The twenty-four-hour flight to Vietnam was more than an endurance test of cramped legs, unappetizing food, and a sleepless night. It was, for many, the first time they thought of danger and death. Boisterous passengers, especially those men returning for a second tour in the war, suddenly became quiet when the coast of Vietnam came into view. A few soldiers began to put together their M-16 rifles. For the nurse, often the only female officer on board the aircraft, the last hour in the air was a time when fear began to mingle with the curiosity she had felt during preparations for her year-long tour. There was fear for her own safety and fear that many of the men who sat around her would never see home again. The daily and weekly casualty figures she had heard on nightly television newscasts took on a new, personal meaning. The Vietnam War was now part of the nurse's consciousness.
For six of the nurses, there was little time to ponder these thoughts. The aircraft or the airport where they would land was under enemy fire. The war was immediate and frightening. One nurse recalled "We were not far off the coast [of Vietnam ] when the captain announced they [the enemy] were mortaring the