Five years ago our mother was recognized in the Omaha World Herald for her service to our country during WWII. On that occasion she was a young 88 year old who lived by herself. At that time and for several more years she would frequently care for great grandchildren, tended her rather large garden and occasionally helped feed the men on the farm.
She would often say that she has lived three different lives. The first growing up as the step daughter of an Alabama share cropper after her biological father died leaving her mother to care for her and three older brothers. Later her mother remarried adding 4 more brothers to the family. She has remained close her Alabama family still communicating with nieces and nephews.
After graduating from high school she went into nurse's training in Birmingham. She performed her pediatric residency at the old Charity Hospital in New Orleans (the one that was damaged during Katrina). After graduation she and the other single nurses in her class were strongly encouraged to join the Army.
She found her way from Alabama to Nebraska via England and WWII. She took her military training in her home state where she met a young man from Nebraska. She claims to have spotted him across a crowed dance floor and asked a friend to introduce them. (My brother and I visited the location on the Fort Rucker Army Base during a family vacation.)
She was sent to England to be part of the build up for the invasion of France. She remembers German "buzz bomb" attacks that drove everyone to underground shelters. She has described to me helping deliver a civilian baby in the underground during a bomb attack. She remembers "the day" when airplanes like great flocks of birds passed overhead for hours on their way to fulfill their role in the greatest invasion of all time. She remembers the first casualties of D-Day as she worked in a MASH unit in England when the boats returned with the wounded.
She also remembers the day when it all ended and the lights came on in London. Bonfires were built and celebrations continued into the night.
Somewhere along the way she married the soldier from Nebraska in a small ceremony in London. The honeymoon was short lived and they went back to their military responsibilities. Later they resumed their lives home in America and settled near Sumner, Nebraska where she continued her nursing career for 35 years. Together they built a wonderful life for themselves and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; something for which we are all most grateful.
Over the years we watched our mother live a life of caring and compassion for others. Before it was considered "risky" she administered injections to people of all ages, attended to some of the elderly in Sumner and served as a "medical consultant" for most of the community when young mothers weren't quite sure if they needed to make the trip to Kearney for their child to see a doctor.
There are many stories that could be told about her service to others. The fact that so many people of all ages and from near and far are concerned for her well being is a testament to the life she lived.