Longtime employee shares story of personal, family military service

By Mike O'Kelly

Yvonne Carroll, JD, RN, served in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the U.S. Navy.

Yvonne Carroll, JD, RN, served in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the U.S. Navy.

Yvonne Carroll had many jobs during her seven years in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the U.S. Navy, but her most rewarding effort was representing Vietnam War prisoners of war (POWs) at disability review board hearings in the early 1980s.

Many POWs suffered serious injuries from being shot down or captured. They spent years in Vietnamese prisons. If the POWs wanted to remain on active duty, the Navy allowed them to stay until they retired. The veterans were placed in the disability system upon retirement.

“They shared their experiences in the camps as well as their homecomings,” Carroll said. “It was a privilege to meet these men and to represent them at the disability review board.”

Carroll reached the rank of lieutenant commander in the JAG Corps, the Navy’s legal arm. She also served as a prosecutor, staff judge advocate and a medical claims attorney. Much of her work involved difficult conversations with enlisted members, veterans and their family members.

She brought these experiences of compassion and empathy to her work when she joined the St. Jude Hematology Department in 1999. One of her first jobs was informing parents that their children had sickle cell disease.

“Every skill you learn in life makes you a better and more competent person,” Carroll said. “I learned a lot about humility, compassion and what was important when I was in the military, and I learned how life can so easily slip away from us and those we love.”

A military family

Carroll chose to emulate one of her favorite cousins by joining the JAG Corps. He served in the Army, but she chose the path of her father, James Phillips—a World War II Navy veteran. There were no African-American officers during the war due to segregation, so her dad was an electrician’s mate.

“He never saw a black officer during his whole service, so the first time he saw me in uniform was pretty special,” said Carroll, who wears her late father’s dog tags alongside her St. Jude ID badge.

Carroll met her husband, John Carroll, in the Navy. He retired after 30 years of service and later retired from U.S. Customs. Both of her sons served in the military—Quentin Hogue spent seven years in the Air Force and Warren Hogue IV served in the Tennessee Army National Guard. Carroll’s great-uncle, Eugene James Phillips, was a fireman first class who was killed in a boiler-room explosion on the USS Delaware in 1917 during World War I. He was buried with military honors.

Carroll can trace her family’s history back even further—her great-great grandfather, Douglas McNabb, was a member of the 5th Regiment U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, an African-American regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War. His name is engraved on the Wall of Honor at the African-American Civil War monument in Washington, D.C.

Serving patients

After her military service, Carroll sought a new path and enrolled in nursing school. Her first job as a registered nurse was in the emergency department of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Many of her patients became St. Jude patients, and she soon developed a working relationship with the hospital. She was hired at St. Jude as a nurse case manager working with sickle cell patients.

Carroll now serves as director of Hematology patient services, sharing the hospital’s knowledge and resources regarding sickle cell and other hematologic disorders with the world. She compares the military’s custom of camaraderie to the inclusive care environment found at St. Jude.

“One of the things I first told parents when they learned of their child’s diagnosis was that they were not alone. ‘You’re here at St. Jude, and now you have a community. You’re not going to have to go through this by yourself,’” Carroll said.

“It has been both a privilege and an honor to work with the wonderful families and health care providers at St. Jude these past 20 years. I hope I can continue for many years to come.”

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