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the Wounds of War T A corps of nurses from World War II reunite in Lake Mary by Natalie Costa hose who remember World War II are becoming more rare every day. Women who served the war effort are rarer still. To find five of these women all living together in our community is remarkable enough to be considered a national treasure, and just such a treasure exists at Oakmonte Village in Lake Mary. As the five women, most in their 90s, meet for lunch, Florence Adler emphasizes the importance of the special gathering for Lake Mary Life: “I don’t want people forgetting about the Cadet Nurses of World War II.” Spanning the country from New York to Missouri, Florence, Fay Cohn, Eileen Rodgers, Claire Kohl, and Juanita Mendez share more than a common address today. They all carry a shared experience of service and life during World War II. Florence, Fay, and Eileen served as Cadet Nurses for America’s soldiers sent home to heal. Claire was deployed as a registered nurse in the Air Force, while Juanita served as an RN in the States. Our nation’s nurses: Five former nurses who all served in different capacities during World War II now live together at Oakmonte Village in Lake Mary: Fay Cohn, Claire Kohl, Juanita Mendez, Florence Adler, and Eileen Rodgers As the war effort took many of the nation’s healthcare workers overseas during the 1940s, America was faced with a nursing shortage here at home. The young women who stepped up to fill the critical void and care for wounded warfighters were called Cadet Nurses. In exchange for their work and the promise to serve overseas if necessary, the government agreed to subsidize the women’s education, room, and board – an arrangement that would help many of these nurses go on to distinguished medical careers. For some, like Juanita, nursing was a calling, something she always knew she wanted to do. For others, it came about by happenstance. nurse’s aide during the summer. And for others, like Claire, nursing provided an escape from her small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. No matter the reason, the contribution of each of these women has made intangible impacts on the lives of thousands. And while each nurse had a distinct story to tell, there was one recurring and surprising theme as they recounted their experiences: Nurses of the time were forbidden to marry or have children while serving. But that didn’t stop some of them from building their personal lives while on duty. In fact, Florence fondly remembers the countless marriage proposals she received while working in the men’s ward – an experience many of the women shared. “And you made a career for yourself [while] you made lasting friends from around the world.” – Juanita Mendez As a child, Florence wanted to be a dancer, but after slipping on ice and fracturing her tibia, she saw firsthand the value of a nurse. “And that’s what started my nursing career,” Florence says. Similarly, Fay had alternative plans for herself as a child, but when her brother fell ill with double pneumonia, three private-duty nurses cared for him and inspired Fay to become a nurse herself. “I knew a long time ago I was going to be a nurse,” she says. Eileen wanted to go to art school to be an art teacher, but her parents couldn’t afford to send her, so she worked as a 72 | Lake Mary Life • July/August 2016 During their respective tenures, these Oakmonte residents worked with patients in a wide range of departments, from psychiatry to obstetrics, crossing paths with future lifelong friends, and, in some cases, soon-to-be husbands. As Fay remembers it, “We used to have dances at the hospital, and I didn’t have a date, but that didn’t stop me from going. When I went down for the dance, an intern at the hospital introduced me to my [now] husband. Three dates later, he proposed.”