Originally published in The Naples Daily News on August 4, 2013
Written by Amy Snyder, Executive Director
Ft. Myers – In early June, I was invited to participate in a very personal and significant event. The family of Dorothy Paulson Carlson invited me to attend a short ceremony held at Health Park Rehab in Ft. Myers in honor of her service as a nurse in World War II.
I met Dorothy and her husband, Ray, also a World War II veteran, about five years ago. In the interceding time, Dorothy donated several items to the Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida related to her experience in Germany. As a nurse and 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Army, Dorothy was part of the forces that liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp in April of 1945. Her role was to tend to the typhus patients in the camp. This experience certainly made an impression on Dorothy and in her later years, she committed to helping the Holocaust Museum by sharing the story through her personal affects.
First, Dorothy donated a few medals and pins she had collected while in Europe. One was a German Wound Badge – Silver. This indicated that the soldier that had received it had been wounded three or four times in battle. This donation allowed us to complete the set of Black, Silver and Gold Wound Badges now on display in the Holocaust Museum.
A year or so later, Dorothy came in again with several photographs from her time at Dachau. What an amazing story these pictures tell! Although the war in Europe was over, death was still so close for many of the former camp prisoners and soldiers. Dorothy’s wonderful smile brought comfort to many a patient, as it still does today to those who know her.
About three years ago, Dorothy came in for the last time with her husband, Ray, and daughter, Malinda. On this visit, Dorothy donated her Army issue blouse and cap, which is in display right next to her photographs. This was a wonderful visit for us, as we were able to arrange an interview with\ the The News Press, who published a beautiful piece on Dorothy.
Not long after that visit, Dorothy began her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease and was moved to Health Park Rehab Center in Ft. Myers. In June, former servicemen and volunteers from Hope Hospice performed a beautiful ceremony to recognize Dorothy for her service to our country. Attended primarily by family and close friends, it was an honor for me to be invited. With the singing of “As the cassons go rolling along” and the recitation of her military oath, Dorothy showed that the role she played as part of the Greatest Generation was still very much a part of who she is today.
I was once again reminded, as I am every time I have the opportunity to shake the hand of a veteran, that freedom is not free and those that have gone before me have paid a steep price for me to enjoy the life I do today. It is a humbling experience to be in the presence of those who do not think what they did was great or heroic, but that they were just doing their job. It is now my job to make sure that the younger generations do not forget or take for granted what was done on their behalf. The responsibility in now on our shoulders to make sure the ideals that created and have sustained the United States are not lost to history, but that we take up the mantle and strive to meet those ideals each and every day.
As we celebrate the “Spirit of ‘45”, we invite you to visit the Holocaust Museum. All veterans and their families are welcomed free of charge from August 6 – 11, during the Museum’s open hours of 1:00 – 4:00 pm.