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Nana Kate
Poem Honors Grandmother's Service as WWII Combat Nurse

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Fellow combat nurse Laura Ball washes Kate Nolan's hair at a field hospital in France in September 1944.
Fellow combat nurse Laura Ball washes Kate Nolan's hair at a field hospital in France in September 1944.
Photo courtesy Kate Nolan


Kate Nolan, pictured recently with her granddaughter, Nooriel Nolan.
Kate Nolan, pictured recently with her granddaughter, Nooriel.
Credit: Cindy Carpien, NPR

When she was 14, Nooriel Nolan, now 22, wrote this poem about a photo of her grandmother, Kate Nolan, having her hair washed at a field hospital in France in 1944:

An innocent face stares out at me
Innocent, yet has seen everything
Death and wounds.

The screams...
From soldiers echo in her ears.
She sleeps on a cot, when she sleeps at all,
Uses her helmet like a sink to wash her hair.

It doesn't show her bloodstained hands...
Or the pain she feels for the men needing them.

She will be rewarded with five battle stars...
For her courage
This meant little compared to a smile
Of appreciation

Later she will meet a man,
Strong, also in the military,
Will marry,
Become mother of seven,
Grandmother to fourteen,
Great-grandmother to one.

She knows none of this,
This young girl
In the middle of a war.



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