History of the Society of Air Force Nurses
The Society of Air Force Nurses (SAFN) is an incorporated 501(c) (19) Veterans organization, with 1500 members. Memberships include registered nurses who currently serve or who have served for any length of time either in the USAF Nurse Corps (Active Duty/Reserve/Guard) or as WWII Flight Nurses. The Society has members in every state and in many foreign countries. Members include veterans of World War II (some were Prisoners of War), the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Iraq).
Our motto, “Still Caring…Still Sharing” was conceived by Dorothy Devaney and aptly depicts our mission. SAFN is a social organization whose members enjoy close, caring relationships focused on reaching out to members in need and assisting our elder members in transitioning to their final years with grace and dignity (Outreach) and on celebrating the lives of, and paying tribute to, our members who have passed (Memorial). Our organization provides members who have in common their nursing profession and military service, an avenue for friendship, socialization, and the sharing of memories. As we can, we support those members who are experiencing difficulties due to illness or advanced age, or who are in crisis. We do this through visits, cards, and physical help when possible. In addition, we remember those members deployed to war by sending cards and care packages. We value our history and work to preserve the historical military and nursing experiences of our members and to capture as well the current activities and deeds of our entire membership. We preserve the memories of national conventions and regional/chapter meetings/events with keepsakes such as photos, videos, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia. Our organization’s leadership includes an elected executive committee, regional directors, and appointed committee chairs, and consultants who, together, are charged with meeting the needs of our members and preserving the well-being of the Society.
We have seven regions that include members in the United States and around the world. The leadership team shares information with members via our website, http://www.safn.org, and our biannually published newsletter, the Rendezvous. Biennial national conventions held throughout the country provide venues for our members to get news about the Society. Regional Directors/State Coordinators/Chapter coordinators send e-mail and mailed newsletters, hold Regional/State/Chapter meetings and social events to share information. In addition, to provide our members with updated contact information, the Society periodically publishes a membership directory in hard copy, as well as provides access to this information on the website. All of these activities continue to weave our members together in a network of communication, support and comradery.
In January 1986, in response to ongoing informal outreach activities by many nurses in San Antonio for fellow Air Force nurses in need of a support system, primarily for health-related issues, a group of 12 retired Air Force nurses gathered to form the Society of Retired Air Force Nurses (SRAFN). Specific contributions of our founding members are as follows: Ethel Nelson – Founder and President; Ona Mary Tucker –Vice President; Edna “Hoppy” Hopkins –Treasurer; Margaret “Peggy” Dame –Secretary; Marie “Andy” Anderson –Rendezvous Editor and Membership Directory Chair; Judith Smith –computerization of the membership list; Mary Covino – National Outreach Committee Chair; Olivia Theriot – National Memorial Committee Chair; Jeannette Marshall – first Patron; Jeanne Curtis – developed the original Society of Retired Air Force Nurses (SRAFN) seven-region organizational concept as well as the concept for the SRAFN logo; Shirley Galvin – made the logo a reality through her artistic talents; and Ethel Williams who, by her actions, as well as those of the other founders, lived our motto of “Still Caring…Still Sharing.”
The Society held periodic meetings; elected the first group of Officers and Board of Directors; and wrote and adopted Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, which were approved by the Texas Secretary of State. This began a worldwide membership drive, attracting approximately 1,000 members during the first 18 months. Of the initial members, 97% qualified as war veterans and, therefore, the Internal Revenue Service granted approval for the Society’s classification as a 501(c)(19) Veterans Organization.
SAFN designated seven geographical areas, known as Regions, and, within each Region, formed Chapters where clusters of Society members resided near one another. The purposes of the Regions and the Chapters were to unite members in their support of activities of the Society, to network, to share information, and to provide assistance to other Air Force nurses. Each Region had an elected Director who was a member of the Society’s Board of Directors and who was responsible for communicating with members in their respective Region.
Original membership was limited to nurses retired from Active Duty/Reserve/Guard as Air Force Nurse Corps officers. Dues were $10 payable each January. An Associate membership was available to Active Duty or Reserve Air Force and Air National Guard nurses. Associate Members could vote and were eligible for appointment as Committee Chairpersons but could not hold an elected office. Only retired members were able to hold elected positions. A formal election was conducted biennially with a mail ballot. Election results were announced and formal induction ceremonies were held at the Society’s biennial Conventions.
In November 1998, the Board of Directors approved the rental of a small office in the NCOA National Headquarters building in San Antonio, Texas. The office provided a secure location for storage of Society files and records, a meeting space for Board meetings, and work areas for Officers and Members.
On May 26, 2001, an agreement was signed to establish the World War II Flight Nurse Association, Inc. (WWIIFNA) as an affiliate of the SRAFN. This was an historic event since the WWIIFNA was and still is an organization of former members of the US Army Air Corps, the US Navy, and the Canadian Forces who served as flight nurses during WWII, predating the establishment of the Air Force Nurse Corps (AFNC).
In 2003, SAFN increased its membership dues to $20 annually that we were able to sustain until Society costs necessitated an increase in dues to $25 annually in 2011.
In 2004, the organization revised its bylaws to officially change the name from the “Society of Retired Air Force Nurses” to the “Society of Air Force Nurses,” and recruitment efforts were focused on capturing all Air Force military nurse categories now eligible to join the Society and to hold office.
In 2005, the Society launched its website, http://www.safn.org, in an effort to further advance timely sharing of information among members. Significant changes have occurred since 2005, in terms of website capability to include the ability of members to locate other members and the ability of leaders to communicate directly with members. This includes the 2012 creation of our member-managed SAFN Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SAFNdotORG
In 2013, separate web pages were developed for “Outreach” and “Memorial.” Additionally, items of interest and resources relevant to membership have also been posted on our website. All of these efforts have increased our ability to communicate expeditiously with our members. Potential members can either apply for membership on-line or can download membership applications from the SAFN home page. Applications are also available from any Regional Director and/or Board member.
In 2014, Judy Wood, a Rocky Mountain Region/Colorado Chapter member and local artist, designed a unique SAFN coin that is now part of our merchandise inventory.
Since 1987, Society Conventions have been held in San Antonio, TX; Tampa, FL; Reno, NV; Washington, DC; Tucson, AZ; Boston, MA; and Orlando, FL. The 1997 Convention returned to San Antonio, 10 years after the first one, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Air Force Nurse Corps. The Reno Convention (2003) marked the first joint convention between the Society and the WWIIFN, and the Colorado Springs Convention celebrated the Society’s 20th Anniversary and introduced a new SAFN flag and the SAFN–WWII FN banner that are now proudly displayed at each National Convention. Since then, National Conventions have been held in Branson, MO (2009), in Charleston, SC (2011), and in Portland, ME (2013), where SAFN was recognized as the first military nursing group to participate in the national Vietnam War Commemorative Partners Program. As partners in this program, all SAFN Regions will participate in at least two activities between 2015 and 2017 that acknowledge Vietnam service members in some way. The 2015 National Convention will be held in Portland, OR. These conventions provide reunion opportunities, social activities, business meetings, presentations, and entertainment for gathered nurses and guests. When military nurses get together, the war stories flow and moments in history are relived and shared.
Contributions to the Society are accepted and acknowledged in the form of Patron or Sponsor memberships. Donations also may be made to the Outreach/Memorial Fund either for outreach activities or in memoriam in honor of deceased Air Force nurses. Dues and contributions are tax-deductible since the Society is officially classified as a non-profit Veterans Organization. Dues, contributions and/or donations can be paid directly through the use of our website.
As you can see, the Society is rich with history and vibrant members willing to share their stories with anyone who will listen. We welcome you and we are glad that you have joined this wonderful “Caring” and “Sharing” organization.