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New book describes heroism of Latter-day Saint nurses in wartime

BYU professors compile stories for “Latter-day Saint Nurses at War: A Story of Caring and Sacrifice”

Steve McColley, a nurse anesthetist at the Salt Lake City Veterans Administration Medical Center, was serving in Iraq with a forward surgical team during Operation Desert Storm.

He and his unit had determined that they would assist anyone that came to them for help, not only U.S. soldiers but the Iraqi people as well.

One afternoon an Iraqi boy was brought to them with a terrible wound to his leg. He was bleeding so much that they weren’t sure they could save the leg. The unit had access to replacement blood, but it was not immediately available, so McColley began transfusing blood donated by members of his unit into the boy.

The boy did lose his leg, but his life was saved because of the charity of McColley and his unit members to provide and administer life-giving blood.

His account is one of many stories of heroic nurses in “Latter-day Saint Nurses at War: A Story of Caring and Sacrifice,” a new book compiled by two professors from the Brigham Young University College of Nursing and recently published by BYU’s Religious Studies Center.

The book is a collection of first- and second-hand accounts of the extraordinary exploits of nurses, who cared more for others than they did themselves during a time of war.

The desire to reflect on and pay tribute to these outstanding nurses led Patricia Rushton and Lynn Clark Callister, along with the help of Maile K. Wilson, a nurse in Alpine, Utah, to compile the stories and information.

“We hope, through this book, to share their tales of uncommon courage,” said Callister.

“The overriding theme of the book is, ‘We did what we had to do,’” she said.

“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,” says Callister.

Rushton said the special part about the project was to witness men and women tell their stories and experience the emotion those stories carried.

“Some have never shared their experiences with anyone, not even family, and it is exciting to see them realize how special they and their contributions are,” says Rushton.

Callister described interviewing a nurse who had served in the Pacific during World War II. The nurse had never talked to her family about her experiences, but held on to amazing pieces of memorabilia, including her nurse’s uniform.

“As we learned more about what she had done, we realized that she qualified for but never received the Bronze Star,” Callister said. “After working with her legislative representatives, she was finally awarded the medal more than 50 years after she earned it.

“These stories are extraordinary accounts of extraordinary heroes and heroines,” said Callister.

Another such hero, Ora Mae Hyatt, described the survivors of the Bataan Death March during World War II.

“They looked like skeletons,” she wrote. “Their physical condition was deplorable, and many were too weak to eat by themselves. Some would cry silently as we fed them as if they were babies.”

More stories like these are in the book, which is available at the BYU Bookstore and other Latter-day Saint book outlets.

For more information about the book or to volunteer a story, contact Patricia Rushton at (801) 422-5375 or Lynn Callister at (801) 422-3227.

Writer: James McCoy

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