Ceremony Honors Women Who Served in Vietnam
(November 13, 2008)
Visitors gather around the Vietnam Women's Memorial as part of the Veteran's Day
Observance at the Vietnam Wall today in Washington, D.C. Today also marks the
15th Anniversary Vietnam Women's Memorial opening.
DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt.
Michael J. Carden
WASHINGTON, November 11, 2008
Each of the 58,000 names of fallen troops etched into the granite Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Wall here tells a story. Many of these tales end in the arms
of a female nurse.
These Vietnam Veteran military women, roughly 90 percent of whom as nurses,
received special recognition today at a ceremony honoring the 15th anniversary
of the Vietnam Women's Memorial.
The memorial sculpture features three women, one of whom is tending to a wounded
warrior sprawled across a pile of sandbags in agony. Though only eight of the
58,260 names inscribed on the glossy black granite slabs belong to women, this
sculpture located in a wooded area near the much-visited wall, is an apt
metaphor for the females whose scarifies often occurred behind the scenes.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia A. Pritchett, the Army's most senior-ranking
female non-commissioned officer, said the women who served during Vietnam were
courageous patriots and role models for women in uniform today. |
“The women who served during Vietnam have given the women who serve today a
great legacy to uphold and continue,” Pritchett told the audience of thousands
gathered on the lawn facing the Memorial Wall.
“I personally owe so much to the women who have gone before me, for their
outstanding service and sacrifice. For they have opened so many opportunities
for me and my fellow service women,” said Pritchett, who is currently the Army's
command sergeant major at U.S. Central Command on McDill Air Force Base,
About 238,500 women in Vietnam were Army, Navy or Air Force nurses -- those who
“provided comfort, care and a human touch for those who are suffering and
dying,” Pritchett said. She added that others served as physicians, physical
therapists, air traffic controllers, clerks, intelligence officers and other
fields, and that female civilians also worked in Vietnam as members of
non-governmental or humanitarian organizations.
“I wish to express to them what I believe are the sentiments of the women who
serve today that you have our deepest respect and admiration for your service
for your example and professionalism, and for your continued strength and
dignity,” she said. “Know that we are determined to carry on that inheritance
and to make you and America proud. “
Noting the enlarged role women have played in the military since Vietnam,
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Evelyn “Pat” Foote pointed out that, for the first time
in the history of the U.S. military, a woman is slated to receive her fourth
star. Army Lt. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody is expected to become a full general Nov.
14, when she takes the lead at Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.
“These are amazing times for everybody in the armed forces and for women the
21st century is evolving into a time of electrifying change,” Foote said.
Diane Carlson Evans, a former Army nurse in Vietnam who served in the surgical
and burn wards at Vung Tau, and later as head nurse in a surgical unit at Pleiku,
developed the vision for the memorial that was dedicated in 1993.
Evans, the founder and president of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation,
described to the crowd the creative intention of Glenna Goodacre, the memorial's
sculptor. The artist sought to create a lasting tribute to the American women of
Vietnam, a striving that was founded upon her deep respect for each of them,
“That my hands could shape the clay which might touch the hearts and heal the
wounds of those who served, fills with me humility and deep satisfaction,” said
Evans, quoting Goodacre.
Evans said the depiction of the wounded male soldier receiving medical attention
from the nurse represents the service that servicemembers of both genders
rendered together. Further, she said the statue is symbolic of the way that
women helped shape the way the nation sees the contributions of service women.
“We transformed the images of the Vietnam War to include women. And we
transformed the conversation that's taking place across America, certainly right
here in the nation's capital,” she said, speaking from a podium with the Capitol
Rotunda in the background.
After the ceremony concluded with a wreath-laying at the wall, spectators
gathered at the adjacent Vietnam Women's Memorial, which is shaded by the eight
trees that stand as a natural homage to the service women killed in Vietnam.
At a small podium near the statue was Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, who has hosted
story-telling sessions here for the past 13 years. She shared an anecdote with
the small crowd before opening the microphone.
The concept of the speaker's platform, she said, is to make the figures of the
sculpture come to life. But the story-sharing opportunity has grown to encompass
more than that, Guenzler-Stevens said.
Three years ago on Memorial Day, a man arrived to a story-telling session
wearing a button that featured the face of his son who died while serving in
“There was a woman coming to tell her story who had been a trauma nurse in Iraq,
and she looked at that button recognized the face,” Guenzler-Stevens said. “She
had been the nurse that was with him when he died.”
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
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