Silverthorne nurse retires from Air Force, returns to hospital |

Silverthorne nurse retires from Air Force, returns to hospital

summit daily news

SILVERTHORNE – After work as a flight nurse, management roles and a trip to Africa, Silverthorne resident Col. Barbara Petersen is retiring from the United States Air Force with the Legion of Merit, an award for 30 years of service.

According to Petersen, she’ll be back in Silverthorne this month and she’ll return to her nursing positions at Peak One Surgery Center and Vail Valley Medical Center in January.

“I can’t wait to get home,” she said. She’s called Silverthorne her home since 2000.

For the past two-and-a-half years, Petersen’s been working for the Air Force in Georgia as support for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom while on military leave from both local employers.

“I was in charge of medical reservists there,” she said. “Supporting them, in charge of managing and supporting their careers, helping with promotions, medical education and deployment.”

Petersen also volunteered as a clinical nurse in the Republic of Benin for three weeks in June as part of Africa for Shared Accord 2009. There she cared for more than 8,700 villagers, teaching basics to Beninese nurses like teeth-brushing, the importance of vitamins and de-worming.

“The masses of people were at times frightening because we ran out of supplies, but we were able to offer the de-worming pulls to all,” she said in an e-mail. “At least their stomachs will feel better for three to four months. It starts with education, so hopefully small steps will lead to separating waste from water supply.”

Hundreds of people were treated for medical conditions, and teeth were extracted by the Navy.

“It’s not just war, but nation-building,” Petersen said of her involvement in the Air Force.

Petersen recounted temperatures in Benin reaching the 90s, sporadic electricity and water access, and a continual coating of DEET for insect protection. She used mosquito netting at night when she slept in barracks at the Bembereke military training site.

“Kids are kids everywhere in the world – so excited to see us,” Petersen said of her trip in an e-mail. “They were running and jumping with not a care in the world. Their little bare bottoms, some with ornamental belts, just wanted to be where the action was. The women all seemed to have three to five kids swarming around with that little one tucked on their back end. While passing out vitamins and deworming meds, we had to look around so we didn’t miss anyone.”

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