Sarah Angel entered the U.S. Army as a nurse in World War II, “hoping I could be of some help. I was not married.”
Angel, who’s nearly 99 and a resident at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, said she was training to be a nurse in her home state of Michigan.
She had three brothers who were in the service at the same time.
Her family had a large farm in Michigan. She helped on the farm but after completing her nursing training, joined the service “so that I could go on and help the wounded overseas.”
The dates of her service are unclear, but Angel was in her early 20s when she volunteered and spent two years in the military.
Angel planned to go overseas, but needed training to do so.
She took a train across the country, headed to Fort Lewis, Washington, to start her basic overseas training.
“We lived on that train and ate,” she said. “… It was just a lot of fun. We were sitting there, enjoying ourselves, (knowing) that we probably were going to see things that we couldn’t believe.”
When the train neared Boise, Idaho, her brother, who was stationed nearby, surprised her.
“He was running the whole time at the (train station), trying to get to the end of the train so he could kiss me and tell me goodbye,” she said.
After starting her training at Fort Lewis, Angel said she came to work one day and had about 65 patients, “and they said ‘well, we have an emergency group coming in,’ which was the poor people that had been imprisoned for at least three years over seas, and in the camps, the care was kind of poor. … I had never seen such sick men who had been imprisoned and were eating worms to keep alive.”
As they were carried off the plane, Angel said people from the Red Cross were crying, as were the medical staff and the patients.
“And then a lot of the families did not even know that their children had been alive,” she said. “… It was wonderful, in a way, that we could get them back. One of the things that interested me was that they were so thrilled to get over here, where family was. So we just started taking care of them. They would steal stuff to hide it because that’s what they did in the camps to save food for themselves.”
Angel ended up staying at Fort Lewis for almost two years. Then the war ended.
She decided to stay stateside after seeing “what came back from those poisoned places that they kept our men,” she said. “It was sad. It made you sad to see them, and they were so sick.”
After her time in the military, Angel said she returned to her normal life. She married and had children and has lived in Hawaii since 1987.
For Angel, Veteran’s Day means “a few tears, but I know we all did well and we have to continue because what happens along the way is still happening for our American guys that fought in the war. And they deserve everything they can get and that we can give …”
Angel’s daughter, Judy Migliori of Kona, said she was always proud of her mother’s service.
The history Angel would share was “really bleak, especially with the people that were prisoners in the war,” she said. “… That really meant a lot to me that my mom took care of them because a lot of women couldn’t do something like that.”
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.