…over 265,000 women served in the armed forces of the United States. Nearly 10,000 women in uniform actually served in-country during the conflict. They completed their tours of duty and made a difference. They gave their lives.
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was established not only to honor those women who served, but also for the families who lost loved ones in the war, so they would know about the women who provided comfort, care, and a human touch for those who were suffering and dying. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated in 1993 as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project was incorporated in 1984 and is a non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C. The mission of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project is to promote the healing of Vietnam women veterans through the placement of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.; to identify the military and civilian women who served during the Vietnam war; to educate the public about their role; and to facilitate research on the physiological, psychological, and sociological issues correlated to their service. The Project has the support of every major veterans group in the country including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and more than 40 other diverse organizations.
In 2002 The Project changed its name to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation to better reflect its mission at this time. In 2015 The Foundation selected Eastern National to assume the operating mission of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation.
Diane Carlson Evans, RN
Army Nurse Corps, 1966-72
During the Vietnam Era…
Approximately 11,000 American military women were stationed in Vietnam during the war. Close to ninety percent were nurses in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Others served as physicians, physical therapists, personnel in the Medical Service Corps, air traffic controllers, communications specialists, intelligence officers, clerks and in other capacities in different branches of the armed services. Nearly all of them volunteered.
By 1967, most all military nurses who volunteered to go to Vietnam did so shortly after graduation. These women were the youngest group of medical personnel ever to serve in war time.
Because of the guerilla tactics of Vietnam, many women were in the midst of the conflict. There was no front, no such thing as “safe behind our lines.” Many were wounded; most spent time in bunkers during attacks. The names of the eight military women who died in Vietnam are listed on the “Wall.”
Medical personnel dealt with extraordinary injuries inflicted by enemy weapons specifically designed to mutilate and maim. During massive casualty situations, nurses often worked around the clock, conducted triage, assisted with emergency tracheotomies and amputations, debrided wounds and inserted chest tubes so surgeons could get to the next critical patient. Over 58,000 soldiers died in Vietnam; 350,000 were wounded.
It is estimated that approximately 265,000 military women served their country during the Vietnam war all over the world in a variety of occupations. Thousands of women served in Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other stateside hospitals caring for the wounded and dying who had been stabilized and flown out of the war zone. Many Navy women were stationed aboard the USS Repose and the USS Sanctuary, hospital ships stationed off the coast of South Vietnam. Air Force nurses served both “in country” and on air evacuation missions.
An unknown number of civilian women also served in Vietnam as news correspondents and workers for the Red Cross, the USO, the American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Relief Services and other humanitarian organizations. Like their military counterparts, many of these women were wounded in the crossfire. More than 50 civilian American women died in Vietnam.
Many Vietnam women veterans have never told their friends, colleagues or even loved ones about their tour of duty in Vietnam. The majority of them were only in their early 20s when they returned to a country that did not understand what they had just experienced. Although most were there to save lives, they received the same hostile treatment as the returning combat soldiers.
When the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project was started in 1984, Project leaders (all volunteers) were struck by the lack of information about the women who served during the Vietnam era. Veterans groups and the government had few records of them – there were no networks established and no easy way to find out where these women were. Although the Foundation is making steady progress in researching available documentation there is still no official, accurate record of the number of women who served during the Vietnam era.
According to a recent Veterans Administration report, 48% of the women who served during the Vietnam conflict will suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lives. Yet, few have sought documented help for it. Many women also have suffered health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. Some have committed suicide.
The Foundation’s Sister Search program was dedicated to locating all American women – both military and civilian – who served during the Vietnam era. The purpose of the Search was to facilitate healing among these veterans, allow them to network with each other, share their stories with the public, and complete essential research on this virtually undocumented veterans group. About 12,000 Vietnam women veterans were located by the Foundation.
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