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Serving Her Country: Women in the Military
SERVING HER COUNTRY: Moments after landing in Vietnam, nurse assisted with amputation

SHELDON, Iowa | Kathleen Osterman's parents, Jim and Marye McKenna, of Storm Lake, Iowa, were World War II veterans. Jim McKenna, of the U.S. Marine Corps, flew reconnaissance missions for the U.S. Navy at Guam; Marye was a U.S. Army nurse in San Francisco.

The couple farmed and raised eight children at Storm Lake and sent them all to St. Mary's High School in town.

Kathleen, the third child in the family, was at St. Joseph's School of Nursing in Sioux City when her parents' financial situation wobbled briefly, due to an agricultural calamity at the time.

"I enlisted in 1968 and, in 1969, the Army paid for my final year of education," Osterman said, alluding to her motivation. "I graduated and then owed the Army two years."

The Army got much more.

Osterman, then known as Kathleen McKenna, went through basic training in San Antonio, Texas. She then trained as an operating room nurse in Denver, Colorado, for 16 weeks. Following a short stint in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where she had to parachute from a plane before graduating, Osterman found herself flying to Vietnam, for a one-year tour of duty as an operating room nurse serving at Da Nang.

"It was a hot spot as the Navy was there," she remembered. "We had incoming rockets. I remember going into bunkers to wait it out."

Osterman stepped off the plane, dropped her gear and went to work. She assisted with an amputation on her first day.

"In all my training, I'd never seen an amputation done before," she said. "That was my first case in Vietnam."

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The soldier survived, thanks in large part to the quick and dedicated duty of those serving him, all the way from the field to post-op.

"The enlisted ranks, the ranks of doctors and nurses, it was so incredible working with all of them," Osterman said.

The assortment of instruments, for example, to treat a soldier in surgery would cover what's called a Mayor tray at the hospital at Da Nang. The tray, according to Osterman, was about the size of a cookie sheet.

"You'd have the instruments on that tray that you needed to take the bullet from a soldier's head," she said. "We used to say that 'in the world' (which meant, civilian world), you'd have a huge assortment of tools."

Osterman and her fellow operating room nurses often worked seven days per week, 12 hours straight each day, early on in her tour of duty. And while the work pace slowed a bit in 1971, she wouldn't trade the frenetic pace for all the education in the world.

"I knew I'd learn more in that time than in years of practice in a civilian setting," she said.

Communication with her parents was sparse at the time. Osterman spoke with her mom and dad just once during her overseas service. The phone call took place when Osterman was on a break in Hong Kong in May 1971, eight months after she had landed in Vietnam.

"Mom used to write a couple of times per month," she said. "My dad wrote three or four times while I was in Vietnam. I also wrote letters home to them."

A brother, Michael McKenna, served in the Iowa Army National Guard at the time. He wasn't overseas, though.

"Our family was for the military," she continued, noting how she didn't have much of an idea U.S. public opinion was largely divided on the Vietnam War. Osterman said she was there to put her skills and training to work, to do what she could to save soldiers' lives and help them heal from their wounds.

"I was never scared while I was there," she said. "And when it came time for me to leave, I was sad, even though I had counted the days and crossed off each day in a calendar in my room."

Sad to leave? "You make relationships in wartime," she concluded. "You get really close while working with people who share that common cause. We had a great team caring and doing all they could for our soldiers.

"Yes, when my helicopter took off, I was sad," she said.

Osterman, though, had no desire to return. And, to this point, she hasn't revisited Vietnam.

Photos: Serving her country

She did, however, return to military service. After her honorable discharge in 1971, Osterman went to work as a nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. One year later, she entered the U.S. Army Reserves and stayed another 21 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Along the way, she earned a master's degree from the University of Notre Dame. She recruited nurses for Mercy Medical Center in Denver, then became a director of nurses at Sheridan Memorial Hospital in Sheridan, Wyoming, where she met her future husband, Bruce Osterman, a banker. The couple wed and had two children, Tim Osterman, now of Remsen, Iowa, and Meghan Owen, of Houston, Texas.

The Ostermans moved to Sibley, Iowa, in 1985. Kathleen Osterman served as the school nurse at Sibley-Ocheyedan for 23 years, a position that allowed her to segue from acute to more of a preventative role on the health-care spectrum.

"I loved being the school nurse," she said.

In 2009, she began teaching yoga at the Osceola Community Hospital in Sibley. She branched out and began teaching the discipline at the Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Northwest Iowa Community College in 2010. Osterman, who turned 70 on Wednesday, educates anywhere from one person at a time to a dozen or so.

In that sense, her training, lifestyle and careers have come full circle. While sitting on a pair of blocks in her yoga "classroom" at NCC's Lifelong Learning Center, Osterman said, "You know, some military bases began incorporating yoga into exercises in recent years. To my knowledge, they're still doing it."

$100,000 from BPI directed to USS Sioux City

SIOUX CITY | Crew members from the USS Sioux City received a big surprise as they arrived in Sioux City Thursday. 

BPI President Eldon Roth announced the Dakota Dunes-based company will donate $100,000 to the USS Sioux City Commissioning Committee. Roth took the action after touring the commissioning site at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, last September.

In a release, Roth said it is important to support charities associated with military veterans.

“I have always been, and remain deeply appreciative of the men and women in uniform who take an oath to defend freedom around the world. Let this contribution signify how grateful my family, as well as our company, are to those courageous service members who sacrifice so much to protect American values and our way of life across the globe," he said.

Retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, chairman of the USS Sioux City Commissioning Committee, said he appreciated the gift, to keep boosting fundraising efforts toward the goal of $800,000 to $1 million to use toward commissioning and other costs.

 “This substantial gift will serve to cement the connection between this remarkable ship, her exceptional crew, and the extraordinary people of Sioux City. Not only will BPI’s generous contribution lay the foundation for the decades-long relationship between the ship and the namesake city, but it will also serve as a catalyst for our ongoing fundraising efforts," Thorp said.

A portion of the money will be used to build a Legacy Fund for educational expenses for USS Sioux City crew members. Some of the money will be allocated to cover costs associated with the ship’s commissioning, since federal funds can't be used for such activities.

The USS Sioux City was announced in early 2012. The Littoral Combat Ship will sail into ports around the world.

The USS Sioux City commissioning will take place at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, most likely in spring or early summer of 2018.

Siouxland Chamber President Chris McGowan praised the BPI donation, as more in the long-standing commitment to local and national philanthropy. 

“In addition to supporting our military, last month BPI announced their $10 million employee relief fund, the company recently spent time serving approximately 100,000 donated meals to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and continue their generosity here in Siouxland,” McGowan said.

Woman who staged bank robbery sent to jail for parole violation

SIOUX CITY | The next time she appears in court, Angelica Perez might not be as lucky, a judge told her.

Rather than revoke Perez' probation and send her to prison to complete her initial five-year prison sentence for her role in a staged bank robbery, Senior Judge Mary Jane Sokolovske found her in contempt of court and ordered her to spend 45 days in jail.

Perez admitted Thursday in Woodbury County District Court that she had violated her probation by getting arrested and convicted of drug possession charges in Missouri. Sokolovske told her to take advantage of her second chance, because if she's ever in court for another probation violation, a judge will look at her past performance on probation.

"Certainly, the sanctions could be much harsher," Sokolovske said.

Perez, 20, of Sioux City, was sentenced with Heaven Zevenbergen, then 19, to five years in prison in February 2016 for second-degree theft for staging a robbery at the Security National Bank branch at the Hy-Vee store on Hamilton Boulevard. She and Zevenbergen pleaded guilty to the August 2015 incident in which Perez went to the bank in disguise and passed Zevenbergen, who was a bank employee, a note demanding cash and saying she was armed. Zevenbergen then gave Perez $10,000, most of which was never recovered.

Three months after sentencing, District Judge Jeffrey Neary ordered them released from prison and placed them on probation for five years.

Perez was arrested in May, when she and her now ex-boyfriend were pulled over in Missouri, and police searching their vehicle found LSD and marijuana edibles in one of their bags. Perez pleaded guilty to drug possession in September and was placed on probation. Her arrest and conviction violated terms of her probation from the theft conviction.

Perez told Sokolovske Thursday that the drugs were not hers and she did not know her boyfriend had packed drugs in their bag.

Assistant Woodbury County Attorney James Loomis asked Sokolovske to revoke Perez' probation and enforce her original five-year prison sentence.

Sokolovske instead ordered her in contempt of court and gave her the jail sentence, which will begin on Nov. 16. Sokolovske granted Perez work and school release. Once Perez completes her jail sentence, she will continue with her probation.

City schedules public input meeting for riverfront project

SIOUX CITY | The Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department will hold a public meeting Nov. 30 to seek feedback on the development of the Sioux City Riverfront project. 

At the meeting, which will begin 7 p.m. on the fifth floor of City Hall, 405 Sixth St., designers will share an overview of the current Riverfront Master Plan, and community members will have an opportunity to participate in the schematic design process. 

"We want to make sure we give everyone an opportunity to provide input toward the development of such an important part of our community," Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said in a city news release. 

Sioux City kicked off the design phase for the riverfront development earlier this year. Madison, Wisconsin-based SmithGroup JJR Inc. will complete surveying, schematic design and administration services connected to the planned project at the former site of the Argosy casino.

The city has set a budget of about $12 million for the development project, according to the agreement.

Amenities could include an interactive fountain, sport courts, overlooks, a dog park, a yoga lawn, restrooms, added parking and other amenities. Other suggested features have included a pedestrian bridge and Ferris wheel.

A steering committee is fund-raising for the park and has identified potential grants to help with the project.

The schematic design process is anticipated to be complete by the start of 2018.