The Separated Widow

Today we laid my 2nd husband to rest. It was a emotional time for me. So many things felt. It’s no secret that he had hurt us. Before the hurt there was friendship and love though. Who ever said there is a fine line between love and hate truly knew what they were talking about in this instance. I cried today for the man I once knew, that friend who once cared, the soldier who who served us all.Once again I received a flag with the thanks of our President and Nation for service. Once again I jumped at the first shots fired as the salute was led, just like I did when I said good bye to my Dad. The tears ran down my face wile my hand covered my heart as the bugler sounded taps . The young Soldier could feel my hands tremble as he placed our flag in my hands and knelt giving sympathy with his words and eyes as I sat alone.

In this moment I couldn’t tell you that the thoughts going through my head are totally clear. I can say I said my good byes and cried the tears I needed too. Not only did I say good bye but I also let go of pent up pains and hurt.

I forgave a long time ago , but held on to the hurt. Not something I recommend any one do.

Today I say a prayer for the other separated widows like me. May they find peace as they move forward with their lives. May God wrap them in his love and guide them and me to be more like him. Amen.

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.

First nurses in VA’s history – in honor of Nurses Week

In 1890, VHA’s predecessor–the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers–hired its first women nurses at the Northwestern Branch in Milwaukee (known today as the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center).

Able-bodied men who were residents of the National Homes served as wardmasters, nurses, and assistant nurses prior to 1890. An 1880 National Home board of managers report recommended that two wardmasters be paid $15 per month and have supervision of all wards–day and night–under supervision of the post surgeons. “These men should be strictly temperate, skillful, good-dispositioned, intelligent, and faithful. The other nurses should be divided into two classes, viz, nurses and assistant nurses. The nurses should have $8 per month for the first year, $10 per month for the second year, and $12 per month thereafter. The assistants should have $6 per month for the first six months, $7 per month for the second six months, and $8 per month thereafter.” The National Home veteran population was approaching old age by 1900, so a solution to replace them as nurses was sought.

The nursing profession in America was in its infancy after the Civil War. Hundreds of women had served as nurses during the war, but most had no formal training. The first nursing school in America opened at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 1873 and taught Florence Nightingale’s philosophy and practices of nursing care. New nursing schools opened up across the country afterwards. Read the rest of this entry »

“SHOUT: Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services”

MAMF Special Projects Writer Caroline LeBlanc is seeking stories for:

SHOUT: Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services”

This anthology seeks first-hand experiences—good, bad, and in between—as an LGBT veteran or family member, during and/or after military service. Our goal is to create a book that will allow you to tell parts of your story that will also be helpful for others to read—others who live or want to understand the LGBT veteran experience. The last chapter of the book will list resources available to LGBT veterans.

Do not submit any materials previously published in print or online. Identifying information should be included in the body of the email only.

What Genres to Submit:

Fiction: up to 1200 words.

Non-Fiction (memoir, essays, and other non-fiction): up to 1200 words

Poetry: up to 40 lines.

Reviews: up to 1200 words about a movie, book, music, etc. that you think are important for others to know about.

Resources: submit information on resources you have found particularly helpful. (Name, webpage, telephone number, and services)

 You may submit up to 2 pieces in each genre. Each piece must be attached in a separate file. All pieces in a given category must be submitted in the same email. Pieces in separate categories must be submitted in separate emails.

Submissions are accepted between March 20 and June 20, 2016. For more information or for guidelines on how to submit, please visit:

 our projects website





VA History: Frank Hines

April marks both the birth and death anniversaries for VA’s longest tenured leader—General Frank T. Hines. He was born on April 11, 1879 and died on April 3, 1960.

-1Frank T. Hines was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and during his second year at the Agricultural College of Utah, in Logan, he enlisted in the 1st Utah Volunteer Artillery. He served with distinction in the Philippines during the Spanish American War and, after the war, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the artillery corps of the Regular Army. In 1904 he was promoted to First Lieutenant and in 1908 was a Captain in the Coast Artillery Corps. In 1912 he was detailed to the Quartermaster Corps.

During World War I was promoted to Major and detailed to the General Staff. In February 1918 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. President Woodrow Wilson nominated him as a Brigadier General in April 1918 and placed him in charge as Chief of Embarkation Services for the Army. He received the Distinguished Service Medals from both the Army and Navy for his proficient work during World War I. 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.


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,; left  – Harrybelle Durant Stark, around 1918,

From: VA Historian

The Museum of the American Military Family is compiling stories for a book reflecting on war…


Attention New Mexicans, who are serving in the military, are military veterans, are members of a military family, and would like to write about your experience in that capacity…

 Paul Zolbrod, Writer-in-Residence for the Albuquerque-based Museum of the American Military Family is seeking stories for its anthology “From the Front Line to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War.”

This anthology will include first-hand stories from all perspectives—service members, family members and friends who share their perspectives and experiences. Submissions can be about the recent Middle East campaigns, Vietnam, the Korean War era or World War II—and everything in between. All branches and ranks of the military should be represented.

How you can contribute:

Your story can be as long or as short as you choose. Just make it heartfelt, honest and interesting. We are looking for stories of trial and triumph and loss, stories that demonstrate the warmth and humor of military family life along with its inevitable tensions, offbeat stories that illustrate the variety that accompanies military life in war times–in other words– anything you want to tell of.

You don’t have to consider yourself an accomplished writer to participate. We will provide editorial services to sharpen your contribution.

The book will be arranged by stories of:

  • Pre-deployment,
  • Deployment
  • Post-deployment
  • Legacy & Aftermath

For more information or to submit a story, please e-mail Writer-in-Residence Paul Zolbrod at

The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2016. Tentative publication date is scheduled for the fall. All stories become part of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collection Library.