Vietnam War Women’s Memorial in Washington DC
In their article In Country: U.S. Nurses During the Vietnam War (Working Nurse, October 5, 2020) Aaron Severson and Lorilea Johnson wrote:
“The nurses who served in the Vietnam War are among the least recognized of American military veterans. Many films and TV programs about U.S. involvement in Vietnam do not depict a single American nurse. In fact, more than 6,000 U.S. nurses — the large majority of them women — served in Vietnam during the war. Some didn’t make it home alive, and many others were changed forever.”
Since then, thousands more nurses have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hazardous duty stations. And many were changed forever. Tragically, in many cases part of that change is PTSD. In Vietnam Veterans Still Have PTSD 40 Years After War (U.S. News, Dec. 5, 2015), Traci Badalucco describes how PTSD might take years to manifest itself after caregivers return from war zones, and then last for years, or decades, thereafter.
Some of those Veterans are now engaged in a second hazardous tour of duty as nurses taking care of desperately sick, and often dying, Covid-19 patients. And they can find that, because of their military experience, they also end up taking care of nurses for whom working in a Covid patient care unit feels more like being in a combat zone than in a civilian hospital.
In a story included in the book E.R. Nurses by Patterson and Eversmann, critical care nurse Tom O’Hara wrote:
“I came back from Afghanistan with PTSD. I know the warning signs, and I can tell each one of these tough young women [nurses in a Chicago Covid unit] is lost in the fog of war. They’re going up against an enemy no one fully understands – and they’re losing. Seeing all of these deaths stack up day after day is making them question their abilities.”
So on this Veterans Day 2021, please remember the men and women who cared for, and continue to care for, our Veterans.
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