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OUR WWII STORY: Nurse shares cold memories of treating the wounded in tents

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To honor the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, American Legion Media & Communications Deputy Director Henry Howard interviewed surviving veterans, including Katherine Nolan of Worcester, Mass. Nolan was one of more than 60,000 members of the Army Nurse Corps who served during World War II. She came ashore at Utah Beach in July 1944 and treated soldiers, as well as concentration camp survivors, in the Allied march across Europe in the war’s final chapter. She passed away in 2019. Following is an excerpt from Howard’s 2014 article.

Katherine Nolan served as a nurse with the 53rd Field Hospital, which was attached to various infantry and armored units throughout the war. The field hospital team often had only four hours to find a new location, prepare medical tents and be ready to receive severely wounded patients. “Sometimes the incoming wounded arrived before we were ready, so you learned how to set up the hospital in the order they needed it. You improvised a lot,” she recalls.

The nurses’ primary mission was to keep the patients alive and warm. Two potbelly stoves generated minimal heat in the makeshift hospital. Nurses often swaddled patients like babies in whatever blankets they could find. It was hard work, especially given the severe winter. “I’ve been cold since the Bulge,” says Nolan (93 at the time of the interview).

Once a patient was stabilized, he would be evacuated to a full military hospital. “We never heard back about how they made out after they left us,” Nolan recalls. “We often wondered if they made it all the way home.”

Nearly 70 years later, she still wondered what happened to one patient in particular: Hamilton Greene, war correspondent for The American Legion Magazine. Nolan was mentioned in a story about Greene in the February 1945 issue. “There’s a nice girl nurse, Lt. Katherine Flynn of Worcester (Mass.), in charge of his ward,” the article says, referring to Nolan by her maiden name.

Nolan says Greene was a model patient. “He was in a lot of pain, but you wouldn’t know it. He always had a smile on his face. He was always very upbeat and, as it mentions in the article, he really helped me with the other patients because he had such a great sense of humor. You would never believe anything was wrong with him. But his wounds were worse than some of the others.”

Unbeknownst to Nolan, after Greene left her field hospital, he recovered fully. He picked up his correspondent duties, and was aboard USS Missouri when Japan formally surrendered. Later, Greene returned home to his wife and two young children and continued to work as a freelance illustrator.

Upon learning, after all these years, that he had survived, Nolan smiled and beamed. “That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”

To read “Our Man Ham Greene” in the February 1945 American Legion Magazine, visit legion.org/library/digitalarchive, click on the The American Legion Magazine link and search for February 1945. Greene, who had been writing and illustrating about the war for The American Legion Magazine, was wounded in the lungs and stomach during a sniper attack on Nov. 19, 1944. He met Katherine Flynn (Nolan) at a field hospital during his recovery.

 

The American Legion provides media tools; a chronology of the organization’s role before, during and after World War II; video links; graphic elements and more to help local posts honor the 75th anniversary of war’s end. Click here to download the media kit.

Participating Legion posts are also welcome to submit their stories in the “My WWII Story” section of legion.org/legiontown. They are also encouraged to add to their post histories on the national Legacy & Vision website at legion.org/centennial. Both platforms offer easy sharing for social media. Selected submissions will be edited for publication in the September 2020 American Legion Magazine.

 


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Memorial Day 2020: 'Remember, honor and be eternally grateful'

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The following is a Memorial Day speech American Legion National Commander James "Bill" Oxford has given in the past and has adapted for 2020.

We are here today to celebrate Memorial Day.

But it could be better said “lest we forget”.

If you are here today as a veteran who served this country,

YOU are to be commended. Thank you for your service, and the sacrifices you made in service to your country.

But, if you are here, today is not about you.

Today is about those who served this nation, and made the SUPREME SACRIFICE in service to this country.

The American military has served this country for more than 240 years. That service can never be understated or repaid.

That service has stretched from the American Revolution in 1775, to current service in more than 130 countries around the world today. And to this day Americans continue to die on foreign soil.

Sadly, none of the men and women who have died in service to this nation can be replaced. There have been more than 1 million of them.

But their sacrifices must be remembered, and honored.

Most were young, in their prime. Husbands, sons, daughters, fathers, wives, mothers, uncles. They all left a nation that will be forever in their debt.

Picture this in your mind’s eye.

The empty seat at the dinner table.

Opening presents at Christmas with someone missing.

The Thanksgiving Day football game in the yard with the star player missing.

The daughter who has no father to walk her down the aisle.

All lost in service to you and me and this country.

I will have trouble with this, but I would like to introduce to a couple of personal acquaintances.

William L Lutz. I remember Billie, from the 3rd grade, he was in the 2nd. I still see his brother Eddie. I went to high school with Eddie’s wife Carolyn.

D Co, 1st BN, 46 INF, Americal Div, Republic of Viet Nam

Killed May 12, 1969.

Benny Prestwood, B Co, 1st BN, 1st Marines, Republic of Viet Nam. We played football on the same team in high school. I was a 10th grader, he was a 9th grader. Good running back, but the thing I remember about Benny, he carried the football funny, up and down, not front to back. Benny’s last letter to his family, 3 days after Thanksgiving, Nov 1968 was written on a c-ration box because paper was so scarce in the field. Previously wounded, he died Jan 9, 1969.

I got to Viet Nam in September

2006- SSGT Jason Ramseur had previously been deployed to Afghanistan, and had only been in Iraq a month when he was killed by an IED.

He was from my home town, I used to do the PA for the High school football games and I called his name many times on the football field. He was not a big guy on the field, but he terrorized running backs as a linebacker. And on the baseball diamond, I saw him hit a baseball into another zip code. Killed in service to this country

In 2008, another 29 year old from my home town was killed when the vehicle he was driving struck a roadside bomb. He was a true southern gentleman, and proud of what he was doing. Robby Bowman’s family and friends all talked about his personal motto.

”My Life has a taste that the sheltered will never know”

Robby told the complete story when his little sister ask him why he had to leave again. “I go and do what I do so you won’t have to, my little princess”

At its core, Memorial Day commemorates the universal all-encompassing words from the Bible when it says-

”No greater love than this does any man have, than to lay down his life for his friends”

One more introduction.

1st Plt, Charlie Company, 26th Inf Regiment, 1st Inf Div, US Army.

On a motorized Patrol, a 19 year old Spec 4 was manning the machine gun on the top of an armored HUMVEE as they moved through the streets, high buildings on either side. You can see the picture.

Suddenly, though not-un-expectedly a grenade is thrown at the vehicle. It lands in the turret, and fell through the bottom opening in the turret, and fell all the way to the bottom of the vehicle where 4 other soldiers were riding.

What the specialist was trained to do, what he did, and why he did it is a different story.

Rather than save himself, Specialist Ross McGinnis, from Meadville, PA jumped down inside the vehicle, and smother the grenade with this own body. He died instantly, but the 4 other men were injured but survived their wounds.

In June of 2008, in the Oval Office, his parents were presented the Medal of Honor on his behalf.

An American hero by any standard.

But does any medal or award make the loss of their son any easier. I think NOT.

Oliver Wendell Holmes called Memorial Day, “Our most sacred holiday” and urged that “We not ponder with sad thoughts the passing of our heroes, but rather ponder their legacy”.

As we ponder the passing of heroes, Ross McGinnis meets every description.

These five deaths can never be repaid.

But, AND I ask you to consider this very carefully.

Can you consider the 4 other soldiers who lived because Ross McGinnis died?

Those 4 other soldiers, their wives, their children, and their extended families owe their WORLD to the young man who gave his life to protect theirs.

I knew Billy Lutz, Benny Prestwood, and Jason Ramseur personally, and Robby Bowman’s family pretty well, and I could describe how their death made me feel.

I suppose many of you here could relate the loose of close friends,

BUT, try as we might, we can analyze, dissect, discuss, review, BUT NEVER come up with a way to express the feelings those 4 other soldiers HAD and Will HAVE forever for Ross McGinnis.

We as Americans need to understand how thankful those 4 soldiers are, and realize we should feel the same way about every person who ever gave their life in service to this country.

Consider that, when we talk about this day, and the people who have given their life to preserve and protect this country.

Are we that thankful?

The Americans who have lost their lives in service to this country have not done so in vain, but for a bigger, and more noble cause.

To not only America, but to the world.

Only a few people choose the dangerous, but essential work of protecting this country,

We always need to remember, honor, and recognize those people who choose to bear the sword to defend this country.

We need to be thankful for their service and their sacrifices, but there is something else we need to realize.

We have a responsibility to carry on.

We cannot let those deaths be in vain. Take up that quarrel with our enemies, never give up, never abandon the American ideals, and always preserve the principals of justice, freedom, and democracy.

We have a responsibility to carry on, preserve and protect this country.

We all know America will always have people who wish us harm, and will never run out of enemies.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Be safe, practice social distancing.

Things are improving.

We will be better and stronger when the get through this national emergency.

But for Memorial Day 2020, we need to remember, honor, and be eternally grateful for those members of our society who lost their life protecting us.

God Bless American and God Bless the American servicemembers who have lost their life protecting her and us.


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Legion sponsoring online financial literacy workshop on May 28

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The American Legion is sponsoring an online financial literacy workshop from 11 a.m. to noon ET on May 28.

The workshop will cover the five core competencies of financial literacy and how to implement them into one’s own personal financial strategy; how to plan for five key threats to retirement security; and how to invest wisely to minimize risk.

The workshop presenter is Judy Viccellio, the president of V-Star Financial Strategies and a keynote presenter to the World Bank Retirement Seminars with over 28 years in the financial services industry.

Click here to register.


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Some Boys State programs going virtual in wake of pandemic

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Under different circumstances, the first American Legion Boys State program of 2020 would have been underway this week, as Tennessee Boys State had been scheduled to take place May 17-22 at Tennessee Tech University.

But Tennessee and most other Boys State programs, along with their counterparts in the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State programs, have canceled their 2020 programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, American Legion Boys Nation and American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation, both scheduled for late July in Washington, D.C., have been canceled.

However, two Boys State programs are trying to conduct “virtual” programs this summer, while others are considering the possibility of sessions later in the year.

Texas Boys State will take place online June 6-12. Delegates will begin initiating online accounts a week before, with tests of the technology the first week of June to ensure that it works under the stress of several hundred delegates and staff logging on at once.

“We’ve got a great crew that permitted us to batten down the hatches and wargame on whether we ought to do a virtual program and then would people come, can we make it engaging,” said Texas Boys State Chairman Casey Thomas. “It was never intended to be a replacement for the onsite; you can never duplicate what it’s like to have a thousand young men together, figuring out how to relate. … This is not a substitute, this is just a different version.”

Thomas expressed his gratitude to the Department Executive Committee for allowing the virtual Boys State to take place.

“We’re very grateful for the DEC to hear us out, to step out of the box a little bit,” he said.

About 650 students are expected for the virtual program, a little more than half the usual number who attend the program at the University of Texas.

“We’re very happy with 650, that’s plenty of young men to do this with,” Thomas said.

By eliminating parts of the schedule that just aren’t possible in a virtual program, Texas Boys State has been able to schedule more time for debate, he said. And only the top six state offices will be up for election.

“I’m excited because it’s still really meaningful,” said Thomas, noting that the program won’t be just logging in to watch slide presentations. Each day of the program will begin and end with city meetings; the statesmen will be divided into 16-18 cities for the week.

Likewise, Rhode Island Boys State is planning a virtual session to take place June 14-19.

“Once the (virtual) class is completely formulated, we will send links to each student registered for this year’s session,” said Rhode Island Boys State Director Ronald Levasseur.

Missouri Boys State leadership is holding out hope for an in-person session later in the summer. In a post on the program’s website, Director Matt Dameron said, “Although we are postponing Boys State, we are not giving up. Missouri Boys State leadership is actively working to develop an alternative plan providing some form of Boys State later in 2020. Any program scheduled for later in the year will comply with recommendations from public health officials and local authorities.”

Missouri Boys State was originally scheduled for June 13-20 on the campus of the University of Central Missouri. A decision on whether a later session is possible is expected to be announced by June 12.

Maryland Boys State noted on its website that it is also “exploring options for a possible program later in the summer.” Maryland’s program was originally scheduled for June 21-27 at McDaniel College.

Meanwhile, many programs are already planning for 2021, with some looking at the logistics of inviting those who would have attended this year to come to Boys State next year.

While the recommended guidelines for Boys State programs suggest that only males who have completed their junior year of high school and have at least one semester of high school remaining should be considered for the program, that doesn’t have to be the case. In a memo to American Legion departments, Americanism Commission Chairman Richard Anderson noted that Public Law 112-66, passed in 2011, amended the Legion’s federal charter so that “American Legion departments possess the authority to establish their own criteria for Boys State program eligibility, selection, participation and operation and should proceed with their respective programs accordingly.”


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Legion Riders provide socially distanced birthday surprise to 16-year-old

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Stay-at-home orders across the country have changed the way students have finished out the school year. Proms and graduations became virtual events, while classroom instruction turned to e-learning.

And for one 16-year-old in Inwood, W.Va., the coronavirus pandemic meant spending her sweet 16 birthday at home with no chance of a real party. But thanks to American Legion Riders Chapter 14 in nearby Martinsburg, the young woman still got a party, of sorts.

Paige, the birthday girl, had already gotten various birthday wishes from family and friends through social media, text messages and videos. And even her neighbors from across the street, American Legion Riders Chapter 14 Director Ken Moneagle and his wife Julie, had placed a banner on their porch wishing her a happy birthday.

But Ken wanted to do more. So he reached out to fellow Chapter 14 Legion Riders and arranged for them to show up that evening. A text message to Paige’s mom, Adrianne, brought the family outside, where a parade of motorcycles were coming down the street to their house. The group held up signs with birthday wishes, revved their engines, and stopped to give Paige a gift, sing “Happy Birthday” and talked with her.

Moneagle said Paige was “totally elated” when the Riders showed up. She had no idea. It was a pretty good, happy moment.”

Though none of the other Riders knew Paige or her family, Moneagle said the birthday surprise was an easy sell. “It’s just what we do in the community,” he said. “I told our guys, ‘we do a lot of things for the veterans, but we also do things for the community. And that’s important, to be seen doing good things in the community. If we want their help to come to breakfasts, to dinners or whatever we’re doing, we have to be supported by them. So why not support them?”

The effort made an impact on Paige and her family. “The only (Riders) who knew our family were Ken and his beautiful wife, Julie,” Paige’s mom wrote to the Journal. “All the other members of the American Legion answered Ken’s call to make a 16-year-old girl’s birthday special simply because they are good, kind people. These veterans served their country, and they continue to serve their community. Amazing.”

Service First, Fundraiser Follows. In addition to conducting a much-need blood drive, SSG Michael A. Dickinson II Post 257 in Battle Creek, Mich., has been performing a valuable service while raising funds for its programs.

Currently, Michigan residents aren’t allowed to return glass bottles and cans. Members of Post 257 have been collecting cans and bottles from residents to return them once restrictions are lifted.

“In about two weeks, we’ve collected an absolute mountain of returnable containers,” Post 257 Commander Brian Mohlman said. “Not only does this work as a great fundraiser … least every other person that makes a donation is eligible to become a Legion Family member. We’re thinking outside the box.”

More from American Legion Family efforts to support their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona

American Legion Riders from different Arizona chapters were part of a motorcade with Northern Arizona VA Health Care System (NAVAHCS) employees that made a 200-mile trip from the VA facility in Prescott to the Hopi Reservation to deliver boxes of food, bottled water and other donated products. The donations went to approximately 80 homebound veterans and their families who are members of the Hopi Tribe and the Arizona Tewa people.

Sixteen American Legion posts across Northern Arizona helped provide the donated goods.

California

• With some of services shut down due to the coronavirus leading to reduced staff, Laguna Woods Village retirement community had no one to raise and lower its clubhouse flags on a daily basis. American Legion Post 257 in Laguna Woods was contacted, and since then members of the post have been raising and lowering the flags daily.

• Newhall-Saugus American Legion Post 507, Santa Clarita Grocery and other local organizations teamed up to provide free lunches as a way to recognize National Military Appreciation Month. The effort resulted in 200 hot dogs provided to veterans and their families while observing social distancing. A similar lunch is scheduled for May 23. “The American Legion is a local organization located … dedicated to welfare of veterans, community service and patriotism, and this event pretty much melds all of those together,” said Sons of The American Legion Squadron 507 Commander Mike Merlo told KHTS.

Connecticut

Ezra Woods Post 31 in New Milford conducted a food drive to make a large donation to the Milford Food Bank. “Our goal is always serving the community, state and nation,” Post 31 Commander Jeff McBreairty said. “We hope all the food items will be enjoyed by many residents in New Milford.”

Iowa

In addition to serving up weekly curbside meals, members of Post 37’s American Legion Family in Ames recently heard that the vending machines at the Iowa Veterans Homes were out of snacks because vendors currently aren’t allowed to restock them.

Legion Family members collected candy bars, snacks and other treats and delivered them to the veterans home.

“It really does bring tears to the eye almost of how much people think about our residents, think about our veterans,” Aimee Deimerly-Snyder, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Iowa Veterans Home, told WHO-TV. “And it really does make a difference knowing people are thinking about them.”

Minnesota

American Legion Post 82 in Winnebago has been providing free meals three nights a week to any veterans or other community members in need.

Missouri

After spending two months in isolation, 91-year-old Korean War veteran Rita Jordan got a chance to meet with fellow members of Women Veterans of SW Missouri American Legion Post 1214 in Springfield.

In appreciation for Jordan’s service as a U.S. Navy interpreter and parachute rigger, Post 1214 charter members Mary Clapper and Chaplain Jan Lile presented her with a Quilt of Valor made by the Ozark Piecemakers Quilt Guild.

New Jersey

For the past six years, Morvay-Miley Post 524 in Ocean City has provided expense-paid vacations for returning military men and women, getting donations from both local residents and businesses to make it happen. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down some of those businesses, Post 524 decided to repay their generosity.

Instead of soliciting donations from local businesses for this summer’s Rest and Relaxation Program, the post is purchasing two gift certificates from every business that has donated in the past six years. The gift certificates will be given to the Rest and Relaxation vacation recipients.

“We want to support the people – the businesses that shut down and suffered,” Post 524 Rest and Relaxation Chairman Jerry Bonner told OCNJ Daily. “We want to support the people who have been supporting us.”

New York

• After a 32-day stay in the hospital, American Legion Rider Ron Jarvis was greeted as he left the hospital by nearly a dozen fellow Riders from ALR Chapter 574 in Hudson Falls. The Riders provided Jarvis with an escort home. “It was amazing,” Jarvis told The Post Star. “It made me proud of being a vet.”

• In Black River, American Legion Post 637 spent a Saturday afternoon grilling and then handing out 300 free barbecue chicken dinners. “You know, we are grateful and we love the Village of Black River. We do everything we can for the village, and the village does a lot for us,” Post 637 Commander John Charbonneau told WWNY-TV. “We just have a great bunch of people you can see, that enjoys everything they are doing for our Legion.”

• In Central Square, Post 915’s America Legion Family found out about a food program shortage in the Central Square Central School District (CSCSD), which feeds around 1,600 children who qualify for free or reduced meals. But that need has gone up since the coronavirus hit. So Post 915’s Legion Family presented CSCSD Superintendent Tom Colabufo with the check for $2,500 for the school food pantry.

• In the Bronx, American Legion Leonard Hawkins Post 156 and Boy Scout Troop 211 have been assisting City Island Strong in making home deliveries of groceries for local residents worried about going to the grocery store. The effort also is providing hot meals to residents.

Ohio

After the Dayton VA Medical Center went to a lockdown, allowing entry to only staff, patients and those veterans who use the facility for hospital care, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 526 in Fairborn was kept from delivering its normal volunteer services.

So Susan Masten, the American Legion Auxiliary’s Department of Ohio chief representative at the Dayton VAMC and a Unit 526 member, reached out to the facility to see what her unit could do to help.

A request for cloth masks for the facility’s outpatients to use was made, and the unit immediately responded by purchasing $300 worth of masks. Other Auxiliary units are donating funds to purchase more masks.

Oregon

American Legion Post 10 in Albany has teamed up with the veteran-owned Dot Ranch up to create the Veterans Pantry Project to provide food boxes to local veterans and their families. Veterans and their family members can pick up a box filled with fresh meats provided by area ranchers, vegetables and items from the American Legion food pantry.

Pennsylvania

• American Legion Post 952 in Hookstown has been providing homemade meals and food baskets for veterans and elderly residents in the community since the beginning of this pandemic.

• In Hollidaysburg, 14-year-old American Legion Auxiliary Unit 516 junior member Jada Singer has been helping make masks for veterans, health-care workers and community members in need of them.

Virginia

When Deborah Tokarz was looking for a kitchen to prepare meals for local medical workers through her “Feed Our First Responders” program, she turned to Major Charles A. Ransom American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian.

The post offered up its kitchen, and its American Legion Family members have begun helping Tokarz prepare the meals being distributed to area hospitals and emergency rooms.

“They’ve been so kind and generous,” Tokarz told the Chesterfield Observer. “If it wasn’t for their generosity, I’m not sure how we would have done this,” says Tokarz of the American Legion Post. “Everyone has a hand in it.”

In the past seven weeks, the nonprofit has distributed more than 19,000 individually packaged homemade meals to various health-care facilities.

“We figured that was the least we could do for the folks who are putting themselves on the frontline,” Post 186 Quartermaster Richard Hahn told the Observer. “I always tell people, the pledge we took never expires. We find a way, somehow.”

Washington

American Legion 143 in Twisp was recently contacted by the family of a veteran who recently had passed away. His family had been mailed the veteran’s casket flag, rather than having it presented to them.

So Post 143 First Vice Commander Keith Morden and Sergeant-at-Arms William Robinson coordinated a flag ceremony so that the flag could be properly presented to the widow, all while maintaining social distancing.


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