Women at War: The Story of Fifty Military Nurses Who Served in Vietnam

By Elizabeth M. Norman | Go to book overview
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9
Leaving Vietnam

During the last three months of their tours in Vietnam, the nurses sensed a change. The war for them was ending. It was time to go home, back to the "world." The change was subtle and unconscious. Feelings and thoughts the nurses had suppressed to get through the year began to surface. They started to think about themselves again. What they discovered were a variety of feelings: fatigue, vulnerability, pride, and ambivalence.

The twelve-hour days, the heat, and the suffering had taken its toll. There was a weariness that had sapped their strength and left little energy for anything besides work and sleep. This weariness also affected their ability to sustain a strong emotional defense. As one young army nurse said, "The last three months were tough. I had been bubbly, vivacious, and optimistic. I was a strong, buoyant force, but I couldn't maintain it all. I was ready to leave."

An air force nurse mentioned that during the end of her tour she tired of getting up in the middle of the night to pick up eighteen-year-old "kids" so badly wounded they would never go home. As the women's emotional defenses faltered, the sense of wasted lives and losses mounted. There always seemed to be one

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