99-year-old WWII vet the star of Thibodaux ceremony

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 11, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 11 at 7:42 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News

THIBODAUX, La. -- Sixth graders at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School in Thibodaux paid tribute to America's servicemen on Veterans Day, specifically saluting 67 veterans in the audience, family members of the students.

It was an emotional moment.

"I reminisced about some of my friends that I've known over my career," said Lt. Colonel Raymond Dickerson, U.S. Army (Ret.), "and I also thought that the school is doing an excellent job teaching the kids the purpose, and the special purpose and the meaning of the veterans who served this country."

But there was a special thank you for 99-year-old retired Army Major Emiline Bourgeois, dressed in her uniform.

"I was touched, how nice they made, you know the presentation was wonderful," she said.

Bourgeois joined the Army as a nurse in 1945, serving two tours at an Army hospital in the Phillipines, treating wounded G.I.s.

"It was sad to see them so, so much in need of somebody to talk to."

Hers was a tough job, with 12-hour days.

"They had as many as like 35 I think in a small hospital."

But Bourgeois enjoyed the chance to make a difference, and being the center of attention.

"There were a lot of wounded soldiers, young, and they were so happy just to talk to us, you know American nurses," she said, adding that she had plenty of boyfriends. "They were very young, and they didn't know how old I was, because I seemed to always look younger than I am."

Nearly 70 years later, she saluted the audience during the Veterans Day ceremony, a living lesson to the students.

"That serving your country is wonderful," Bourgeois said.

"When I grow up I want to be a surgeon or maybe a nurse like she was, and join the Army," said her great, great Neice Frances Smith, a 7th grader at St. Joseph.

Bourgeois retired as a major after 25 years in the Army as a nurse, then worked 20 more years as a nurse in the Thibodaux area. She'll be 100 years old this Christmas Eve, and she knows just what the best present would be.

"Hope I can have some more of the same."

 

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