Army nurses come together to celebrate 100th birthday with 'one of their own'
June 14, 2010
- Madigan Army Medical Center nurses helped celebrate Lt. Col. Margaret Hollinger's 100th birthday June 4 in Seattle
- Hollinger may be the oldest living Army nurse
SEATTLE (June 14, 2010) -- Margaret Hollinger's bright eyes lit up as her memory kicked into gear, rewinding time to 60 years ago when she provided medical care to survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp. "It was so difficult, so sad to see human beings treated the way they were," said Hollinger, a retired lieutenant colonel.
The hardest scene for her emotionally, she remembered, were the Jewish children who no longer had mothers or fathers to take care of them. "They were just youngsters," she told Madigan Army Medical Center nurses who had come to help celebrate her 100th birthday June 4 in Seattle.
The Madigan nurses' attendance wasn't just to surprise Hollinger, but also to bestow gifts on a nurse who served for 28 years. They spent the morning looking at pictures, asking questions about her life and updating her on the current state of Army nursing, before sitting down to lunch with Hollinger, who may be the holdest living Army nurse.
"It's wonderful to come up here and share this day with you and celebrate your birthday and your service," said Col. Janice Lehman, chief, Department of Nursing.
Her career spanned World War II and the Korean War, and she retired in 1963.
The new centenarian received birthday letters from President Obama, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Centre of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel Chairman Noach Flug, U.S Sen. (D-WA) Patty Murray, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps and Deputy Surgeon General Maj. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho and Madigan Healthcare System Commander Col. Jerry Penner III.
Also, Horoho and Penner honored her service to the nation with Coins of Excellence and a quilt made by American Hero Quilts.
Hollinger worked at several Army hospitals, including the original Madigan Army Medical Center, now Madigan Annex. As a lieutenant colonel, she was the second highest-ranking Army nurse as colonel was the highest rank available to females at that time. "This is all so meaningful; I just can't explain what it all means to me," Hollinger said.
She was born June 4, 1910, in Gladstone, N.D. She was the first in her Family to graduate from high school, become a registered nurse and obtain college degrees. Being single, she decided to join the Army, because that's what single people did back then, she said.
Hollinger shared with the Madigan nurses a few of her experiences during World War II. She deployed to Europe with the 120th Evacuation Hospital as a surgical nurse.
The 120th was a mobile field hospital that was near the front lines and saw many casualties. She would rush into enemy fire to save Soldiers' lives many times, even being trapped behind enemy lines. "There were some memories that were delightful, and some that were not so delightful," Hollinger said.
Because she provided medical care for the Jewish survivors at Buchenwald, she was able to establish residence at the Caroline Kline-Galland Home in Seattle, a Family of residential and community services in support of Jewish seniors in the greater Seattle area, where she's lived for the past three years.
Margaret celebrated her birthday with friends and Family the previous weekend. She has three siblings in Montana, about 20 nieces and nephews, many great-nieces and great-nephews, and two great-great-nephews.
Lehman and the other Madigan nurses all agreed that they would be back for Hollinger's 101st birthday next year, bringing gifts and spending time with one of their own.