The Honor Society Of Vietnam Nurses

          The Honor Society of Vietnam War Nurses
              Orlando Lujan Martinez IWA

    The nurses war was different from the soldiers-instead of exploding in the jungle, it blew up in the mind.  Surrounded by death, the nurses had to shut down emotionally.  They could not show their feelings to the soldiers they were trying to heal.           
  The honor society of nurses in war was, for the most part, absence from the nations war memorials until  Glenna Goodacres, renown New Mexico sculptor and artist, sculpted the poignant Vietnam Woman's Memorial.  The bronze statue evokes a keen sense of sadness and love, as it pays tribute to the eleven thousand American women, 7,484 were nurses, who served in the military during the Vietnam War.
    Glenna Goodacres' memorial was unveiled on Veteran's Day, November 11, 1993.  It depicts three nurses in battle dress, one comforts a wounded or perhaps dying soldier, another nurse kneels, and then another looks up, in expectation, to the sky for a medevac helicopter.  The Vietnam Woman's Memorial is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, near the south end of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
    The Vietnam Woman's Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and "Three Soldiers" Memorial have been brought together, on the Mall, to created the greatest anti-war statement of our times. The memorials are a message, for mankind to ponder and learn, from a mythical era of war, death and revelation.  They do not say that war is noble.  They only say that death is real.   
    Towards the end of the war the nurses came to realize, as did the troops in the field, that the death and suffering were in vain. That their soldier patients, average age 18, were being killed for no reason.  That there would not be a victory.
One nurse recalling an incident of her Vietnam tour said, "We were working in a field hospital medical tent and there wasn't enough room for all the soldiers so the doctors triage them and the dying soldiers were put outside the tent on stretchers, to make room for the soldiers that had a chance o surviving, and some of them
knew why they were put outside.
I stepped outside the tent to have a cigarette and one of the dying soldiers called me over. "I know why I'm here," he said in a weak voice and I want you to sent this letter to my wife." He gave her a bloodstained letter and she said, holding back tears, she could not show her feelings to the a soldier that was dying. "Sure, I can do that for you."
It was the saddest moment of her service in Vietnam. These young nurses saved the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers and comforted thousands more who died from their wounds.
  But out of the Vietnam War tragic ruins came the astounding Vietnam Veterans Memorial, rising like a phoenix out of the funeral pyre of Vietnam: to bring together the civilians, soldiers, nurses and other military personal, to remember, morn, and cry for the honor dead in this tragic war and then to finally heal.
   "The Wall' and the adjacent: The Vietnam Woman's Memorial and the "Three  Soldiers" memorials are memorials to the sacrifice and the comradeship of all military personal that serve in Vietnam. They are brothers and sisters,  The Vietnam War became historical legend and is a heroic war, despite the tragedy of it being a malignant war.
     The visitors who come to pay homage at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial become captured by the sorrow and mystic that radiates from it, that many are overcome by grief and tears.
    The "purpose" of that wall, wrote the New Republic, is "to impress upon the visitor the sheer human waste, the utter meaninglessness of it all...but it is much more than that: it is the emotional unification for those valiant nurses, soldiers and navy personal, who till then had thought they were orphans.  The Vietnam War Memorial welcomes them home-at last-and remembers the great courage and sacrifices of the nurses,and other military members. 
     Soldiers remember the nurses with love and affection-the kind smile, the gentle touch, the soft words that eased their pain.  Parents spoke with gratitude of the nurses that sent their sons home.     
      In Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, former Colonel Diana Dawn Poole wrote "One of my rules was that nurses were not allowed to cry. The wounded and dying men in our care need our strength, I told them.  We couldn't indulge in the luxury of our own feelings. On the other hand, I was always straight with the soldiers. I would never say, "Oh, you're going to be just fine," if they were on their way out. I didn't lie."
     The nurses in Vietnam signed up under an economic draft in which the military paid for nursing school or continuing education in exchange for enlisting. Recruiters told the nurses they would not be called to Vietnam.  But after the Tet Offensive, the Army called up all nurses on active duty. The nurses were totally unprepared for what they would see and experience. Literally thrown into the role, often under fire and always in danger, these young women saved the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers and comforted thousands more who died from their wounds.
   1996 Memorial Day Address at the Wall by  Diana Carlson Evans, RN founder of the memorial project and former army nurse in Vietnam said:   "On November 11, 1993 an event took place here which changed the landscape of the Capital Mall. The faces of women are now seen as part of our national history. On that Veterans' Day, the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project dedicated the bronze sculpture which stands directly behind you here on this sacred ground."
    "Together with the Wall and the statue of the three infantrymen, the Vietnam Women's Memorial is healing the wounds and capturing the hearts of millions throughout the world..."
     "The names of  eight women who lost their lives while on military service in Vietnam are etched on the Wall.  It is in their memory and to recognize and honor all women who served that the Vietnam Women's Memorial was placed here on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial."
      As creator of the Vietnam Women's Memorial - the seven foot tall bronze sculpture- artist Glenna Goodacre has experienced her most gratifying moments watching visitors reach out to touch her work. "If someone is so moved by my piece that they want to put a hand on it and feel whatever they can," says Goodacre,  "What better compliment could you get?
    "I sculpted The Vietnam Woman's Memorial  to honor a distinct group of women whom I admired and focused upon their contributions. I have heard from so many of them how that sculpture has helped them deal with the Vietnam War; it has changed their lives.  Which is more important, to have a positive response from those women or a good review from some critic?"
    In the hush of the hospital tent, among the wounded and suffering soldiers, nurses and doctors glided between the beds, an occasional moan drifted in the air. The muffled sound of gun fire was in the distance.  When a nurse passed a bed where a young man laid weakly, he said "Nurse, could you help me get a drink of water."
     "Sure."  the nurse said, looking at the gaze wrapped stubs of the mans lower arms.  She filled a glass of water from a container on the bedside table and held the glass to his lips.  While he, the young man of eighteen, drank the water the nurse struggle with a overwhelming sense of sadness.  She put down the glass, and had to get out of the stifling tent.   She went out and stood under the hot rays of the Vietnam sun, looking towards the sound of the muted gunfire, wondering;  Why?  Why?
a1234poem a1234poem
41-45, M
1 Response Jul 12, 2010

I applaud you!