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265,000 Forgotten Women

Inspired by a Women You Should Know article from 2016.

Glenna Maxey Goodacre (born August 28, 1939 in Lubbock, Texas) is a sculptor best known for having designed the obverse of the Sacagawea dollar that entered circulation in the United States in 2000, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial located in Washington, D.C.. About the Vietnam Women's Memorial, she says: “That my hands can shape the clay which might touch the hearts and heal the wounds of those who served fills me with humility and deep satisfaction.”

I personally know a few of theses brave, beautiful, and scarred women who served. I have memories of many long nights, listening to them tell tales of war. The spoke so clearly, and it was as if a video was playing, in full color, they remembered it all. They needed to talk about it; it was graphic, it was raw, it was real. They will never be the same, but they are healing, they are brave, they served, and they must not remain invisible. They made a difference!

While I loathe war, and this war in particular, those who were fighting it started as innocents, just barely out of childhood, be they man or woman. I honor them all for their selfless service.

When it began, they were in their 20’s, just out of those turbulent adolescent years. They were thrust into and immersed in a hell that they could never have imagined. The served in the armed forces of the United States in the Vietnam war. They served their country, they gave themselves to the care of the wounded and dying. For the most part, they have remained unacknowledged and invisible. By 1967 most all of the nurses volunteering did so almost immediately after graduation. These women were the youngest group of medical personnel ever to serve during war time.

Over 265,000 military and civilian women served in the armed forces of the United States during the Vietnam War. Though relatively little data actually exists about female Vietnam War Veterans the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundations estimates that approximately 11,000 American military women were stationed in Vietnam, serving within combat alongside their brother soldiers. Close to 90% served as military nurses in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Though women also worked as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and other positions in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps, U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines and the Army Medical Specialist Corps. In addition to women in the armed forces, an unknown number of civilian women served in Vietnam on behalf of the Red Cross, United Service Organizations (USO), Catholic Relief Services and other humanitarian organizations, or as foreign correspondents for various news organizations. All of them volunteered. Like their military counterparts, many of these women were wounded in the crossfire. More than 50 civilian American women died in the war.

According to a recent Veterans Administration report, 48% of the women who served during the Vietnam conflict will suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lives. Yet, few have sought documented help for it. Many women also have suffered health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. Some have committed suicide.

Many Vietnam women veterans have never told their friends, colleagues or even loved ones about their tour of duty in Vietnam. The majority of them were only in their early 20s when they returned to a country that did not understand what they had just experienced. Although most were there to save lives, if recognized at all, they received the same hostile treatment as the returning combat soldiers.

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