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The Long Journey Examining the Past: Heartache & Happiness

I wrote a humorous book a couple of years ago called ORLY. The title is slang for “Oh, Really”. That is what people say after they read the stories. I’ve lived a very full life and it has been filled with unusual events. Many of my readers are convinced that most of the stories are embellished or straight out fantasy. I have received many requests for an ORLY 2 but unless you know Oprah Winfrey personally, selling a book is next to impossible. When Circe Olson Woessner, a brat that is involved with the Museum of the American Family found out that I’m an author, she offered to share the book on her blog to see if maybe she could get some sales for me. At the same time, she asked me to write a little bit about my brat history to share with the Museum. She said they are looking to hear our voices. I’m disappointed that what I have written is a little bleak. I wish I could have been just a little bit more upbeat but my voice needed to be honest for the words to ring true. Here is my story.

I’m an Army Brat and have just started the long journey of facing the past. I’ve been reading about other military brats and our stories are all the same. The thing I find strange is that none of them would change their childhood. There are parts of mine that I remember fondly but, overall, what I remember from mine is one heartbreak after another. Read the rest of this entry »


1st Lt. Adela Lutz

image0021st Lt. Aleda Lutz

Twenty-six years ago, on August 15, 1990, Congress enacted Public Law 101-366 to name the Saginaw, Michigan, VA Medical Center after World War II flight nurse, 1st Lt. Aleda E. Lutz. Saginaw was the second VA facility to be named after a woman. There are currently two VA medical centers named for women.

Aleda Lutz was born in Freeland, Michigan on November 9, 1915 to German immigrants, Fred and Margaret Lutz. She graduated from Saginaw Arthur Hill High School in 1933 and shortly afterwards entered the Saginaw General Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1937 and worked at the hospital as a registered nurse until February 10, 1942 when she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps. She was initially assigned to Selfridge Air Field near Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

In December 1942 she was transferred to the 349th Air Evacuation Camp at Bowman Field near Louisville, Kentucky, where she was part of the first group of women to train as specialized flight nurses. The first class of Army flight nurses—then called “air evacuation unit nurses”–graduated on February 18, 1943. She was then assigned to the 802nd Medical Air Transport Squadron, the first of its kind activated in the Army Air Corps, and deployed to North Africa.

She served as a flight nurse through the Tunisian, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns and logged over 800 combat hours flown. She was killed while evacuating 15 wounded soldiers to Italy on November 1, 1944, eight days shy of her 29th birthday, when her transport plane crashed near Lyon in southern France. It was her 197th mission.

She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, the Oak Leaf Cluster, Red Cross Medal, and Purple Heart, posthumously. In addition to the VA Medical Center name designation, a U.S. Army Hospital Ship and C-47 airplane have been named in her honor.

Aleda Lutz is buried in the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France, which is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Historian, Veterans Health Administration

 


The Company We Keep

By Paul Zolbrod, MAMF Writer-in-Residence

“How’re you doing?” I asked a fellow vet at the V.A. clinic this afternoon. He was on his way out, I on my way in. Like me he was hobbling with a cane, although he gripped his with his left hand, I mine with my right. He wore a brace over his right wrist, I mine on my left.

Once I greeted him at the far curb of the parking lot in front of the entrance, he stopped, looked me over, saw the same resemblance I had spotted, and smiled. “Not so bad, brother,” he said. “Under the circumstances.” We both leaned on our canes and rested before going our separate ways, ready to chat for a minute or so. As a rule it works that way; guys are always willing to connect–especially the older ones, the Vietnam vets, the Korean vets. There aren’t many WWII guys left, although those who can still get in and out on their own like to schmooze too.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

“Everything,” he replied, looking at his feet and cupping one knee, then looking back at me, still smiling. “Knees. Both feet numb. Shoulders all stiff. What about you?”

“Everything except one,” I laughed.” I’ve had one knee replaced, the other’s still pretty good.” I looked him over again. He was maybe two or three inches shorter than me, but a little rounder and wider around the waist. Hair about as grey as mine, his face about as wrinkled or a little less. “How old are you I asked?”

“Seventy three,” he answered, which made him Vietnam. “You?”

“Eighty-three,” I said. “Korean War.”

“Aw, c’mon,” he replied. “You don’t look it.”

“That’s because you guys had it rougher,” I said, still laughing. “Folks hated you, they only forgot about us.”

And so it went for a few more minutes–light-hearted talk, easy-going chatter, even when the matter was fundamentally serious. He told me about his sessions in the heated pool for his shoulders, me about the exercises I was doing for mine under supervision up in physical therapy, the mutual concern genuine, the well-wishing sincere. Then we shook hands and bid each other happy Easter, he heading for his vehicle, I going inside to check at Orthotics to see if the special shoes had come in yet custom made for my messed up feet. Infantry feet they call it up in that department.

That’s the way it is at the clinic–perhaps my favorite place in Albuquerque. I like to say I’m lucky to get such good care; everybody deserves that kind of health care, I like to say, where we’re treated with dignity, there’s very little paper work, and nobody talks about money. But I’m luckier still to enjoy that kind of fellowship. Nowhere else that I know of do people get along so well. You have to be one of us to understand.

I recommend visiting a VA hospital. You’ll see guys going in and out with canes, on crutches, in wheel chairs, carrying oxygen tanks. Some of us move slowly. Some have to be pushed. Some have to lean on a wife or a son or daughter. Some of us are old like me and some older, some so young I want to cry for them. But boy do we get along. We make eye contact. We smile. We joke and tease. Folks need to see for themselves how well men can get along. It’s that way with the women vets, too. Those differences disappear as well.

There’s a great lesson to be learned at a VA hospital. No matter how bad I may be feeling as I set out for the clinic, I feel better once I’m inside, which is pretty often now, thanks to the company I get to keep.


In Honor of the Ironing Board Brigade: THE SERVICE WIFE

Submitted by Marcia S Klaas, original author unknown

What is a service wife?? You might say the service wife is a bigamist, sharing her husband with another demanding entity called “DUTY”. When duty calls, she becomes wife number two. Until she accepts her competition, her life can be miserable.

Above all, she is womanly, although there are times she begins to wonder … Like the time when “HER” serviceman answers the call to duty, and she finds herself mowing the lawn. Then she suspects she is part male.

She usually comes in three sizes: Petite, plump, and more pleasingly plump. Amidst constantly changing settings, she finds it difficult to determine what her true size is.

A service wife is international. She may be an Iowa farm girl, a French mademoiselle, a Japanese doll, or an ex-Army nurse, but when discussing her problems with newly found friends, she speaks the same language and from the same general experience. Read the rest of this entry »


Memories of Mom in Post-War Germany

May 6th, 2016 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day–here’s a memory about an incredible military wife–and mom.

By James Kenderdine.

Postcards from when our family was stationed in Germany, 1947-1950. One of my last memories of Germany was when we were getting ready to leave in 1950, stopping on the Autobahn north of Frankfurt and getting out of the car to look south at what was left of the city. Rolling small hills (made of rubble) covered with grass and brush all the way to the center of the city. I could see the ruins of the cathedral in the center of the city from where I stood. When I stood in the same spot again in 1977, all I could see was the city that had been built since 1950, I could not see any part of the cathedral.

Our years in Germany shaped the lives of everyone in our family in ways that, 65 years later, my sister and I are still coming to understand and appreciate. My guess is that any spouse or brat who did not take the Army’s offer of evacuation during the Berlin Airlift feels that same. My mother said she was not leaving, that, in old army terms, “I can stay the winter, no matter how bad it is.” Watching her learn to shoot and MI carbine was fantastic, and to this day, I can still clearly see the image of her carbine, with a 20 round clip in it, round in the chamber, hanging by its sling next to her and dad’s bed. Read the rest of this entry »


VA History – Harry Belle Durant Stark – WWI Nurse –

-1The use of poisonous gasses proliferated during World War I with nearly one-third of the troops being exposed to them. We tend to think of only soldiers being exposed, but some nurses were, too. Harry Belle Durant Stark, an Army nurse, was one of the few known women to have been exposed to mustard gas during World War I.

 
-2Harry Belle Durant was born in Florida around 1891 and grew up in Alabama. She graduated from the Saint Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in Birmingham in 1911. She became a Red Cross nurse, serving first with the Mexican Border Service, before becoming part of the Army Nurses Corps during World War I. She was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from August 1916 to March 1917, before being assigned to Base Hospital No. 24 in Pittsburgh. She sailed for overseas war service in Europe on February 16, 1918 and was transferred to Evacuation Hospital No. 6 in France on July 22, 1918, where she served as Assistant Chief Nurse. Evacuation hospitals received patients directly from the front lines. She was exposed to mustard gas while working in the evacuation hospital and later returned to the U.S. in February 1919.

After the war she married Gustave Frederick Stark and started a family, but the effects from being gassed took a toll on her. At this time we know very little about her exposure, but everyone developed symptoms of some kind. In 1926 she was admitted to the Veterans Bureau hospital known as Castle Point in New York. After 1930 the Veterans Bureau became the Veterans Administration.

The prognosis for gassed soldiers and nurses was often grim, but varied, and was dependent on where on the body they were exposed, for how long, under what circumstances, and many other factors. Mustard gas could blister the eyes and skin, strip the lung’s mucous membrane, cause nausea and vomiting, and much more. Many veterans suffered from lung damage and ended up in tuberculosis hospitals. Some suffered brain damage and were admitted to psychiatric hospitals or committed suicide, and some, like Harry Belle Stark, never recovered the vigor of life. Numerous veterans who were gassed during the war spent years of their lives in veterans hospitals.

1915c_StVincentsHospital-BirminghamAL_ThosJayKempanc

Harry Belle Durant Stark spent nearly 12 years of her life in the Castle Point veterans hospital and died on April 17, 1937. At the time, she had been in that hospital longer than anyone else ever had. She was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. We remember her service and sacrifice.

1937_Mrs Harrybelle Stark_gassed WW1 nurse dies_Castle Point_NYT96741824

1920_11_18_70k American gassed in WWI_NYT103496887

Photos: top right – Harrybelle Durant, around 1915, blog.genealogybank.com; left  – Harrybelle Durant Stark, around 1918, familysearch.com

From: VA Historian