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Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
February 18, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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February 18, 1990

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PAGE 8 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC FEBRUARY 18, "Nurse," from page 1 us. Then I knew. We landed in Scot- land and got on a tiny ship called the Neuralia. We called it the "Neuralgia', it was so painful." As the nurses arrived at Normandy Beach, they were greeted by the pano- rama of war. "There were white crosses as far as you could see," Vroeman says. "I felt that underneath those crosses was a man from every state in the U.S., and I made a vow to God. If He would let me come home safely I would visit every state and every morning say a prayer for those men." Vroeman, now 77, is still praying for the soldiers who fell at Normandy Beach, and she accomplished her goal of visiting every state in the Union to honor those men. "I spent half my life saving to do that," she says. "I started traveling in 1950 and visited my last state in 1980, praying for whoever was in the grave from that state." Vroeman says that she never had a chance to feel sorry for herself or to be afraid during her service in Europe, because "the boys were so much worse off" than she was. relationship with God helped me understand things," she explains. "Those boys were worse off than I was, and I always knew that. But some of the nurses cracked up and had to go home. For instance, during the time.we lived in a bomb shelter under a building...some of them just couldn't handle it, but others of us could." Vroeman was well-equipped to "handle it." When she was 16 months old her father, a recent widower, left There were white crosses as far as you could see. her and her three-year-old brother with the sisters at St. Joseph Orphanage in North Little Rock. Reaching high school age, she became a boarding student at Mt. St. Mary Academy in Little Rock. "I worked in the kitchen at St. Mary's for my education," Vroeman recalls. From the MSM kitchen, she went on to earn her nursing diploma at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock, her IR II, It II @ H Martha Vroeman on duty Bachelor's from the University of Texas at Galveston and her Master's from Boston University. Returning to Arkansas, she taught nursingat the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkan- sas at Little Rock. "When you've done all that, you get an idea of who you are," Vroeman says. Like many nurses, she has a definite view of what and who she is. "Nurses are a different breed," she says. "There's consolation in the work that we do, and we're aware of the good we do. Man's idea goes by the wayside. As nurses, we feel different about our- selves. Nursing is the most creative, wonderful job in the world, dragging people out of the jaws of death." During World War II, however, a nurse's job was especially challenging. "We were protected personnel under the Geneva Convention," Vroeman says. "But that was violated. Nurses were taken prisoner." Her own life, however, has been an exercise in personal free- dom, beginning with an escape from her own handicaps. "I was accepted [into the military] on limited service, I had vision and hear- ing difficulties," she explains. "I told a colonel that I'd like to go over [to Europe], and he was amazed that I could function the way I could. He IL I W W during World War II. recommended me to go over." And go over she did, with the Eighth Service Command. "I walked into one ward and it was filled with what looked like old men, and I wondered why we were taking care of them," she recalls. "I walked up to one patient's bed and read his chart. He was a 20-year-old man from Rison, Arkansas. The men had been G.I. pris- oners, and had practically starved to death." Beyond the tragedy, however, Vroe- man says that war breeds a special kind of comraderie. There's consolation in the work we do, and we're aware of the good we do. "You're never lonely," she says. "And the men respected us beautifully. When you're "over there', you're "so-and-so', the "officer' stuff goes by the wayside." Now at home in Little Rock and a parishioner of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Vroeman has seen much of the world since her stint in war-torn Eu- rope. She has visited hospitals in Russia ("they treated us royally"), she has seen St. Peter's in Rome ("the pope could've sneezed on me, I was so close to him"), and she's been to France, Germany and Austria three times since the a jaunt to Greece and a few other for good measure. "When you've seen whole bombed, leveled and rebuilt," she J "it gives you an appreciation man can do." THE ARMY NURSE "What is a nurse?" the little asked, : As he walked in the hospital "A nurse is one who takes care the sick." Was his mother's quick reply. But she was anxious to get to husband's bed As she passed other visitors by. The boy's father had come battlefield, Where the enemy had left die. He looked at his son who watching the nurse, And a vision passed before A nurse, so bright, was there night They were bringing the She was dressing easing their pain, Not once - but again and The man looked at his son kept watching the nurse, And with a tear in his eye he "A nurse, my son, is so She really is hard to define. She's relief from pain. She'S for the lame, " And often she is eyes for the She's the one who can smile the 'going gets tough.' She takes Army life with a It's easy for her to be kind to men, Because her Commanding is God." Martha Vroeman R.N. (Written in France in 1945 whilt J tioned with the U.S. Army 168th Hospital.) ST. PATRICK'S MEN'S CLUB 0 0 II 4:30 - 7:00 PM in the Parish Center, 211 West 19th St., N.L.R Tickets at door; $5.50 adults, Kids under 12, $3.00 0 0 0 0 Carry out orders available 0 0 0 0 We prepare all kinds Of income tax returns, from the simple to the complex. Whatever your tax situation, we can handle it. Put us to work for you.