Lebanon VA Medical Center
Bonded Together: VA Nurse and WWII Combat Veteran
Jack “Doug” Trumbore is a carpenter. He lives in the house he built following his return from the Second World War. He is also a humble man. The 98-year-old WWII Veteran keeps his shadow box of medals, citations and photographs, along with a couple of official and unofficial history publications about the unit he spent most of the war with, in a drawer in his bedroom. He doesn’t display them. He’s reluctant to talk about them. He doesn’t like drawing attention to himself. He even keeps the National Order of the Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest honor, which he received at the French Embassy in Washington DC a five years ago, in the drawer. He also hides many of the memories, which were forever burned into his mind as a 22-year-old private far from his Berks county home. Who could blame him? After landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy and then fighting through Northern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe, he’s reluctant to open the door to those memories, but sometimes, yes sometimes, they force their way upon the former infantryman -- even seventy-six years later. They remind him of helping a stranger search for his two missing brothers on the beaches with so much carnage or being a part of an impromptu firing squad, which fired a 21-gun salute at a hastily constructed cemetery.
Not all the memories, however, are painful. Doug remembers with a deep and abiding affection, the men with whom he served. He still chuckles at some of their antics and pranks. He can look at a picture of their squad and repeat their names, always last names, one by one even pointing to one without a helmet, “that’s me – with hair!” He’s grateful for the way they took care of one another and looked out for each other. He fondly tells the story of the time he was clearing a house and found a “huge wine rack full of champagne”. His corporal told him everything in the house belonged to the government, so he grabbed as much as he could carry and gave it to the mess sergeant to distribute with dinner. It was a good night.
Doug also speaks with deep affection about the Lebanon VA Medical Center, the Home Based Primary Care he receives and his Nurse Manager, Tracy Shenk, Adult Geriatric Nurse Practioner (AGPNP). “I’m 100% for the VA,” says the Veteran of some of the most vicious fighting in Europe during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest, “if anybody doesn’t like it, they should talk with me. VA has done everything for me. They give me my medications and supplies. They built the ramp into my house and they gave me Tracy. She’s terrific! She’s a good person and I can’t say enough about her. Anything I ever have trouble with, she makes right.”
They’ve formed a special bond this Veteran and nurse. They’re both fighters – he fought for the liberation of Europe and she fights the illnesses which attack him. She enjoys his stories and he enjoys her professional care. Sometimes he calls her, just to make sure his favorite VA employee is okay. So when it was time to celebrate his 98th birthday in the middle of a state-wide lock down due to the Coronavirus, Tracy made it happen. She invited Doug’s family, friends and neighbors so they could toast the extraordinary man from his driveway. She also drove to Philadelphia on her own time to pick up the birthday boy’s favorite cake – a vanilla cake with cheesecake-moose-filling and vanilla icing. “Boy was it good,” said the Veteran whose war ended in a hospital recovering from combat injuries. “It was better than any chow the Army ever gave us.”
Tracy has managed Doug’s care and treatment in VA’s unique Home-Based Primary Care Program for 3 years. The care did not stop even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She loves the time she spends with Veterans and the “work-life” balance VA offers her. “Veterans are different than other people,” says the woman who was inspired to become a nurse watching nurses care for an 8-year-old girl when she herself was hospitalized as a child. “Veterans have their own culture and I’ve had to learn how to adapt to that culture. They trust us, which they normally don’t do easily. It’s incredibly rewarding! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!”
Home Based Primary Care is health care services provided to Veterans in their home. A VA physician supervises the health care team who offer the services. Home Based Primary Care is for Veterans who have complex health care needs for whom routine clinic-based care is not effective. Since Home Based Primary Care is part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, all enrolled Veterans are eligible if they meet the clinical need for the service and it is available.To learn more about VA’s Home-Based Primary Care Program call 717-272-6621 x 4406 or check out https://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/pages/Home_Based_Primary_Care.asp. To learn more about serving Veterans as a VA nurse or caregiver call 717-228-5948. Veterans not enrolled in VA healthcare can learn more about the health care benefits they may have earned by calling 717-228-6000.