2023 March

Kathleen S. Burkhart Captain, USNR-r

I would first like to express my appreciation and thanks to Ms. Burkhart for sharing her story.

Kathleen Burkhart served as a Navy Nurse on active duty at Camp Pendleton 1978-81 and National Naval Medical Center - Navy Yard - 1990-91 (Desert Shield and Storm).

She served on Reserve Duty at National Naval Medical Center 1981-2003.

Read the rest of Ms. Burkhart's story below:

Your story has touched me, and I know it will touch many others. Your dedication and service towards our country is truly inspiring Thank you for sharing your story.


Why did you choose to serve as a Navy Nurse?

"I worked with a Navy nurse in my part time job, and she encouraged me. I also wanted to go directly into Emergency Room Nursing and the Navy said they could support that goal. Lastly, I knew another nursing school friend who wanted to go in the Navy, and we agreed to go into the “buddy system”- we were guaranteed to be stationed together for the first duty station."

What are some of the requirements to become a Navy Nurse?

"When I joined you need to have successfully completed an accredited nursing program and passed nursing boards."

Was your service on on ships or land?

"I spent 2 weeks on a small (125’) boat training midshipman at the USNA, the remainder of my Navy experience was in Naval hospitals or clinics. I did 3 overseas trainings 2 in Italy and one in Spain."

Ms. Burkhart,

Can you describe what training was like?

"I completed 6weeks of officer training in Newport RI-where I learned how to wear the Navy uniform, leadership, military customs-we had to pass a physical fitness test both on the land and in the water as well as written navy competency tests. There was a military pass and review, and we were releases to our first duty station-which for me was Camp Pendleton CA. Once we were in our job we received on the job training and in the field training which included combat training, triage, nuclear chemical and biologic warfare training and trauma training."

What are the differences between being a Navy nurse and other branches of service?

"The various branches of the service support sailors and soldiers and their family members that are assigned to the various branches Army, Navy/Marine Corp, Air Force/US Space Force .The Navy’s missions are mostly at sea/with Naval air support, the Marines are part of the Navy, and the Navy supports their medical needs. Army is a fighting force on the land. Air Force fights and protects US Air space, and the US Space Command supports outer space initiatives."

What rank were you in?

"I entered the Navy as an Ensign and was promoted through the ranks Lieutenant (junior grade), Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander, Commander with the terminal rank of Captain. It’s interesting but the Navy ranks are different from the Army, Air force and Marines. For example, a Lieutenant in the Navy is a Captain in the Army …it makes for some confusion when you are doing tri-service operations."

What types of injuries/illnesses did you treat and experience?

"I was fortunate to not have any injuries while in the service. I treated mostly basic primary care problems and preventative care for active-duty service men and woman and their family members. I also did annual physical exams and medical screening for service members deploying to combat as well as retirement physicals for service members leaving the service."

Is there a specific person that stood out to you? Is there a specific experience that stood out to you?

"Quite a few of my Navy Nurse colleagues remain my dear friends and it’s been over 43 years since we met. Serving together with them was one of the highlights of my nursing career. There is a special comradery between members who take the oath of office and protect and defend our constitution.

I think my 3 years on active duty at Camp Pendleton was a highlight as I was just out of nursing school. I learned to be both an excellent nurse as well as a naval officer.

The recall back to active duty in 1990 in support of Desert Shield and Storm was also memorable as a recall had not happened in many years. It was a bit scary and yet supporting the country when in need was truly an honor."

What is something you wish civilians understood about military service?

"I think the Korea War Veteran Howard William Osterkamp said it best” all gave some, some gave all” is very telling of the men and woman that serve in the military. Every one of them raised their hands and swore to obey and defend the US Constitution, all went through some type of general indoctrination, all were assigned a duty station and learned their job and executed their job to the best of their abilities. Some stayed stateside and some were deployed overseas, some saw combat. Many returned home in a coffin or wounded either physically, emotionally or both and many returned home forever changed by the impact of war. I know my life has been forever changed by my time in service. So the next time a civilian sees a Veteran my hope is they understand a little bit about what it takes to be a Veteran and spend a little time to ask them about their experience ….every one of them has a story just waiting to be shared."

Pictured above: Ms. Burkhart in combat training

Thank you for reading my story.

Kathi Burkhart

Served as a Navy Nurse 1978 - 2003 at Camp Pendleton and National Naval Medical Center

3/3/20234 min read