Honoring Veteran Army Nurse, Jean S.
Posted on November 11, 2015 by Kacey Roby
Nearly 70 years ago, Jean S. – a resident at Atria Evergreen Woods in Florida – returned home after serving as an Army nurse in the China-Burma-India Theater. For three years she cared for sick and injured soldiers in a bamboo ward stationed near an active combat zone. If you met Jean, you would understand what made her a wonderful nurse.
“Jean is very quiet, sweet and nurturing,” said Christina Barzelay, Senior Engage Life Director at Atria Evergreen Woods. “She’s been through a lot and handled it with grace.”
For her service, Jean was awarded a Bronze Star. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
For three years, Christina has asked Jean to accept the invitation to take the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. – a special trip for military veterans to visit the memorials of the war(s) in which they served. This year, Jean finally agreed to go on one condition – that Christina accompany her.
Jean was a new nurse graduate in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and she immediately joined the Army to put her new skills to use. After one year of service, she boarded a ship for India – the first time she had left her home state.
“I met my husband on the boat to India,” she said with a smile in her voice. He was drafted and served in the Army for four years in the China-Burma-India Theater. They never thought they would see each other again but they reconnected back in the U.S. She and her husband were married for 65 years when he passed away. They have three children, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Like many veterans, Jean is humble and graciously dodges words of thanks and appreciation. She felt she was simply doing the right thing for her country and our servicemen and women during World War II.
At 96 years old, she was a bit nervous about waking early, heading to the airport and spending a full day in our nation’s capital. She wasn’t sure about how far she would have to walk or if there would be stairs to climb. But talking to her after her special day, she confidently said, “They thought of everything – it was amazing!” And having Christina by her side as her official “Honor Flight Guardian” helped as well. “I couldn’t have done it without her. I thank Christina very much,” Jean said.
The special bond between these two ladies is undeniable. Throughout the day, as they visited memorial after memorial – Air Force Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial – they had a motto: “Us girls gotta stick together!”
While visiting the WWII Memorial, a tourist saw Jean’s name tag and stopped her. She wanted to shake Jean’s hand and share with her that an Army nurse saved her father’s life in WWII and she was grateful to all Army nurses.
“Jean’s very humble and she doesn’t like to brag about herself,” said Christina. “What she did was really meaningful. It was nice to see her accept it and feel it and know that she was appreciated.”
The best part of Jean’s day in Washington, D.C., occurred before getting on the bus to catch the flight home. Christina found the Vietnam Women’s Memorial – a memorial dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses.
Over the years, Christina has sent many veterans on Honor Flights and has visited the memorials herself, but it was a completely different experience to go with Jean and see everything through her eyes.
“She’s a really, really sweet lady, so it was definitely my honor to accompany her on the flight. It was a wonderful experience for me and something that I will certainly treasure,” Christina said.
When asked what advice Jean would offer to other veterans invited to go on an Honor Flight, she didn’t hesitate with her response.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I just wish that every veteran would go. It’s really worth it!”