Morgan Marion & Helen Bush

Friday, March 23, 2007
Courtesy of the Huntsville (Alabama) Times

Helen Bush was a petite women who was known for patriotism and a strong belief in opportunities for women.

In the summer of 1942, she combined those traits when she enlisted in the Army.

She also married a soldier, Morgan Bush Sr., who became a Major before his retirement from the Army in 1964. Their 56 years of marriage ended in 2000, after he died and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Last Friday, Helen Bush, 89, of Huntsville, Alabama, died of complications from diabetes and emphysema. After a memorial service at Ascension Lutheran Church of Huntsville, she will be buried next to her husband at Arlington.

She joined the service at a time when military careers weren't fashionable for women. But the Army had always been important to her family.

Her father, August Herbert, a Lutheran minister in the New York City area, was so fascinated with the military that he frequently walked the grounds of Fort Hamilton, a historic fort in Brooklyn, New York.

“To my grandfather,” said Morgan Bush Jr., one of Helen's four children, “the U.S. Army was the next step to heaven.”

In many ways, Helen Bush viewed the military the same way. During the war, as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, she treated German spies and Italian prisoners of war.

In the years before her death, Bush usually balked at the mention of being buried in Arlington, believing she was undeserving.

But Morgan Jr. disagreed.

“I always felt she should have full honors,” he said.

He told his mother she should have full honors for two reasons. First, she had contributed to the military as a nurse, and then as the wife of an Army officer.

She joined the Army on July 17, 1942, at Fort Hamilton.

“It was flat-out patriotism,” Morgan Jr. said. “That's the way she and her father felt.”

Her first assignment was at Keesler Air Field near Biloxi, Mississippi. After that, she served at the station hospital at the Port of New Orleans.

In New Orleans, she tended to prisoners of war from North Africa. Many of the prisoners had severe hearing losses because sand was embedded in their ears.

“That sand was like concrete in their ears,” Morgan Jr. said. “They couldn't hear.”

Bush was sensitive to their problems. As a child, she had scarlet fever, causing her own hearing difficulties.

On January 31, 1945, she was discharged because she was pregnant with her first child. By then, she and Morgan Sr. had been married for about a year.

They had two sons and two daughters. Morgan Jr. went on to serve in the Vietnam War. Another son, Michael, was a sergeant in the Marines.

When Morgan Jr. went to war, she told him: “Come home with your shield or on your shield.”

He knew exactly what she meant: Come home with honor.

In recent years, as his mother prepared for death, Morgan Jr. thought she should be honored, too.

Morgan Sr. had returned from World War II and the Korean War, and her two sons had made it home from war.

So, in Morgan Jr.'s view, it was only logical that she should be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“I felt,” Morgan Jr. said, “that we ought to honor the woman who brought us through.”


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/21/1918
  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/20/2000

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