Joan Craigwell is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and a nurse who went on to become dean of a school of nursing. She devoted herself to counseling veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and improving conditions for nurses, women and people of color. A recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Brain trust Award, the National Disabled American Veterans Commanders' Award, and the Congressional Distinguished Service Award, she has been a champion for nurses and women in the military and in the community.
Joan joined the Air Force in 1961. She served as a nurse and flight nurse in many locations, including Vietnam. The experience that left the most enduring mark in her life was the Tet Offensive in January 1968.
I left the Air Force in 1968 and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for my outstanding service in Vietnam. Many people would choose to leave nursing after my experiences, but I continued my career at the VA medical facility in Palo Alto as a professor of nursing and served as the team leader for the VA Veterans Outreach Center in San Diego. With the assistance of other Veterans, I helped to orchestrate the first Stand Down in San Diego, which focuses on homeless Veterans and has since spread to other cities. I still work with homeless Veterans through my church and speak at community Veteran's events to be a voice for Veterans.