Raima was an Army nurse in the second World War, and as such, she was my idol, and I joined the R.O.T.C. thinking I was following in her footsteps, but as it turned out, her footsteps were far too big.
Raima did not have an easy childhood, her mother died when she was only six, leaving her and two brothers. Her father took her oldest brother, leaving Raima and one brother to stay with various families until he got things figured out. After several years of moving from one family to another, our Aunt Helen, a kind, comfortable and pragmatic woman, collected both children and took them home to raise with her own two children, in Alameda, CA, in the big old house our great-grandfather had built.
After graduating from, Alameda High School, where I would also graduate in another decade, Raima became a nurse, and when the War began for us in December, 1941, she joined the Army as a nurse.
She was my father’s favorite cousin, and he, being a Navy man, was initially disappointed that she did not choose the Navy, but years later, the two old warriors met many times over a fishing stream, along with her husband Charlie, whom she had met while stationed in France during the War.
In 1942 she was sent to Casablanca, North Africa where she stayed until the fighting broke out in Italy, and we prepared to invade Italy via Anzio. Raima was part of a portable hospital unit, following General George Patton’s 3rd Army, and was at Anzio during the tough fighting.
Thanks to the movie M.A.S.H., we are all familiar with the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital which actually came about in 1945, but were deployed as such in the Korean war. They were preceded by the portable surgical hospitals in the first and second Wars.
In 1944 the 3rd Army moved into France where it remained until D-Day. From France they went to Germany, where Raima remained to nurse the survivors of the Holocaust as they were released from the Death and Concentration camps.
Raima died at the age of 98, and yesterday she was memorialized with an honor guard and the mournful sound of Taps, as we said goodbye to a Hero. She was always my Hero.