe in and you become a family member to the biggest family in the world because they do take care of their own.

My best experiences being in the military were the people I have met and learned to love. Being in the medical profession also enables a woman to touch the souls of those in her care. I would say do not stop at nursing because today you can be anything you want to be so aim high.

Many years have passed since that 20 year old said ''I will'', but it has been the best traveled road, as again I have met incredible people and hopefully have made a difference to those I have and will continue to serve as a woman, a nurse and a military member.