Henrico County’s veterans, first-responders and community members gathered at Seven Pines National Cemetery in Sandston June 10 to celebrate the life and legacy of First Lieutenant Mary Pardue, Army Nurse Corps, whose service in World War II earned her a Bronze Star Medal.
In Viareggio, Italy, Nov. 1944, Pardue displayed bravery and heroism addressing soldiers’ wounds as the field hospital where she served came under enemy fire. Through the chaos and fear that consumed the tent, Pardue remained devoted to duty and restored order.
Pardue was born June 21, 1919 in Coburn, Virginia and died July 1, 2019 in Duluth, Minnesota shortly after her 100th birthday. The ceremony was originally scheduled to be held in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to its delay.
Her Bronze Star citation, dated Dec. 12, 1944, contains this account of her bravery:
“After fragments from an exploding shell penetrated the tent and instantly killed a patient, [she] went from patient to patient, caring for them in a calm and reassuring manner to maintain control and order during the entire shelling…she remained on duty the remainder of the night to care for her patients. Her heroism and devotion to duty exemplify the high traditions of the Army Nurse Corps.”
Like many veterans who witnessed the terror of war, Pardue found it painful to recall memories of her service, the author of her obituary wrote. Despite this, she came to terms with the value of sharing her story with others and made contributions to the preservation of WWII history.
“In the last 20 years or so, she finally opened up about her experiences and left both a videotaped interview with Century High School in Bismarck, ND and an oral interview with the St. Louis County Veterans Hall oral history project,” her obituary reads.
Pardue was buried alongside her father, William, a navy veteran, and her brother, Harry, who was held as a prisoner of war by German forces after his plane was shot down in WWII. Though her surviving relatives were unable to attend the ceremony in-person, more than 100 people gathered to pay tribute to her life and service.
“This was an incredible turnout,” said Michael T. Faust, director of the National Cemetery Administration.
The somber ceremony unfolded beautifully. As an honor guard made up of Henrico police, fire and sheriff’s department members presented the colors, Henrico Concert Band Director Randy Abernathy played taps.
Two soldiers then gracefully folded an American flag to be sent to Pardue’s daughter and only child, Dr. Lisa Abrahams.
Todd Holman, program support assistant of the National Cemetery Administration, read Pardue’s Bronze Medal certificate aloud. Attendees then bowed their heads as a blessing was read over Pardue’s ashes, and after a moment of silence, the ceremony concluded.
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