Red Cross nurse saves my grandfather's life - 1918

My maternal grandfather, George Eriksen, was a "rough and tough guy" of Danish descent. He served as an Infantry Squad Leader (SGT) in the 3rd Infantry Division during WWI in France.
In the fights collectively known as the Battle of Chateau Thierry, the division attacked German positions north of the town and the Marne River. In July 1918 while attacking the small farm village of Ronchere (about 15 miles north of Chateau Thierry), a German artillery shell wiped out his squad and badly wounded him in the leg.
At a hospital in the rear, the surgeon told my grandfather that he would have to amputate his leg or he would die. My grandfather responded that he would never give up his leg. He was thus placed in a tent where the badly wounded soldiers who would not survive were taken to die.
An unknown Red Cross nurse took pity on him for some reason. Every day she would take bandages (against standing orders) and at night come into the tent to change his dressings and clean the wounds. He never knew her name, but he remembered her doing this night after night.
After a week or more when he was still in the tent waiting to die, but had not died, the doctors brought him out and began taking care of him in the hospital.
During this time, my grandfather's family received a telegram (which the family still has) informing them that George had been killed in action.
It was 5 months later, near Christmas, when George showed up unexpectedly at home in Nebraska still convalescing from his wounds. That was the first time the family knew he was alive. Imagine their shock!
My grandfather was not a wealthy man by any means, but he made it a point to contribute every year to the Red Cross. He never tired of telling the story. He could never repay in person the kindness of the unknown nurse, but he could and did give money to the organization she represented. He did this every year until he died.
I continue that tradition. The Red Cross is always one of the charitable organizations to which I donate money every year. God bless the memory of that unknown Red Cross nurse. Without her actions, I would not be here today.

« Previous story
Next story »