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This is the fifth issue of Voices From the Past. My goal for each issue is to publish some highlights of one of my historical stories as well as an update on my activities. Please feel free to forward this e-newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
Lt. Colonel Frances M. Liberty
When “Lib” Liberty got promoted to Lt. Colonel, she bluntly asked her commanding officer, “Why me?” Lib was told, “Because everyone knows you’re a straight arrow -- someone who always tells the truth.”
Lib Liberty was much more than just a straight arrow. Frances M. Liberty was a US Army Nurse for 28 years, serving in World War II and Korea, as well as serving three tours of duty in Vietnam. Luckily for all of us, Lib was persuaded to be interviewed by Jake Landry as part of the New York State Veteran Oral History Program. That video is now on the web site of the Library of Congress.
There are many wonderful stories about Lib, often about dangerous situations she lived through. For example, during World War II, she accidentally arrived on the beach at Anzio as part of the first landing phase, where seven of her group of nurses died. In Korea, her hospital train was attacked by enemy soldiers on horseback.
But occasionally there’s a story about a soldier she nursed that she heard from later on. Like most nurses, Lib rarely got feedback from someone she had helped. Here’s my favorite story about Lib and a soldier she nursed.
When she was in Vietnam at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital as the chief nurse, Lib had to teach triage to her nurses; triage is when it’s decided which of the wounded are taken care of first. As Lib said, in her characteristic straight forward manner,
“They knew what to do. I had to teach them to do it.”
The goal of military triage in Vietnam was to patch up as many soldiers as possible as quickly as possible. The walking wounded and those who could be operated on by just one surgeon went first. The nurses supported the others, the severely injured soldiers, by giving them fluids and pain medication. When the surgeons were done with the first group, then two or three surgeons could be spared to operate on each of the severely injured soldiers. Hopefully those soldiers were still alive then. Lib confessed,
“I did something terrible. I would get the pretty nurses to wear perfume and sit with the severely injured soldiers who were waiting. I felt if the men were going to die, let them see an American woman that smells good."
Lib would periodically go over and relieve those sweet smelling pretty nurses. One day when Lib arrived, a nurse said she really had to go to the bathroom. Lib said,
“Take your time, get something to eat, walk around a little bit. I have paperwork to do.”
So Lib sat down next to a severely injured soldier. But before she started doing her paperwork, she absently mindedly started saying her rosary. She always had her rosary beads in her pocket.
Then the severely injured soldier complained, “What’s that noise?”
“That’s my rosary beads,” Lib replied.
“You don’t read, do you?”
“I can read very well, thank you,” Lib answered, atypically using a polite tone for the severely injured soldier.
“I’m Jewish – didn’t you see the H for Hebrew on my dog tags?”
Lib paused only briefly. “Do you believe in God?”
“Same guy,” Lib said very positively.
The severely injured soldier was still alive when it was his turn to be taken into the operating room. As he left for surgery, he abruptly said, “Let me have those beads. They may be lucky.” Lib said, “Oh, they’re more than lucky,” as she gave them to him. The next morning, when Lib started her shift, a nurse told her,
“You won’t believe it. The guy you gave your rosary beads to? He recovered faster than everyone else. He’s already on his way to Japan.”
Months later, Lib was back stateside working in a military hospital when a package arrived. She said, “I don’t know how he found me. I opened that package and found some new rosary beads with a note: ‘I’m keeping the others.’"
Two decades later, that soldier, then a vice president of a New York City bank, telephoned Lib. She said, “I don’t know how he found me again. He told me first, that my rosary beads are in an ashtray on his desk and nobody can figure that out. Second, he said that he was the grandfather of a new baby girl, born in Israel. He said he had talked about me so much that his son named his daughter Liberty Ann. I told him, ‘How could he do that to a kid?’ "
But then Lib cried.
Lt. Colonel Frances M. Liberty, a U.S. Army nurse during three wars, was a straight arrow with a big heart.
some more information about Lib Liberty.
News about me
I'll be telling Lib's story and others on Veteran's Day, Sunday, November 11, at 2:00 p.m. at the
Voorheesville Public Library, Voorheesville, NY. (518) 765-2791. This is a free program.
At the end of this week, I'll be telling Painters and Friends: Stories of Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent, Friday, October 12, 10:30 a.m.,
Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, 450 Moe Road, Clifton Park, NY (518) 371-8622 Free
. Learn the stories behind the paintings with storyteller Kate Dudding. Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent were friends as well as giants in their fields and obsessed with light. See images of their paintings while hearing about their work and their lives. I'll be including the story I listed in
my July newsletter.
I was very pleased to be notified recently that my CD
Lighting the Way Home:
Stories of Lighthouses and Their Keepers is a
Parents' Choice Approved Award Winner, one of only six storytelling CDs to receive a Parents' Choice award in 2007. Their review ends with: "In all, this CD contains an inspiring body of history, science, and math information associated with lighthouses."
Thanks for reading this issue. I’ll be sending you some more story highlights in a few month.
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Copyright 2007 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.