(Photo is by Israel Palacio)

By Hamil R. Harris

Barbara Hatcher was a registered nurse working on her nursing doctorate at George Mason University when she learned that the 115th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital of the D.C. National Guard was being mobilized for duty in the Persian Gulf.

“When we were called up, I thought it would backfill and support the nurses at Walter Reed, but this would be a different type of nursing,” said Hatcher, who, within weeks, would be aboard a military plane headed to Saudi Arabia.

“Many people in my unit were leaving their jobs, their children, and I had to leave school,” said Hatcher, who will never forget the six months she spent working in a combat field hospital.

“The most shocking thing was being in a country that you knew nothing about and having the skud missiles fall around you in the evening,” said Hatcher, who was promoted to a lieutenant colonel in the Army.

Dr. Hatcher is among a group of nurses and veterans at Shiloh Baptist Church in D.C. that will be honored when the church observes the 122nd anniversary of its Nursing Unit and the 20th anniversary of Veterans Recognition Sunday.

Charlotte Johnson and Barbara Hatcher

“We can’t afford to lose our history because there are people who want to take it away from us,” said Capt Charles D. Smith, USN retired. “People don’t realize all the sacrifices that veterans make.”

Smith was commissioned Nov. 3, 1972, at the United States Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I. Even though Smith is retired, he came up with the idea for the program.

“Nothing but the face of God that has allowed me to do what I do,” said Smith, as he talked about Hatcher and Army Lt. Col  C.arolyn Baker.

“The Black Church Community produces its share of nurses and Armed Service personnel who battle illness, disease, discomfort, and hostile forces at home and abroad,” Smith said.

The Shiloh’s Nurses have played an integral role in support of Shiloh’s ministers and congregation over year’s but because of COVID-19 Sunday morning attendance has dwindled.

Dr. Barry Black, U. S. Senate Chaplain and retired U. S. Navy rear admiral, will honor the contributions of Shiloh’s veterans and nurses as the guest preacher for this dual anniversary recognition.

A highlight of the worship service on Nov.13 will be a grand march of Shiloh’s veterans and guest veterans. All veterans are invited to participate in the grand march and must enter from the rear of Shiloh’s sanctuary on Shiloh Way no later than 9:30 a.m.

Shiloh Baptist Church was founded amidst the turmoil of the Civil War in 1863 by 21 former enslaved people who left with other formerly enslaved people from Fredericksburg, Va., under the protection of the Union Army. 

“I was blessed to be able to respond to the needs of the nation,” Smith said. “Service means giving to others so their lives can be enhanced. We have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate men and women in union, be it in the church or a nurse.”

Hatcher, a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, said there “was a time when most nurses didn’t get degrees. I had to find a college program. I wanted to be a nursing leader. “

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