Nurse to talk about treating Iraq war veterans

Nurse to talk about treating Iraq war veterans

URBANA – A nurse who spent last summer caring for Iraq war veterans at Walter Reed Hospital will talk about her experiences.

Kim Abel of Mendota will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Urbana Free Library Auditorium, 210 W. Green St., Urbana. The talk is sponsored by the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort.

Abel, who teaches nursing at Illinois Valley Community College, took the summer of 2005 off to work in the psychiatric wing of the massive hospital near the nation's capital.

She finished the job "extremely impressed" with the soldiers she met.

"I was against the war, but I wanted to know more, so I wanted to work with soldiers and hear what they have to say about their experiences," she said.

She kept her views about the war to herself.

"It was good for me that I had to be quiet," Abel said. "But after a while, it was very open. I didn't know how much soldiers were free to speak their minds," she said.

She met young men on their second tour of duty in Iraq, "younger than my own children" and career soldiers.

All their stories had a common theme: "You never knew when it was your day to die."

Some bases in Iraq are very safe, the soldiers told her, but roadside bombs could take life without a second's warning.

"Death was something many of them saw, and it affected them," Abel said. "In the Civil War, they called it soldier's heart; in World War I, it was shell-shock; and in World War II it was combat fatigue. Since Vietnam, the condition has been known as post-traumatic stress disorder."

Healing is a difficult process, she learned in the psychiatric ward.

"How can anybody come back and be a husband or brother? I'm amazed by what we're asking of our kids," she said.

One soldier came back, perfectly healthy physically, and told her, "You know, I wish I just had a leg blown off, because this is not honorable to have a psych disorder," she said.

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