Submitted by: Dennis Brenden, State Adjutant

Category: Stories

In the early 1940’s (1943-1944) my mother, my identical twin sister and I boarded a train in Milbank, SD to travel to Seattle, Washington. We were traveling to visit our grandparents and other family who moved west during the depression.

This was during WWII and there were many active duty military on the train. As my sister and I slept on the seats, the military would place silver dollars on our pillows as they were so delighted to see children. Some of them were leaving family to go over-seas and some were coming home to visit family. The presence of children was a joy to them.

Once we returned to South Dakota, our “little purses” were filled with silver dollars. We wanted to take our purses with us when going to church or shopping. Soon we would ask our parents to carry the “heavy” purses. Soon this practice was stopped as our parents didn’t want to carry the purses, nor did they want us to lose the money. Our father then purchased “War Bonds” with the money.

Now fast forward to 1957. We graduated from high school and decided on careers in nursing. The War Bonds were cashed to pay our tuition for the first year at St. John’s School of Nursing, Huron, SD. (Tuition for the three year program was approximately $745.00 at that time. Remember that student nurses worked many hours on the units which were both educational and service.)

As our careers progressed, we both pursued additional education. We obtained our BSN’s from South Dakota State College (not yet named the University), and our Master’s in Nursing from the University of Iowa.

Without pre-planning both of us pursued careers with the Veteran’s Administration. My sister started her VA career in 1968 at Iowa City, IA. She then served in Fargo, ND; Madison, WI; Albuquerque, NM; and Omaha, NE. She had a total of 27 years involved with the care of veterans. She was a staff nurse, nurse educator, and chief nurse throughout her career.

I began my career with the Veteran’s Administration in 1972 at the Sioux Falls, SD VA. I was a staff nurse, nurse educator, health systems specialist and women veteran’s coordinator. I had been with the VA for almost 25 years when I retired.

I frequently thought, “Give and You Shall Receive”. The military personnel gave of their attention, affection, and tokens to us and we in turn helped serve them with our nursing skills, time, and talents. Our time working with and for veterans was a rewarding experience.

May 2011 Traveled as guardians with the Honor Flight of WWII Veterans to DC. This brought full circle of traveling with WWII military. In 1943 we were traveling with them by train from Milbank, SD to Seattle, WA. During this trip they helped our Mother care for us. In 2011 we traveled with them on the honor flight to provide assistance to them as needed.

If you remember seeing twin girls on the train between Milbank, SD and Seattle, WA in 1943-1944, THANK YOU for your service to our country so that we had the freedom to pursue our careers and to serve our hero’s. May God bless you.

June (Gratz) Schnieder
Sioux Falls, SD

June (Gratz) Schnieder

Education: 1960 St. John’s School of Nursing Huron, SD Diploma, RN
1965 SDSU College of Nursing Brookings, SD BS, Nursing
1969 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA MA, Nursing

Worked as school nurse and staff nurse prior to attending graduate school. Upon graduation from U of I, was a nursing instructor at SDSU College of Nursing. 1972 started at Sioux Falls, SD VAMC as a staff nurse Was then promoted to nursing instructor to educate and prepare staff for the opening of the ICU/CCU units. 1973 appointed Associate Chief Nursing Service. Several years later assumed the position of Health Systems Specialist. This involved many responsibilities including Women Veteran Coordinator, Transplant Referral Coordination, patient advocate and served on Key Committees developing policies and programs. Retired after 25 years of service to veterans.

Joan Gratz

Education: 1960 St. John’s School of Nursing Huron, SD Diploma, RN
1964 SDSU College of Nursing Bookings, SD BS, Nursing
1970 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA MA, Nursing

Worked as a staff nurse and nursing instructor before attending graduate school. In 1968 started working at Iowa City VAMC as a staff nurse prior to attending graduate school. Upon graduation from U of I, was an instructor of nursing at SDSU. 1971 started at Fargo, ND VAMC as associate chief, nursing service. 1974 transferred to Madison, WS as chief nurse trainee. 1975 assigned to Albuquerque NM VAMC as Chief Nursing Service. 1979 Transferred to Omaha NE VAMC as Chief Nursing Service. From 1974-1979 served as adjunct faculty for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. Retired after 27 years of service to veterans.

About the author:

June (Gratz) Schnieder