Remembering a Colorado World War I nurse who died 100 years ago this month

SURREY, England -- On this Veterans Day, we have the story of a Colorado hero you may have never heard of before.  She died 100 years ago this month, and FOX31 traveled all the way to Great Britain, where she was laid to rest, to tell her story.

On four acres outside London sits Brookwood American Cemetery, where 468 Americans who served in World War I are buried. Eight of them are Colorado heroes. Some died exactly 100 years ago this weekend, like Army Private Hugh H. Hamill of Colorado. There's also Rosco Crum, the only man from the tiny town of Towner, Colorado in Kiowa County to die during the 'Great War.'

But we were perhaps most struck by the marble cross bearing the name of Hattie M. Raithel. It's the spot where a Colorado woman who died just nine days before the war's end is laid to rest.

Raithel was just 32 years old.  She was a single woman from Colorado who'd gone overseas to serve her country.  She was part of a nursing unit, the U.S. Army 29th Base Hospital, organized by what is now Denver Health hospital, to help in the war effort.

Along with doctors and faculty members from the University of Colorado and Red Cross nurses, the crew cared for nearly 4,000 patients in London near the end of the war.

When the war ended, most of those doctors had to hurry back to Colorado to help with a deadly flu epidemic in Denver that killed about 8,000 people in 1918 and 1919.

But Hattie would never make it home. It wasn't the fighting that killed her at the end of World War I; it was the flu.

Back home, the Akron, Colorado newspaper delivered the news of her broken-hearted sister, who received a telegram announcing Hattie's death.

These days, not too many people make it to suburban London to see Hattie's grave site. But it gives pause to those who do.

"Oh, it sure does it tears your heart out to see a place like this," said Battle of the Bulge survivor Jack Foy, who recently visited the Brookwood cemetery with a group of other World War II veterans as part of a program sponsored by The Greatest Generations Foundation. The non-profit, started in Denver, is focusing on remembering and honoring veterans of all U.S. wars and conflicts.

Among the sea of marble crosses etched with the names of men who died in service to their country, Hattie's marker stands out.  When you think of war -- especially 100 years ago -- the sacrifice of women may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But ask those who served later, and they'll tell you, women like Hattie don't get nearly the credit they deserve for the lives they helped save.

"We lost an awful lot of nurses and women who were in close to front line support positions that did get killed," Foy said.

That's why on this day -- exactly 100 years and nine days after her death -- we say "thank you" to Hattie Raithel, a young Colorado trailblazer who went to war and never made it back home.

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