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Ruth Sarnecki

Joining the Army Nurse Corps was the Best Decision in Her Life

Maria Omana, Solvere Living’s Wellness Programming Specialist, had a chance to meet Ruth Sarnecki, a resident at the Villages of Windcrest. She knew almost immediately she had met someone who took the road less traveled in comparison to other women in the 1950s.

Inspired by an Army Captain, She Joined the Army Nurse Corps

Her dad was in World War I, served at the front for 72 days, had gotten shot and was bitter. He had done so much for his country, and he didn’t feel people appreciated what enlisted men had endured. He couldn’t believe that now his own daughter was following in his footsteps.

“He was so angry I joined the Army Nurse Corps, he used every German cuss word he could think of” said Mrs. Sarnecki, recalling what happened when she told her dad. “I raised my hand and now he had a daughter who did it on her own.”

Working in San Antonio as a nurse at the hospital, Mrs. Sarnecki was at the pharmacy in her uniform when she saw a captain who was a doctor. He asked where she worked and then suggested ‘Why don’t you join the Army Nurse Corps we need nurses badly.’ Two days later she joined.

For her induction into the Army Nurse Corps, she served at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Her first assignment was at Fort Riley, Kansas, where she took care of soldiers during the Korean War. Her greatest experience was taking care of the men who had fought for her country. Her and the other nurses made the soldiers feel important and special. “They appreciated us and would say ‘We don’t know what we’d do without you nurses helping us.’ Many of them were sad and did not have visitors,” said Mrs. Sarnecki.

It was at Fort Riley where she passed her state board exam and became a Second Lieutenant. She received some resentment from some of the Sergeants because she outranked them and, in many cases, she was much younger than them. For the most part though, “People respected me because I wore the bars, but I still had to prove myself,” said Mrs. Sarnecki.

“At a time when most women were housewives, she decided to join the Army Nurse Corps. “It was the best decision in my life,” said Mrs. Sarnecki, who is turning 92 in January.”

Meeting Her Husband Stateside

It was during her service at Fort Riley where she met her husband, Aloysius Sarnecki, who was also stationed at the base. She was with a friend, and they ran into two lieutenants that were in the army. They got to talking and went out on a double date. “I married the shorter one,” she said. After the couple married, she left the Army and settled in Fredericksburg, where she continued to be a nurse at the Veteran’s Hospital.  The couple were married for 56 years, until Mr. Sarnecki passed away 13 years ago. Their children and grandchildren have also followed in their military and medical field careers.
“I have a son that had 30 years in the army, and he retired as a colonel. My daughter was a Navy nurse, how about that?” Mrs. Sarnecki said.

Her Advice

When asked what advice she has for women, her first thought was her experience in the Army Nurse Corps and Veterans Hospital. “Be proud of yourself, be respectful and always be willing to think about the patient. You’re there for them.”

And for all women? “Just be a nice person, let people know you care for them. I love helping people.  I’m proud to be an American, proud of my family. Believe in God and have faith.”

Source: Sean Batura, “91-year-old paved way for women in uniform” Kerrville Daily Times, n.p., November 11, 2021, www.dailytimes.com

Source: Madalyn Watson, “Local blazed trail for women in uniform” Fredericksburg Standard, n.p., November 10, 2021, www.fredericksburgstandard.com