It was a rainy September afternoon in the Colorado capital, when I was driven up to the fancy hotel that stood in the middle of the city. When the car was parked, I glanced briefly at my reflection in the window of the car. White hair, wrinkles, heavy dark bags under my eyes...boy, I've gotten old.
My driver opened my door, allowing the cold wet air to come rushing into the car. I shivered from the damp air. I pulled my shawl closer around my frail body as I took the extended hand from my driver as I exited the car. He held an umbrella over my head, as he closed the door behind me. He turned back to me, letting me hold onto his arm for balance as he escorted me into the lobby of this grand hotel.
When we entered, I looked around the inside of this magnificent place. It was pretty and clearly updated from the last time that I had seen it. To their credit, I was only a young girl when I first saw it, so...it could be my memory.
My driver had gone to the desk in the lobby to speak about where I was to go. I was there to meet with a nice young man, who had called and asked me to come in to talk about my experiences during the war.
I was led down the hallway to one of the many conference rooms inside the hotel. The smell of fresh coffee filled my nostrils and I began to warm by just the thought of drinking a nice cup. We turned into the conference room, and I took a seat facing the door.
My driver looked at me kindly before asking, "Shall I get you some coffee?"
I smiled kindly at him. "That would be lovely, thank you."
He smiled back and left to fulfill his offer. I sat there in the boring conference room alone. I wasn't sure what this individual would want from me but I was scared.
It has been a very long time since I had spoken about what I went through, who I had met, who I had seen get killed, and yet, here I am, about to break that silence. I didn't know how to begin and I wasn't prepared. I just hoped that my caller would understand.
The door opened and in walked a nice young man with two cups of steaming coffee. He must have run into my driver. I smiled as soon as he extended one of the cups to me. I took it from him with my wrinkled and shaky hands. He sat down across from me and stated, "It's a real honor to meet you, Mrs. Palmer."
I inhaled the rich aroma before suggesting, "Please, call me Emmeline."
The man smiled back. He exclaimed, "Emmeline. I must say that I am just...excited that you have agreed to meet with me today to share your story."
"I must ask, why the sudden interest?" I pondered.
He set his cup down and explained, "I've always had an interest. To be honest with you, I didn't think any of you had survived. The other veterans never mentioned you or the others. It took a lot of digging and searching to be able to discover that some of you did survive the war."
I smiled, cupping the warm mug in my hands. I replied, "No, I suspect that they wouldn't have. You see, they were protective of us. Even to this day, I suppose. Back in those days, it was considered inappropriate for young women, such as myself, to go to war. No one could fathom the idea...I think in today's society, it would be even more difficult to digest that this even happened."
The young man nodded, leaning back into his chair. He stated, "I am hoping to change all of that."
"By listening to the ramblings of an old woman?" I smiled at him.
He nodded, with a smirk. "Yes, ma'am."
When I stared into my coffee thinking of what to say and where to begin, he asked me kindly, "Is there anything that I can bring you? Anything to make you more comfortable?"
"No, thank you, dear." I set my cup down on the table before me.
He pushed play on his recorder that he withdrew from his pocket. He set it down on the table and stated, "Take as much time as you need. Start where you'd like, and let me know when you're ready for a break."
I swallowed, exhaling deeply. This was it. I thought for a moment before replying quietly, "I guess the best place to start is at the beginning..."
I took in a breath and started, "I was one of five nurses chosen to be part of this great moment in our history. It was said that if this were to work, there would be more nurses introduced into this field. We were selected based according to our age, our physical endurance, and our knowledge of medicine. The military placed us into five different areas of their divisions. Regiment, Home Base, Seaborne, Armored and Airborne. I was selected to be in the Airborne, more specifically, Easy Company."