A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam

A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam

A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam

A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of 26 American Women Who Served in Vietnam

Excerpt

I had been involved with the Vietnam veterans community for several months, working on a photo essay about them, but had yet to locate a woman who was in Vietnam during the war. Then in February 1983, I was introduced to Rose Sandecki, director of the Veterans Outreach Center in Concord, California, and arranged an interview with her. For an hour and a half Rose told me of things I couldn't have imagined: how close to the war women actually were, the details of her daily routine as an emergency room nurse in Cu Chi and Da Nang, how deeply the experience had affected her life.

Then she told me of her efforts to locate other women across the country who might be experiencing the problems that she and a dozen of her peers in the Bay Area discovered they shared. They all had experienced difficulty in readjusting to life even after being back from Vietnam for as many as fourteen years.

I was stunned by what Rose told me, yet there was something beyond that, something in her eyes, an intangible, haunting presence that really drew me in—that interview was to determine what I would be doing for the following two years and would lead to the making of this book.

Rose asked me why I was interested in Vietnam veterans. I wasn't really sure myself, but in my explanation I remember speaking of a need to examine my own feelings about the war and maybe reconcile the conflicting emotions that I still carried with me. During the war I was teaching college in the San Francisco area and was constantly aware of the students' dilemma in dealing with Vietnam.The young men were facing the draft, and because I had been drafted and sent to Korea when I was their age, I had definite opinions on that subject. I was strongly against our involvement and in sympathy with the people in the antiwar movement, but having been a soldier, I couldn't abandon the people who were going over there. Their lives were on the line, whether or not our government was right in sending them there. I guess you could say, to use a contemporary phrase, I was able to separate the warriors from the war.

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