Setting the record straight
To the Journal editor:
Thank you for your outstanding support during the recent visit of the AVTT Traveling Vietnam Wall. From start to finish you helped make this an experience of huge proportion for me and many others. For five days we were immersed in an ocean of love from fellow veterans, family members, and the public at large. If your goal was to make us feel the welcome now that we did not receive back then, you certainly met it.
The Traveling Wall is awesome. It provided a means for us to gather to recognize the 58,000 plus who died for their country in Vietnam, and for those who survived the horrors of that war to find some measure of comfort. Thank you, Marquette Community Veterans Alliance for bringing the Wall here.
I must, however, try to set the record straight. Those three women who stepped forward at the Closing Ceremony were not nurses. Undoubtedly angels, military nurses are officers. We were all enlisted. When Suzanne approached the microphone, she introduced us as Vietnam era vets. The significance of the word “era” apparently escaped many those who were there. Era vets are men and women who entered the service between Aug. 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975, but did not serve in-country.
When we volunteered to fill the gap created by the missing speaker, we attempted to keep our topics on task. The issue was the Wall and Vietnam. Suzanne and Paula both had negative travel experiences to tell. I had no such experiences. For 20 years everyone I worked with either wore green or served beside me as civilians. Suzanne related the things her husband, Jack, went through as a Senior Field Medic in ‘Nam, and Paula talked of the stories recounted to her by in-country nurses she had worked with. Having neither to draw on, I talked of a Prisoner of War I had met as a young personnel clerk.
Thank you for listening to us via this letter. We are proud to have served, but do not wish to pretend to be something we are not. In-country Vietnam veterans are in a class of their own and deserve every respect and honor that comes with that distinction.
Suzanne Morris (US Navy), Paula Paszke (US Navy), and Lynn Chevrette (US Army, all members of VVA Chapter 380