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Experiencing War: Women of Four Wars (Stories from the Veterans History Project, Library of Congress)

Many of the women who served in these wars—nurses in hospitals and on hospital ships—saw the results of combat and exposure to unforgiving climates reflected in their patients. There were other roles for women to play, as with Air Force officer “Chris” Johnson, who tracked supply inventory at Vietnam’s Ton Son Nhut Air Base. But the pop culture images of how women served in these wars—the nurses of MASH and China Beach—isn’t far from the truth.

Featured Story: Joan Furey
Joan Furey - link to story
“It’s very hard to experience yourself as having been ‘wounded’ when you’ve taken care of people who have had such incredible physical injuries.” (Video Interview, 1:11:45)

A year out of nursing school, Joan Furey was working an Intensive Care Unit in a hospital in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Her year there was an accelerated course in applied nursing techniques. Both the intensity of her daily shifts and the democratic nature of her unit, where nurses were given decision-making latitude by the doctors in the interests of serving the patients, spoiled her for civilian nursing in more relaxed and structured surroundings. She came to discover a delayed reaction to the stress of her wartime experiences and gained a better understanding of postwar trauma suffered by the soldiers she had treated.

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Joan Furey's story
Experience more stories of Korean & Vietnam more stories
“I don’t think anything in civilian life can prepare you for combat casualties.” -- Joan Furey
Marion L. Birkheimer - link to story
“It was the only answer I could give him because I knew he was dying.”

Marion L. Birkheimer 's story

Nan Borg - link to story
“They weren’t alone in feeling guilty about not saving everybody.”

Nan Borg 's story

Rose L. Sutherland Gibbs - link to story
“It was really about what you could do to help them.”

Rose L. Sutherland Gibbs's story

Helen Eileen Hause - link to story
“These kids, they would watch you when you were changing their dressings...”

Helen Eileen Hause's story

Mary L. Weiss Hester - link to story
“I was glad to serve. My [brother] ... said, 'If you’re going to join the service, join the Air Force.'”

Mary L. Weiss Hester's story

Clara C. Johnson - link to story
“... I was the only person of color and they were readily accepting of me.”

Clara C. Johnson's story

Bernadette L Reider - link to story
“There was one man, a soldier, sitting up on the hill there, with a machine gun. And that was it...”

Bernadette L. Reider's story

Dorothy Tidwell Rhoades - link to story
“I started thinking, Well, I think it would be interesting to do something different...”

Dorothy Tidwell Rhoades' story

Kathryn M. Taylor - link to story
“But they named it after me and somebody sent pictures of it: the Kathryn Miller Memorial Latrine.”

Kathryn M. Taylor's story

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  February 21, 2008
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