EXCHANGE: World War II nurse remembers caring for the fallen
DECATUR, Ill. -- During World War II, it was every American's patriotic duty to serve the war effort in some way.
For many of the men, that was putting on a uniform and going to fight. For a lot of women, it meant joining the women's branches of each armed service, which were separate then.
H. Lorraine Eades, as she was known then, was finishing up nursing school at John C. Proctor Hospital in Peoria when an Army recruiter came to visit and asked the students if they would serve. On Veterans Day 2018, she and the women in that class represent a critical component of the war effort.
Of 12 young women in her class, 10 signed up, including Eades, who later married and changed her last name to Baer. She was commissioned a second lieutenant and a year later was promoted to first lieutenant. She served in Cirencester, England, at the 192nd General Hospital, caring for soldiers who were burned.
"They were in the tanks, and they couldn't get out, so they were real badly burned," said Baer, 99, who lives in Imboden Gardens now. "I remember two who were from Kentucky and they were friends, and both of them were there in the hospital for quite a while, then they got sent home."
Baer's brother was in the infantry, and her father had been a Marine. Service was a family tradition, and Baer served for two years, training in Rockford before being shipped overseas. The unit she was with was formed in Barclay, Texas. They shipped out as a unit and served as a unit, she said.
"I went over on the Amsterdam, it was a ship, and we stayed in Cirencester in the same unit all the time," Baer said. "I was in a general hospital. In the field hospitals, they moved around, but I was with a general hospital."
Because the soldiers were also part of her unit, she knew her patients.
"Can you imagine this person, who was raised in Leroy, a teeny-tiny little town and joins the Army, then gets on a troop ship and goes to England?" said her daughter, Krista Livingston, who is also a nurse. "That took some guts. She'd never been anywhere. It was a big deal to visit Peoria."
Baer wasn't so sure it took that much courage, she said. Everyone was doing something for the war and, she added with a chuckle, "We were young and foolish. They came around recruiting, and everybody was signing up."
She returned to the United States in 1945 and worked as a nurse until her retirement in 1985, raising four children with her husband, James, who had served in the Army Air Corps, the precursor to the Air Force. The two were married in October 1945, and James died in 1998.
In 2012, she went on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. She laughingly compared it to a school trip.
"They herded us on and off the bus and kept telling us where to go," Baer said. "They kept us busy."
She made a new friend on the trip, a fellow female veteran, and the two remained in touch until the other woman's death.
Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2z3EnaC
Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com