By Amelia Thomas
The book ?Latter-day Saint Nurses at War,? a collection of first- and second-hand accounts of nurses, celebrates the contributions of nurses in wartime.
?These are extraordinary accounts of extraordinary heroes and heroines who cared more for others than they did for themselves,? said Lynn Clark Callister, co-author of the book.
?I am grateful to those who were willing to share their accounts and inspire others,? said Patricia Rushton, another co-author of the book and a veteran nurse of Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm.
Devan Jensen, executive editor of the Religious Studies Center Publications, said he and the Religious Studies Center Publications are very proud of the book. Jensen said the aim of the book is to communicate a legacy of caring that emerged through the service of nurses during wartime.
?We hope through this book to share their stories of uncommon courage,? Callister said.
According to Rushton, the book project began as an offshoot of the Saints at War Project carried out by Robert Freeman and Dennis Wright from the department of religion. Freeman and Wright had collected many veteran accounts, but very few nurses? accounts.
?The voices of women and nurses have largely been silent and not accessed,? Callister said.
According to Callister, Rushton had a vision of collecting the nurses? accounts and pictures and archiving them in Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library.
Freeman and Wright encouraged Rushton to go ahead with the gathering of accounts, and she embarked on the project of writing ?Latter-day Saint Nurses at War.?
Rushton and Callister said they reached the nurses in their book mostly by word of mouth, as nurses themselves or family and friends recommended them to the project. They also put notices in the Church News, the Ensign, among veteran groups, in hospitals, and in military reserve units. Furthermore, when they interviewed one nurse, they would ask if he or she knew anyone else that might be willing to share their stories. Rushton and Callister said the work is ongoing, and they hope to get more accounts of nurses who served during wartime.
According to Callister, the overriding theme of the book is “we did what we had to do.” Most of the nurses in the book said they were ordinary people who simply did what was required of them as professional nurses.
?They didn”t feel like they were heroes ? they just did what they were called upon to do, giving service to their countries and caring for those who were injured or ill,? Callister said.
However, Rushton identified a series of additional underlying themes that run throughout the book. First, nurses wanted to serve their country and their fellowmen. Second, their wartime military experience changed their lives ? it brought them closer to their families, made them appreciate their country and their freedom, and brought them closer to their Heavenly Father. Third, they tolerated and endured terrible conditions in order to serve. Fourth, these nurses became the leaders of the nursing profession as they worked to make working conditions better for nurses and helped bring about breakthroughs in medicine that would have a longstanding impact on patient care.
Rushton said the special part about the project was to witness men and women tell their stories.
?Some have never shared their experiences with anyone, not even family, and it is exciting to see them realize how special they are and the contribution they have made,? Rushton said.
Callister said she had one such special experience when she interviewed a nurse who had served in the Pacific during World War II. The nurse had never talked to her family about her experiences, but she had held on to amazing photographs, memorabilia and her nurses uniform.
?As we learned more about what she had done, we realized that she qualified for but had never received the Bronze Star,? Callister said. ?Working with her legislative representatives, she was finally awarded this medal over 50 years after she had earned it!?