The results of my study of fifty veteran nurses support the findings of previous research conducted on nurses who served in Vietnam.1 and echo personal accounts of nurses who served in World Wars I and II and Korea.2 But there were three unique aspects of the Vietnam War: public antipathy toward its participants, the lack of a homecoming for its veterans, and the defeat of the South Vietnamese and the American "causes."
The inability of most of the nurses to return to Vietnam and see it at peace left the war unfinished. Some women expressed a desire to visit the orphanages, leprosariums, villages, and military bases they had known. "I'd really like to go back to Vietnam to see how the Vietnamese girl I cared for is doing as a young lady and find out what happened to my hooch, my hospital, my ward," said one army nurse.
These women want to complete their war work. They want to know about the villagers, the young orphans they clothed with outfits sent from home, the lepers with chronic disease, the hospitals they helped staff -- in essence, about the place where they had finished their youth and had had some of their brightest moments.