Graduate nurse's Random Act of Kindness brightens the day of a Korean War veteran

By Kristy Bleizeffer Jun 3, 2014

Wyoming's fall class of the Graduate Nurse Residency poses on the hospital grounds last September. Erin Devine is standing in the back row, fourth from the left.

Wyoming's fall class of the Graduate Nurse Residency poses on the hospital grounds last September. Erin Devine is standing in the back row, fourth from the left.

Jerry Hand, 83, stopped into Great Harvest Bread Co. on May 27, one day after Memorial Day, wearing his grubby work clothes and his American Legion cap. He’d spent the morning moving his offices and checking on his parents’ graves. His wife of 56 years told him he’d better stop and get himself a sandwich, and he stepped in line behind a young woman.

Erin Devine, 28, had just worked through Memorial Day weekend. Originally from Wisconsin, she started Wyoming Medical Center’s Graduate Nurse Program in September, and she didn’t have time to pay her respects during the holiday.  She noticed the man’s veteran’s cap as she stepped forward to place her order.

Hand realized he left his wallet in his truck just before he stepped to the counter. He returned, ordered his sandwich and took out his money. But the clerk wouldn’t take it. Somebody had already paid for his sandwich, and though it was supposed to be an anonymous act, he soon learned that it was the WMC nurse in front of him.

“I’ve read about random acts of kindness and it was an easy gesture. I just wanted to do something nice for a veteran since I’d been working all weekend. I thanked him for his service and we talked for maybe 10 minutes,” Devine said.

Army Capt. Jerry Hand, a former Casper Attorney, served from 1953 to 1955 during the Korean War in the 1st Division, 86th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. He was shipped over the Atlantic to guard the Czechoslovakia border during the Cold War. He can’t remember another time that a stranger stopped to thank him for his service.

“I told her that I had always felt in my life that I needed to thank the American tax payers for giving me a free ocean voyage cruise – even though back then it was with 3,000 seasick soldiers on board,” Hand said. “They gave us the GI Bill and that allowed to me to go to law school.”

Hand and Devine visited for a short while at Great Harvest. The next day, he called Wyoming Medical Center to track down the nice nurse named Erin who’d brightened his day. “It was a random act of kindness and I enjoyed it. I just wanted someone to put a note in that young lady’s file. She should get a brownie note or something.”

Hand and his wife are longtime Casper residents and have a place on Casper Mountain where they feed hummingbirds. Sometimes, dozens of the birds flock to his feeders at once. If Devine is interested, he’d like to invite her up to see them – to maybe return the small kindness she offered him. His two sisters were registered nurses and both worked at Wyoming Medical Center. All his children were born here and he is a big supporter of the hospital. He thinks it appropriate, then, that the kind stranger who bought his lunch works at the community hospital.

As for Devine, she’s flattered and a little surprised Hand took the time to track her down. She didn’t do it for the recognition. “It goes along with nursing, I guess. You just do things to do them. They don’t come with a reward.”

That’s the nice thing about working in a relatively small town, Devine said. When her Graduate Nursing program ends, she wants to continue working in a community hospital – either at Wyoming  Medical Center or in another town like Casper. “People are so connected. I run into patients at Home Depot and the grocery store, and I get to ask how they are doing. I like that feeling of community.”

Email Article

Send "Graduate nurse’s Random Act of Kindness brightens the day of a Korean War veteran" to a friend