Mabel Ruth “Mike” Stephanic, a nurse who spent 10 days caring for injured soldiers behind German lines in the dead of winter toward the end of World War II, always had lipstick and extra socks.
“We could only take what we could carry,” she said, “and typically I took a lipstick and a pair of socks because everybody was coming in with frozen feet so I took an extra pair of socks but being a gal I took a lipstick.”
Stephanic, who turned 94 last week, was recognized Wednesday during a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature as part of Veterans Awareness Day at the state Capitol.
Stephanic, a resident of the Norman Veterans Center, was a nurse and an Army second lieutenant during World War II. She served from July 7, 1943, to Dec. 17, 1945.
In December 1944, she and other nurses in her unit were cut off from American troops 12 miles behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge.
“We'd operate, pack up and move,” Stephanic said.
The 101st Airborne was sent to rescue them near Bastogne.
Stephanic said she and the others were too busy treating injured soldiers to be scared.
They treated American soldiers and their allies, the French, as well as injured enemy German soldiers, Stephanic said.
“Of course, our kids got first go-round,” she said.
“It was very cold,” Stephanic said. “The snow drifts were taller than I — I was almost 5 feet.”
She conceded it was a tense situation.
“But you work hard enough you don't have time to be scared,” Stephanic said.
After the war, she taught practical nursing, and then eventually became a chemistry professor at Oklahoma State University.
She retired in 1990.
Stephanic said she became a resident of the Norman Veterans Center in October 2011.
She said things have been going well for her at the center but “for some of the others not so good.”
“I'm fortunate in the fact that I'm pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways but we have a lot of people who are not,” she said.
Just as she treated wounded soldiers in the heat of battle nearly 70 years ago, Stephanic continues to look out for others, such as the understaffed, overworked staff at the Norman center.
“For one thing, we need more help,” she said. “For another thing, they need more money because some of them have not had a raise in seven years.”
I'm fortunate in the fact that I'm pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways but we have a lot of people who are not.”
Mabel Ruth “Mike” Stephanic,
Stephanic, a resident of the Norman Veterans Center, was recognized at a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature.