Her heels were broken, and the soles of her shoes were worn away, but she was oblivious to the discomfort amid the chaos sweeping past her. Her uniform was stained with blood and streaked with dirt, and the ringing in her ears made it impossible to hear the screams of the panicked and the wounded. The Allies were advancing on Berlin. The end was near.
She finished applying pressure to a bandage and then turned to move to the next patient. As she did she was knocked down by a rush of fleeing citizens. The gravel and debris on the street scraped her knee, and she bit her lip to stop from crying. She got back to her feet to get back to her duties, but a firm hand gripped her shoulder.
She turned to see a man slightly older than herself. His sideburns were tinged with flecks of grey, and his eyes were lined by wrinkles and heavy bags. He wore the uniform of a lieutenant.
“Sit down,” he commanded her. She did as she was told, unsure of what was about to happen.
He looked at her for a moment, and then he began taking off his boots. He handed them to her, and then gave her his socks. “Put these on,” he said.
She looked at him questioningly, but put the socks on, and then the boots. They were so warm and supportive compared to her broken heels.
He then handed her pieces of newspaper. “Put these inside the boots. It will stop them from rubbing.” He was right. His feet were about twice the size of hers, and the padding provided by the newspaper would prevent her from getting blisters.
Next he took off his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. He motioned for her to stand, and she did. “Do you see these two men?” he asked, pointing to two wounded soldiers. “I want you to take them and keep walking that way until you run into the Americans,” he said, his finger pointing down the street. “Do you understand?”
She nodded. He smiled at her, and turned to head the opposite direction. Before she started walking, however, she looked at his bare feet. “What about your shoes?”
“Where I’m going, I won’t need shoes,” he replied.
This story is based on real events. The nurse survived the war and immigrated to the United States. She was working in a German restaurant when the story was told. At the end she said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t cry for that man.”