World War II veteran tells her story to soldiers

Derek Kuhn - Seguin Gazette
Derek Kuhn – Seguin Gazette

Recently, the SS American Memorial helped bridge the decades between a World War II veteran and her modern day counterparts at the Lazy U Ranch in Seguin.

Former U.S. Army 1st Lt. Josephine Reaves spoke of her wartime experience as a nurse to about 30 soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center’s 264th Medical Battalion on June 25.

Of those there, approximately 25 were soldiers in training who are still learning about what it is to be in the military, U.S. Army Capt. Paul Roman, a chaplain with the 264th Medical Battalion, said.

“This is a time to reflect, a time to sit down and take a look at our history,” Roman said. “It’s a time to understand why they are in the military.”

Members of the medical battalion visit the memorial once a month, which provides a break from their intensive training, Roman said.

“These are AIT (Advanced Individual Training) students, so they are normally pretty locked down,” Roman said. “We’re force feeding them about 60 to 80 pages of information a day down their throats, and some of them are in AIT for a full year. Coming out here helps them recharge and reminds them about why they are soldiers.”

Navy veteran and SS American Memorial board member Craig Russell said giving the young soldiers a chance to relax while learning of previous generations’ sacrifices is what the memorial is all about.

“The reason chaplains bring these kids out here is to help them understand the seriousness of the job they are about to take on,” Russell said. “I figured that there’s no better person to relay that message than Ms. Josephine.”

During her time with the soldiers, Reaves recounted how she followed the fighting, tending soldiers wounded in military engagements, such as the D-Day landing at Normandy, Operation Market Garden at Nijmegen and the Battle of the Bulge.

The former Army nurse said while the war was fierce and terrible, she was more than happy to do her part.

“Someone had to take care of them when they got injured,” the nonagenarian said. “There were 14,000 boys who were hurt in Normandy, and it was our job, as nurses, to take care of them. No one mentions the 4,000 nurses who took care of them.”

Listening to Reaves speak inspired many of the soldiers at the memorial, Roman said.

“They loved Ms. Josephine,” he said. “They were captivated by her and what she was saying. She told them about her personal story, and it really motivated them. This was definitely a highlight for them.”

After speaking to the group, Reaves showed the soldiers some of her war memorabilia, including Nazi and nurse armbands, and the first post-Pearl Harbor edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

In between taking selfies with the service members, Reaves said she was very happy to speak to the soldiers.

“It’s an honor to be able to talk to these young soldiers,” she said. “They had so many questions and were very polite.”

Russell said the honor was his and the soldiers, who got to hear her story.

“For me personally, meeting people like her, getting her while it’s fresh on her mind to get it in front of these younger generations right now because, as she has told me, ‘Let’s plan for right now because tomorrow I might not be here’” , he said. “It’s a reminder of the sacrifices made to protect this country and make it great. It was an honor to host someone like her here.”

Moreover, Russell said Reaves embodies the spirit of the memorial and what they are doing at the Lazy U Ranch.

“We bring in speakers like Ms. Josephine who have that rich experience that can be shared with the younger generation,” he said. “It’s very important to us. She represents the most important facet of the memorial. She is the essence of what we’re doing here. That era was the defining point of world history and where we are today.”

Roman agreed, saying Reaves’ experiences will help make the trainees more well-rounded soldiers.

“World War II was such a standpoint of the U.S. saying ‘No, we are the United States of America and we will not allow somebody to attack us like that’”, he said. “We all pulled together. This memorial helps these young soldiers see that and apply it to their current situation. Many of the soldiers out here will deploy in the next year or two. We want them to know that they’re not deploying simply because of a piece of paper — it’s for something larger than themselves.”

With the reality that many of those she spoke to would likely go overseas soon, Reaves said she is still ready to help if called upon.

“I’d do it again, but they tell me I’m a little too old,” she said chuckling.>> Read Full Article and See Additional Pictures>>

Originally Posted: Wednesday,Sunday, July 3, 2016 12:00 am

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