Catherine Freeman, formerly a registered nurse, plays cards in her room. Trained in anesthesia, she saved lives during the war. (Tiffany Chilton/Special to The Collegian)

By Bria Boykins
Staff reporter

Everyone knows at least one person who is a veteran, whether it is a family member or a friend of the family. So how do you celebrate that day for those people who risk their life for our country? Do you ever ask them their story?

Catherine Freeman is a veteran who helped saved lives during WWII. This is her story.

Freeman was a registered nurse before she decided to enroll in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Army program in 1943. She worked at a station hospital in Mississippi and was trained for anesthesia. After she finished her training in January of 1944, she was transferred to a station in Florida for a year and a half then went to work at several station hospitals in different parts of Georgia.

“I wasn’t scared. I signed up for a reason. I wanted to do something different instead of working in a regular hospital. I wanted to work with the Army, so I signed up,” said Freeman.

Although Catherine doesn’t have many memories, she does remember one incident that will always stay with her.

“I remember going Christmas shopping with the chief nurse and commanding officer. Of course, I wanted to grab a couple things myself. We were stationed in Savannah, GA. The chief nurse had two children and she bought the boy a bike for Christmas and she wanted to keep the bike a secret. But her car had stopped on us so we had to call her dad to help, but he never got there. So the chief nurse and I ended up pushing the car all the way back to camp while the commanding officer remained inside the car to try and start it. We finally got back to camp,” said Freeman.

Freeman is left with selected memories because of the lack of communication with her fellow veterans.

When Freeman was stationed in Georgia, she was issued orders to be deployed twice but couldn’t go because of a problem with her physical. Then she became ill. She came down with a severe case of hives and had to be hospitalized for a year. She was not fit for the service, so she was not able to continue.

“I remember at one point in time there were hospitals that were being attacked and all the doctors and nurses had to be armed. So I earned a badge for being able to shoot a gun. Before that, I received a pin and a badge for joining,” said Freeman.

With most of the stations closed Freeman hasn’t had the chance to visit any place she was stationed. Quite frankly, she doesn’t want to. Since she’s discharged, she continued as a RN at a local hospital until she retired.

“I got married four months before turning 40. I was almost married for 27 years but he passed away in 1982,” said Freeman. Her husband passed away from pneumonia.

Freeman doesn’t have any children, but does have a 102-year-old brother who also lives in the Kansas Veterans Home. Her brother has three sons, who she treats as her own.

“Since I didn’t have any kids, I treat my nephews as my sons. They do just a fine job,” laughed Freeman.

What does Veterans Day mean to her? “It doesn’t mean much to me now. I really don’t know how to celebrate it either,” said Freeman.

Freeman is 95 years old and still youthful. She spends most of her day reading the newspaper and visiting with her brother.

Bria Boykins is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at bria.boykins@sckans.ed.