Dear Student,

Here you will find stories written by some of the members of the In-Country-Women’s List. They are our gifts to you to help you understand the impact of the Vietnam War. You will notice that the authors include Army Nurse Corps members, American Red Cross women, USO personnel, Army Corpsmen an Army warrior (yes, there are a few good men on the List!), also, Army personnel who were stationed in the USA/Stateside during the war and a civilian woman who waited and prayed for her loved one to return, plus a civilian nurse who works at a VA Hospital and the story from a woman who was a teenager at the time of the war. As you read them, please remember that these stories are pieces of our souls and we offer them to you as our way of fulfilling our obligation to teach the young about war.

Facts:

THE STORIES

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of. Rocks and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of.

Tammy Sue from Whiskey Holler, Kentucky. Oh I can’t call myself that. First Sergeant says we have no Tammy Sues in this man’s Army. Well last I checked, I was a girl. Or lady soldier. Not sure about old Sarge though, mean old thing. So I am supposed to say my name is Private Perkins. I am a cook in charge of the pancake grill at Ye Olde Messe Hall (cafeteria), Fort Bragg. Now I know there are lots more important things in the Army, but they say it marches on it’s stomach so I do my part. I can break down and reassemble a portable kitchen faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Anyway, I know most of the soldiers I see are on their way to Vietnam, and I try to make it a little nice for them....special pancakes...I have to sneak around the mess sergeant though...in one pocket I have walnuts, in one pocket I have raisons. I tried blueberries but that made a big mess and almost got me into trouble. Sometimes I do bananas or apples. I know they like it. There was one who used to ask for my specials every morning....the CUTE ONE. I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks. I wished I had looked at his name tag instead of his deep blue eyes. Maybe I would write the CUTE ONE a letter. Hope he is doing OK over there.... ~Mary G. - Woman’s Army Corps (WAC)

I’m Lieutenant Baker, I’m 23 years old and a member of the Army Nurse Corps. I have been in VietNam working in the ER of an Evacuation Hospital for 8 months now. Nothing I saw, felt or imagined prepared me for being here, doing this job and trying to survive emotionally.

When I went on duty tonight to work the 7AM to 7PM shift, the nurses and corpsmen from the day shift told me that an 18 year old GI had come in a couple of hours ago. He had stepped on a land mine and his legs were a real mess, he was screaming and crying and begged the doctors to save his legs. He’s in the Operating Room now and no one knows yet if he lost his legs. The people from the day shift are emotional wrecks, it must have been a terrible show.

Great! The supervisor just called saying that ICU (Intensive Care Unit) is really busy and one of us nurses has to go work there tonight. I am outranked by the other nurse so here I go! Holy sh*t! They really are busy over here and "all" they want me to do is wait for that kid to get out of surgery and care for him as he wakes up.

Damn! They had to remove both his legs below the knee. I don't want to be here, sh*t, what am I going to do or say when he wakes up and realizes what happened...God damn this war! Maybe he'll sleep until the shift is over sure! right! Oh, no, here he comes...ah look at this, he's just a boy, this is going to break his mother's heart! You have to get yourself together Baker,you just can't let him see any pity in your eyes, you know that! Now get it together before he wakes up! He's comingto, maybe not...he's opening his eyes! Keep it together Baker, keep it together! I wish the knot in my stomach would go away...he's looking at me, trying to focus..touch him and smile...DO IT! That look in his eyes, he remembers..he's struggling to raise his head so he can look at his legs...push him back down no, he's earned the right to face the truth..gently hold his shoulder, let him know you're here and understand..yea, right, I understand! He saw that they're gone and has fallen back down...he's devastated! Baker! you will not cry, you can not cry, DON'T CRY!!!! it's the last thing he needs! but he's only a kid...DO NOT CRY!!!...he's turning to say something....GI: "Can you tell me what the f*ck I'm suppose to do without my f*cking legs?" (Lieutenant Baker thinking to herself again) DON'T CRY!! you can do this...you HAVE to do this! answer him!....put your hands on him....smooth his hair...I can't do this...yes you can! ANSWER HIM! LieutenantBaker : "You're going to have to spend a long time working very hard to learn to walk with artificial legs and if you can't do that you'll be in a wheel chair and learn to get around in that" Boy, that was just f*cking great...big comfort! How the f*ck can I comfort him when I can’t even comfort myself anymore...this f*cking goddamn war! ~DJW Army Nurse

(Nurse -a Captain who has been in country 10 months and it counting the days left) "What the hell are you standing around for Lieutenant, that grunt is bleeding, wrap some more dressings on his stumps, and by the way give him some morphine, he's starting to come too, I don't want to have to put up with any sh*t tonight." {CPT thinking to herself} ...why the hell did he have to come in here tonight...just 43 more days, only a few more hours till we’re off, damn I'm tired, too tired. If that Lieutenant doesn't get herself under control she's going to be a nut case. Oh what do I care ..I've got some paperwork to do.

"Hi I'm Bobbie", the 2nd Lieutenant blurts out as she stands to the side of Lieutenant Baker and the bed of the GI. "The Witch sent me over here," signaling with her head toward the Captain's’s desk. "I want to help, but I don't know what to do, I've just been in country a little over 2 weeks. I've only been a nurse for 2months" mumbled the young Lieutenant Acker.

Inside, Bobbie Acker, felt sick, she felt that she'd gotten herself into something she really didn't anticipate. She wanted adventure but really didn't count on the heat, the humidity, the strangeness of everything. And she certainly didn't anticipate the blood and the torn and mangled limbs she'd see. Only two weeks and she'd already seen more than she'd ever want too.

She watched Lieutenant Baker, her calm voice and skilled hands. She gasped as the GI raised up in bed again, god she didn't know what to do. Her stomach was tied up in knots, she'd barely slept since arriving at this each hospital. Her hands were visibly shaking.

Captain Summers reported off, it was 0720, she went directly to her room. Already the heat was exhausting. She changed into a t-shirt and shorts and sat down on her bunk. She was to weary to sleep and too sick of everything she'd seen. As usual the air conditioner didn't work, the shower and toilet were backed up, the voices of the mama-sans (maids)were echoing through the thin walls, chattering away. The smell of dead fish permeated the air. She hated what Vietnam had turned her into, a bitter, angry, tired, and disenchanted young nurse. Just 24 years old but she felt 40. After sitting on her bunk, head in her hands, she gave up and relunctantly did what helped the most, she obliterated her thoughts with hot yellow burning whiskey. She slept. ~ Diderich Army Nurse

Geez just three weeks ago I was at Fort Sam where I learned a little bit of everything, now here at the 24th Evac. God I hope I do all right. The ward Sarge told me to forget most everything I learned stateside as here it was different and he'd teach me the ropes, hope so. Man is this gonna be it for a year? That patient is burnt to a crisp-the smell. Man I feel sorry for him. Volunteer? No way sarge, you want me to try it in ICU. Sure, but if I don't like it can I come back . "Sure can". Should I believe him? All this is unbelievable.These guys can't hardly move,do I tell them I'm sorry, hell I can't. Just do your job.

The Capt told me that most of these guys only get better on their "charts" before they leave. Been a year now. I'm showing the other corpsman the ropes whatever they are. Frustrating, today a PFC died. The Lieutenant and I tried to keep him going with an ambu bag. The damn blisters on my fingers popped after half an hour.Damn don't the other nurses, getting the morning report, see us.Yea I guess they do but continue to do their jobs.Ok STOP now said the LT he's gone. He might be gone but will be forever with me.Choppers coming in. Getting SHORT. ~ PFC AL L CORPSMAN

This young GI was admitted to Surgical Intensive Care after his surgery from multiple injuries. At the time I felt it would be a hard battle to attempt to save his life. The OR Nurse told our staff that he was drilling holes for dynamite, unfortunately he drilled in a hole to make it deeper but his partner had already placed the dynamite. He had lost a leg, arm, one eye and had multiple frags thru-out his body. He had chest tubes and had lost a large part of his bowel. After about a week he was just beginning to improve and I thought he had a chance to make it back to the states.

Vietnamese were registered using the military alphabet when hospitalized. A nurse on a shift prior to mine who was new in country, hung a unit of blood on our young GI without checking the ID with another nurse. The GI's name was 2 letters different from the Vietnamese. As I took charge of the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit)that morning, I received a report that the young GI had a massive transfusion reaction. All day long we worked on him to reverse the effects of that one unit of blood. We had worked so hard to save his life and now it just seemed pointless to lose him with a mistake by a new nurse.

We were able to get hospital personnel to donate fresh blood and we were able to slowly reverse the situation---but it had weakened him greatly. Approximately one week later, we were informed by headquarters that this boy's parents had arrived from the states to see him. He had deteriorated during that week, infection had set in and he was not doing well. As they arrived on the unit I hurried over to them and had the corpsmen place chairs next to their son's bed. They were there about 5 minutes and he was able to speak some to them. The Mother cried for help- her son had stopped breathing! Sh*t!! Corpsmen get them out of here! Call Code Blue! As we were doing CPR- I knew it was hopeless- he was too far gone. I turned around and saw the parents in the doorway and the pain on their faces. I told the corpsmen to get the parents to hell out! We couldn't even save the one boy whose parents were able to come to Vietnam. Sometimes I wonder if my reaction to the parents was because I didn't care or because I cared too much! ~Glenna Army Nurse

This is Lieutenant Aimee' Dubois formerly of Baton Rouge, now of Ft. Polk. Still in Loosiana though. Just my luck. I wanted to see the world. Used to. Now I don't know. What I have seen the last few months is more than I can take. I got the job everyone is terrified to get...notification officer. Mr. and Mrs. Ginchard, Bouchard, Randeaux, O'Leary, I regret to inform you...that your handsome young Ranger/pilot/truck driver/clerk son is dead. Gone forever. Rest in peace. I read to them from the script in my head.

The mother shrieks and says I knew it I knew it the last letter I just felt it. The father just slumps in the chair. There is always a young sister in the doorway. From a cabin to a mansion, it is always the same. I do it in my sleep. They didn't warn us in OCS we would be tapped for this...not that we're better than men...we just stick around longer because they are all being sent overseas. I am supposed to have relief on the weekends but usually there is none. Who would date me anyway. I spook them. I am no good at this. I majored in accounting for heavens sake. Why couldn't they make me a finance officer. We all figured we would become finance officers except for the one lucky one who got to run the WAC bookstore. Now the only finance officer I know is the ex-nun on post who knows diddly about accounting and has screwed up more than one set of survivor benefits that I had to go behind and straighten out. It seems a nun would be better at this. More close to God or something. Sacre Cour they say. Mon Dieux.

I have lists of doctors and priests and ministers. I say can I call someone for you. Someone will be on his way. He died instantly. Painlessly. That is not on the script and we are not supposed to say that. So what are they going to do? Send me to Vietnam? God if you are reading this and you are thinking of sending someone for me this weekend, I can not do it. I absolutely just cannot do it. Just let me have one weekend to sleep and to forget. Keep just one more alive. ~Mary G. Woman’s Army Corps

I am Betty Johnson. My husband, Larry, is a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. I came home to Florida when he went to Viet Nam. I thought that being with family would help, but it seems like no one here really understands. I feel all alone in the midst of people I have known for years. How am I supposed to be interested in the silly stuff they seem to be interested in when all I really care about is how Larry is in Viet Nam?

At least when we were at Ft. Rucker, in flight school, we wives were all in it together. There were just some things we knew without having to explain it. I guess we all figured that the next stop would be Viet Nam, but no one wanted to really face it. We all acted as if it was just business as usual even when the orders came and we packed up our beloved husbands to go---and decided where we were going to go, too. Most everyone went home somewhere....and we write to each other, but there is always the unspoken. What if.....

I drove all the way out to California with Larry and then put him on a plane wearing my red dress and smiling like a Cheshire Cat. Then I drove all the way back to Florida....checking the papers and the news at every motel along the way, and writing him a cheerful note to mail and postcards of all the sights.....just like I was taking a vacation to see the sights....and all the time thinking.....what if.....what if.... And everyone here just goes on day by day as if no one knows or cares that Larry is flying in Viet Nam.....Sometimes I could just scream when I hear someone moaning and groaning about some stupid little something their husband did....and I just want to scream....send your annoying husband to Viet Nam and I will take my annoying one home again, thank you.

I get scared when the phone rings in the night and I watch for the mail man every day. Larry's letters don't say much about the war. He chit chats about folks we know and adds little bits of Viet Nam lore....I wish I really knew what he was going through and what he was thinking....or maybe I don't....I just wish he was here in my arms instead of there. I

I haven't gotten a letter this week. My heart climbs into my throat when there is too much time between letters. Some of our friends have been shot down and some of them have died. I count the days he has been gone and the days until he comes home...and I pray.....dear God how I pray..and I write cheery letters and send care packages....and tape recorded messages....I stopped telling people who don't know that my husband is in Viet Nam. they just don't understand and they don't even seem to care....and I have noticed that some even seem to look down on me....as if he is doing something wrong for serving his country. I don't understand it. The flag flies at my house everyday. It is their flag too.....but it seems that they don't know it.

Sometimes I wish that we had not decided to wait for children. If I had a baby to take care of....and could look into that baby's eyes and see Larry's maybe it would not be so hard....but maybe it would be harder. All I know is that I miss him so much and at the same time it seems like he has been gone so long, I can hardly remember his smile or the twinkle in his eyes.

Sandy, my best friend from flight school called yesterday saying that she had been notified that Pat was shot down and is missing. She lives in Tampa and I am packing to go over to stay with her for a few days. Maybe she will have heard good news before I get there. My heart skips a beat when I think it could be Larry. They are both flying out of Can Tho in the Delta. I feel guilty that I am glad Larry is okay so far. Relieved and guilty. Mary, Mother of God, fly with Larry and pray for Pat to come home safely too. I light a candle every Sunday and go to Mass almost every day, but you know, I bet everyone else prays too.....I know that Sandy is religious and still Pat is missing. How many rosaries mean safety for a helicopter pilot in the Mekong Delta? I am just going to wait for the mailman to come before leaving for Tampa.....maybe there will be a letter or a tape....Dear God, I hope he is okay...just one more day. ~Betty O'Hara Civilian Wife in waiting

Captain Rosie O'Dell, personnel officer, Ft. Rucker. No, I do not wish to speak to the Officers' Wives Club about the history of army aviation. First of all, I am a Personnel Officer and do not know anything about the history of army aviation except that we are writing it as we speak. Second of all, I know why you asked me and it is not so I can illuminate you on the subject. It is so you can pump me for information. If I know anything, it is classified. I cannot tell you when they will get their orders, how long they will be there, what the rotation times are, where they will be once they are there. Figure Long Binh for starters. You do the math. They need more pilots than we can produce. Not a whole lot are going to Germany.

I cannot help you with housing questions. Once they are assigned overseas, you have to move out of the housing here. Immediately. We have too many new families coming in. There is a housing officer. Go see her. If there is any bad news, there are other channels. The Red Cross will help you. They have excellent machines and excellent training and if something should happen, an excellent medical setup. And my job frankly is to get them over there and keep those helicopters up in the air and I can’t be wringing my hands about what could happen to them once they get there. So thank you kindly but I have work to do. ~Mary G Woman’s Army Corps

Our Father......this is Betty again God.....I know I have been talking to you over and over about my Larry. I know he is doing the right thing. I know that he is saving lives there...flying the wounded to hospitals....every time I hear a news report, I think...was Larry there....is it where he is.....and I check the map and pray more....I saw a little news report the other night about the chopper pilots going into places and evacuating wounded soldiers and getting them to medical help sooner than in any other war and I am proud of Larry all over again and then scared all over again because they shoot those choppers down sometimes too.....oh dear God help me get through this year. ~Betty O’Hara Civilian Wife in waiting

The last I remembered of the bush was at night. I had wrapped myself in my poncho liner, leaned against a tree and tried to fall asleep. I was shivering, it was so cold....and I thought to myself, "Damn, not another night like this..." I awoke in a hazy fog and someone had taken away my poncho liner. I tried to open my eyes but I couldn't see. Hands began grabbing at me and I fought. I felt for my sixteen, but it was gone.

I couldn't understand what was going on and the yelling of others sounded so far away. I figured that we were infiltrated while sleeping. It was dark, but I saw bright bursts of light from time to time. Excruciating pain jabbed at me at my arms, legs, feet, hands and I thought that maybe I was being stabbed, the pain was so intense. I was flinging my arms with my hands formed into fists. I know I was making contact. I know that if I didn't keep fighting I would die. God, I didn't want to die like this. Hurt them. Kill them. I was shouting, but I couldn't hear myself.

Eventually, I realized I couldn't move my arms or legs. I struggled but to no avail. Cold....oh, so cold..... I opened my eyes and saw the overhead florescent lights.I glanced to my side and saw metal hospital beds with patients laying with IV bottles of yellow fluid connected to their arms. I turned my head to the other side and saw the nurses' station with American women dressed in their OD uniforms. When one of them noticed me awake she walked towards me. I tried to move my arms but I realized that they were tied down same as were my legs. I had a plastic blanket covering my body with ice water circulating through it. Ice packs were placed under my neck and my knees, in my armpits and one was placed in my crotch.

A couple days earlier, I woke in the bush combative and belligerent. Those in my platoon had taken me to the ground and hog tied me with common wire. A medivac was called and I was taken directly to the hospital bypassing Battalion Aid. At the hospital my temp was taken and read over 107 degrees. My peripheral veins were collapsed and even after numerous attempts no one could start an IV on me. A doctor was called to do a cutdown. I fought them tooth and nail until they were successful in getting the restraints on. Throughout the night and into the following day I yelled, screamed and threatened I remembered none of this. All I remembered was the battle with the Demons in my dream..... Night approached shortly after. The ice blanket and the ice packs were left in place. I was shivering and I thought to myself..... "Damn, not another night like this...." Cold....oh, so cold.... ~Doc Del - Army Field Medic

Airman Candee Peterson, Andrews Air Force Base, Air Traffic Controller. Tell me which planes are carrying patients or coffins, and I will give them absolutely top priority...and I don't care which general is going to which meeting at the Pentagon or the White House. And what do you do if there is a medical emergency on board? Or a death? We can probably help with arrangements for ambulances or whatever and figure out the paperwork later. At your service, over and out. ~Mary G Women’s Army Corps

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT, Class of '70:

"Dinner!"

"A minute Mom, the news just started."

"This is the CBS Evening News for . . "

More war stuff. It's the same thing every night. Soldiers with guns covered in mud. How long has this war been going on? As long as I can remember. Now more protestors. Protestors getting beat up. They must just do that to get on TV.

"Your dinner's on the table."

"Coming"

Here's the politicians bad-mouthing the protestors. This must be a summer rerun. But Jeff wore that black arm band on Moratorium Day. He's not just showing off. He must really believe the war is wrong to show up at the high school with that thing on, especially since he's always getting picked on. He outta lay low, not ask for trouble. His conscience makes him do it. He must know something. But that's not what the news says. Where else would he get his information? Maybe he is just against war because he's going to be a minister. I should ask him. Nah, I don't even want to talk about the war. Someone will just butt in. Every conversation about Vietnam ends the same way. "Love it or leave it." If I hear that one more time. .. Oh great, here's Dad.

"God d*mn long haired hippies!"

"Dinner!"

"Coming!"

"The number killed in Vietnam this week--"

Click. ~Marilyn - Just a kid

My company had been decimated..we went from 122 grunts to 44 in 2 months they finally sent us to a firebase, LZ Thunder...to recover and regroup. 4 months near the Laotian border had just about wiped us out.

We walked out everyday through the Village at the foot of the base. When we walked out on patrol every day the dinks would run along side of us ...trying to sell us candles, weed, cold Pepsi's etc, we walked fast, very fast so we would not be a good target for the mortars...etc. There was a crippled girl who tried to sell her wares, but she could not keep up with us. She was dragging one leg (polio) I guessed. I always stopped and bought her wares ... at a risk to my self ... she was pretty, but I do not know why I traded with her when it could have got me dead ... but I did. She was 14 or 15 I guess ... but I went way out of my way to put some MPC (money) in her pockets. Tet of 1969 came and she invited me to come to her house at sundown and eat a meal with her family ... I told the commanding officer (CO), Larry, ... and he said go ... it would be good for relations ... so my bro Ski and I did ... I took a M79 with 1 shell in the chamber Ski took a M 16 with no magazine. We squatted down with the family...feeling scared.

The father offered the eyes of a fish to me as the special guest of his daughter ... I passed a few times I did not want to eat them ... he knew I went out of my way to trade with the crippled girl and wanted to honor me with those damn fish eyes ... I kept trying to give them back to him and finally (thank god) he accepted them. At the end of the meal they had some cookies which we ate gladly and the whole family seemed relieved at that time a young man in black pajamas (VietCong)entered the hut carrying an AK47 I almost sh*t...he looked at us and placed his weapon across the hut from himself...he must of felt sorry for us...we were screwed so screwed, he said through his sister that I cared for her so he would not waste us..after all she was a cripple, and I took a chance every time I stepped out of line to buy anything from his little sister, and there fore I was supporting the family, and I could not be all bad.We spilt as soon as we could and knew we had gotten away with our lives and something more. ~BillA. Warrior

God, why is he calling for me every five minutes? We have 25 patients in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and 4 in Recovery. I can’t do this. She walks back to the bed and asks what she can do. He asks for the fifth time, "did they have to take my legs?" Yes, they had to take your legs, the surgeons could’t repair the damage. "okay, Lieutenant" She goes to another patient and administers 2 medications and then hears "Nurse! Nurse!" It’s him again-don’t cry-don’t f*cking cry-just see what he needs. "Lieutenant, is this my punishment from God?" What do you mean? "I had to shoot a kid you know-he had a grenade and was coming at us-I was the only one that saw him, he couldn’t have been more than 12 or so. Hell of a thing isn’t it? I killed him but the goddamn grenade went off anyways. The rest of the guys are Ok though, I was the only one that got hurt. Do you understand Lieutenant? Do you forgive me?" Jesus this hurts! I understand and I forgive you-you were saving your buddies. Talk to the Man,I think he will understand. I don’t know if he listens anymore to anyone in this hell hole. "What is my girl going to think and my Mom?" They love you and will be glad to get you back. "I used to dance a lot, I won’t be able to dance anymore." ~Willa - Army Nurse

A Donut Dollie Is Hospitalized (Cu Chi, 1967)

This is really stupid. I went on R&R to Bangkok and ended up with a severe, major case of bronchitis from the air conditioning After 10 months in-country, my body can't handle all that cold air I am also so tired. All I want to do is sleep. There's no place to put a female patient here, so they've put me in the ICU recovery ward with a folding screen around my bed.

They've brought in two civilian victims from the local village - the school superintendent and the Mayor. The VC made examples of them by cutting off their hands, shooting them, and leaving them for dead on our perimeter. The doctors have done all they can to try to save them. They both die. They've caught a VC. He has been patched up by our doctors. Several ARVN officers are loudly interrogating him. He is young and looks really scared. The ARVN are so rough with him! I finally fall asleep. He is gone when I wake up.

Several more extremely injured American soldiers are being brought in from surgery. I hope they make it! I feel like I should not be here ? my illness is insignificant compared to them. I am just taking up space. I'm seeing and hearing things I should never see or hear. My doctor checks on me several times a day, but it is lonely for me in here I've had a couple of visitors, but everyone is busy working. I am so tired! All I want to do is go home. I'm tired of this war. I'm just so very tired! ~Sharon C.- American Red Cross Worker

Who’s that coming across the compound? Oh, yes, one of the grunts who visits one or two days a month when he’s out of the bush. He’s walking differently, his face is not the same. "Hello, nice to see you, how’ve you been?" He’s walking right up to my face, almost nose-to-nose. Back up a little.... He’s not smiling as I’ve seen him do before (he has beautiful teeth) . He’s a good 10’’taller than my 5’4’’ frame "Oh you’re getting Out? Going back to the world-Wonderful." He tells me he’s not going home: but rather to Japan. (Anywhere is better than here.) "No, I’m going to Japan because ‘SOMEBODY’ says there is something wrong with my blood. That’s not the real reason" he says. (This guy is so intense, so rigid-I can hardly recognize him as the smiling guy I knew). "No, the real reason they are sending me out is that...you know...I Love to Kill. I love the feeling of sticking the knife in and turning it." "Oh God, what are we doing to these men? What are we sending back to the world...what in the hell are we doing?" He walked away-I never saw him again; but, year after year, I think of him. My heart is hurt, my soul has been touched, my tears keep flowing-What have we done? ~Jeanie B. - American Red Cross 70-71

A Donut Dollie's Visit to the Hospital (Cam Ranh, 1966)

It really is hot today! The entire base is barely moving We are handing out salt pills by the ton, and making gallons upon gallons of lukewarm Kool-Aid here in the Center, anything to try and keep cool I could be down at the beach right now, but I really want to finish writing this hospital book. I've already used six mimeograph forms, but I want this book to be really special for my guys at the hospital. The other girls in my unit tease me about all the time I spend creating these books!

I've decided to call this book, "The Girls from the Batmobile" - a play on the word "clubmobile." I've drawn a great cover with Batman on it. So far, the book has crossword puzzles and various other types of word puzzles, jokes copied from Reader's Digest and Playboy, and cartoons which I've copied and drawn from Playboy and other magazines. My artistic talents are coming in handy here. A couple more hours and it will be done.

The books are done! Alice and I have loaded the jeep with the books and some pencils and are headed over to the hospital. Not all the girls in the unit like these hospital visits, but I really look forward to them. The guys are so appreciative of our visits.

We've arrived. Time for a quick comb through the hair and some fresh lipstick. The ward is really full today. A lot of new faces - but then they don't stay here long. There is no time to really get to know any of these guys. We've only got one chance to let each of them know we care about them and are here because of them. We give the books to all the guys in the couple of wards we visit. They will look at them after we leave. Mostly they just want to talk to us! Several of the guys are looking forward to going back to the World from here.

Some of the injuries are really serious. One guy is very quiet and withdrawn. While Alice is busy with a group of the guys, I go over to talk to him. I can see that he is one of the more severely injured men. I force myself to focus on his face. I figure, if I don't react in a negative way to his injuries, it might help. He talks a little to me, but he is really scared to go home. I just keep looking at his eyes. I want him to know that his family will be grateful that he is alive! I hope he knows that is true, but I will never know if he even makes it home.

It has been a long day. Emotionally I am drained, but I feel energized. I'm already planning the next book. ~Sharon C. - American Red Cross Worker

Psychiatric Ward VA Hospital Anywhere USA I hope this is a quiet night. The evening nurse said in report that some of the VietNam vets were edgy after the news showed the fighting going on in the Balkans. When I made rounds a few minutes ago, I noticed that Ted in 205 was restless in his sleep. We know him well, been here before...has a really rough time sometimes....He is a combat vet. Service connected for both his legs and for PTSD.

It is really spooky to see his legs standing in the corner in the half light of my flashlight. He is a double amputee....lost his legs in combat in Viet Nam. Seems to have adjusted to the protheses okay, but the PTSD is really giving him a run for the money. Seems to be too much....you give your legs for your country and your mind, too. Damn it makes me mad....and some people don't even believe in PTSD. They should spend one night here on this ward. They would believe in it then. I get so frustrated. There is not that much we can really do. Live with it, talk about it, suck it up.

I had one guy ask me if a lobotomy would take the memories out of his head and ease the flashbacks and the nightmares. He begged me for a miracle so that he could get on with his life. I don't have any miracles. I came to work here to serve those who served and sometimes I think that there is nothing I can do--that the best I have to offer is never--can never be enough. uh-oh....I hear yelling from 205.....oh no....he is under the bed....yelling take cover.....yelling incoming.....thank whatever Gods love night nurses that he is alone in this room tonight. I don't need four guys in VietNam in the middle of the night. One is enough.....sh*t.....the float they sent me hasn't got a clue how to approach someone in the middle of a nightmare or a flashback. I told her when she got here not to touch these guys or come up to them suddenly and she is halfway across the room.

"Ann, let me talk to him. He knows me" Whew, she is going back over to the door. Now easy, remember he is in Viet Nam not the USA....no telling who he thinks you are....Ann turned the room light on....good....I've got to get where he can see me but not near enough for him to grab me....that means on the floor.....dear God, I am too old for this kneeling on the floor in the middle of the night....... "Ted.......Ted......it's me, Betty, your nurse. It is 1998, Ted. You are in the VA hospital in Anywhere. You are back in the states, Ted. Remember me? I am your nurse, Ted. You are in the hospital." Is he hearing me.....his eyes have that thousand yard stare.....does he see me? am I helping at all....got to get him oriented to here and now before he hurts himself or me..... "Ted......you are in the VA hospital. This is 1998. Ted...you are safe. You're home."

He seems to be hearing me....I will just keep talking....softly.....reminding him that he is here and not there....now and not then.....damn it....sometimes I feel that I end up closer to there when this happens....each time it happens....sometimes I wonder if there is really anything I can really do to help....am I just wasting my time? Am I good enough? I know I care enough, but am I good enough to do this one more time? I get so tired....so tired....and I know they are tired too. This damn war never seems to end for them or for me. My husband has nightmares too. Nightmares of the boys he carried out of the jungle in his chopper.....I am so tired of the damn Viet Nam war......so tired..... Ted is looking at me now....calling my name and nurse....got him back to 1998 another time. He is sweating and shaking. Ann has gone to get him a prn....maybe with chemical help he can get some sleep.....in the morning, he'll be thanking me and telling me how wonderful I am. We have been here before. If I am so wonderful, why are we here again? I wish I had some magic....some miracle.....all I have is caring....all I have is love. Is it enough? Will it ever be enough? Oh well, back to work. Ted is settling down, everyone else is asleep. The Nursing Supervisor is making her rounds and I have paperwork to do. Just like the government....more paperwork than nursing......another night in the VA. ~Alix H. - Civilian Nurse in Veteran’s Administration Hospital

I don't know if there was a typical day in Vietnam. You didn't really know what the day would bring -- malaria, white phosphorous, napalm, limbs blown off, head wounds, multiple trauma. The faces changed, the toll it took did not. Concrete floors, red dust (that really wasn't a tan), blood, pseudomonas, and the occasional maggot or worm. Scared kids, hurting kids, dying kids, comatose kids -- it never ended Even out of the hospital someone needed a piece of me- mother, sister, daughter, wife, lover -- it never ended. When my family and others who loved me listened but didn't hear and understand -- it never ended. When I needed to talk and tried to turn to my brothers (Vets), and was rebuffed -- it never ended. Even on a plane 24 years later, and 35,000 feet in the air talking a brother Vet down -- he perspired and I sweated blood -- it never ended. ~Willa - Army Nurse

Bullet Women in Vietnam Bullet Many Women Served Bullet Red Cross
Bullet Military Nurses Bullet Military Women Bullet Get Back in Touch
Bullet Bibliographies Bullet In Memoriam Bullet Free Monthly Newsletter
Bullet Videos/Stuff to Buy Bullet Locater Service/Remarks Bullet Health Stuff
Bullet Photo Tours Bullet Books Bullet Help for Students

My Vietnam Related Websites:
button Women in Vietnam ~ Read about ALL the women who served . . .
The Irish on the Wall ~ An effort to locate the Irish who died in Vietnam
button Tim O'Brien's Home Page ~ National Book Award Winner and Americal Vet

button Emily's Poetry ~ By a Red Cross Donut Dolly
button All About Vietnam    ~ An annotated bibliography of books about Vietnam for sale thru Amazon Worldwide!
button Photos from a Holts' Military History Tour ~ My trip to Vietnam, February 1998

My Other Websites:
Maybe Later . . . ~ My Creative Nonfiction
Irish in Korea ~ Irish men and women who gave their lives in the Korean War
Literature of the Korean War ~ Don't let the literature be forgotten
Samuel Pepys ~ One of my favorite authors
Chicago Theatre Z - A ~ This is the best theater town in the country!
Soccer Literature ~ I'm a fan and I read
O'Leary Lantern ~ Fire! Fire! Fire!
Gil Thorp ~ THE Coach (apologies to The General!)
Poetry of the First World War ~ Owen, Hardy and others
Chi-COW-go ~ Cowz plus Commentary (this used to be a cow town)
Graham Fulton, Scottish Poet ~ Charles Manson Auditions for the Monkees

Other Important Websites:
The Truth About Caroline ~ a  really good Young Adult book by my niece, Stacey
M. Lane Grosh
Remember Oklahoma City
The Civil Service and Military will NEVER forget!

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Page last updated July 18, 2007