Caring for the wounded

STATE CENTER – Wilma Eckhart doesn’t consider herself a World War II hero, but she did step up and volunteer service to the country in a time of need.

Eckhart, 90, served as an Army nurse in both Colorado and Kansas for two years during the war.

“I was never in harm’s way,” the longtime State Center resident said. “I feel I don’t deserve a lot of publicity. I’m just a country girl from the Midwest. The fellas were all injured and been through the battles.”

Eckhart volunteered as an Army nurse in 1944. She was sent to Camp Carson, Colo. on train at the age of 21.

“That was the first time I’ve ever seen a mountain,” Eckhart said. “It was all a new experience for me.”

Eckhart said so many people were involved in service to the country back then that she didn’t think twice about helping out.

“That’s all we knew was war,” she said.

She said World War II nurses worked long hours and dealt with injuries they didn’t normally see in civilian life.

“The bones were not simple fractures – they were shattered,” she said.

Her Army work eventually led her to Winter General Hospital in Kansas. She said many of the wounded soldiers treated her well, even if she met them under tough circumstances.

“They were all anxious to go home,” Eckhart said.

She married Dale Eckhart Nov. 29, 1947 and the couple had five children. Dale died in 1998 and she now has 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Military service continued through the years in her family. Her husband Dale served his country as did their son, Paul. Her grandson, Brenten Eckhart, is currently serving in the Navy. Both Wilma and Brenten were honored during a special Veterans Day ceremony Monday at West Marshall High School.

“That was real nice,” she said.

At the age of 90, Eckhart still gets around pretty well and credits her genes. She has two living sisters – one is 96 and the other is 94.

She loves the sense of community in State Center.

“I’ve got nice neighbors,” she said.