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As veterans everywhere look back on their memories of service this Veterans Day, one local woman holds the memories of hundreds of soldiers she saw as a Navy nurse a military hospital during World War II, where she saw not just the physical injuries but the mental damage brought on by battle.
Barb Glover, 98, was a young nurse in the Navy when she was sent to California to work in the United States Naval Hospital in Corona, which was actually the former Lake Norconian Club, a resort once frequented by pro athletes and Hollywood stars.
“This whole setup was taken over by the Navy, by the government, and made a hospital out of all that fancy stuff where rich folks went,” Glover said.
The hospital had room for 1,000 patients who’d receive all the care they’d need, which meant lots of soldiers wounded in battle.
“Every service that you can think of or know of was represented at this hospital,” she said. “They hauled patients from the front in these buses. I called it a bus. It was some kind of big truck.”
Glover wasn’t assigned to a surgical unit so she wasn’t faced daily with the most gruesome injuries, but she was moved around often to different wards depending on where she was needed, and she saw the other effects of battle that sometimes didn’t leave visible scars.
“The worst thing I had of course was the tuberculosis unit because these guys that were in the submarines, they were pitiful, you know, when they were sick and had some lung problem and all.”
“And I worried about some of them in the unit for those who were, they were all messed up mentally you know, just strung out,” she said. “At night or sometime when they’d hear planes go over, some of them would jump out of their beds and get under the bunk.”
Glover, who was born as Annia L. Barber and raised around Dothan, Ala., later lived in Georgia, which led to the accent she has to this day, plus a nickname given to her by her soldier patients.
“I’ve heard them call in the night, ‘Send Miss Georgia back here right now,’” she said. “’Georgia Peach, send her back here right now…’ That’s what they called me.”
Nursing was always her calling from a very early age.
“I’ve sort of been a nurse ever since I was 12 years old,” she said. “Not really, but I love that field. I wanted to be a nurse, and my teacher in school encouraged you, you know, and taught you how to do things.”
“I worked a year at a hosiery mill to put money in the bank to go to nursing school with what my parents could help me do,” she said. “I learned all about diets and stuff when I had dietetics, and also in the hospital how you make all of these formulas for the nursery.”
She enlisted in the military because she wanted to help her country when she knew they needed it the most for the war effort.
“They needed some women nurses,” she said. “During this period of time, they needed them then.”
“I love my country,” she said. “Everybody should have a lot of love for their country…”
As a commissioned officer she helped train the corpsmen who were studying medicine, and she said the military maintained very high standards for their medical facilities, with weekly inspections.
“High knockers would come around with the doctors that were in charge of your wards and you would make rounds with them, along with the team that worked on your ward,” she said. “They were very particular to examine everything. They would take a urinal and a flashlight and look in the bottom to see if it was all right.”
Despite the difficulties that came with treating sick and injured soldiers, Glover said she and the others were treated well.
“The Navy was very good to me,” she said. “You come to the dining room and you told the server what you wanted fro breakfast and it was brought right to your plate.”
“About every month they’d give us a nice party at the officer’s club where I was stationed,” she said. “The guys would come, you know, to the parties, and we’d dance and had music…”
Glover spent seven years in the Navy, two in active duty and five in the reserves where she was a lieutenant JG. She met and married Norman E. “Gene” Glover at what she called the best barbecue place in Macon, Ga., The Pig and they moved to Hancock County in 1972, making a home on state Route 69.
Her husband died in 2017, but she’s pushing toward 99, which she’ll be on her next birthday on May 31. Her mind is sharp and her health is mostly good, which she says is thanks to her training in dietetics.
She said everyone should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, chicken and any kind of seafood. “And blueberries,” she said. “Have blueberries once a day in your cereal… You have to eat right. You can’t just sit down and fill up a plate this high and put it in your gut. That’s the truth.”