A peice of my heart Essay

This essay has a total of 1620 words and 6 pages.


a peice of my heart




A Piece of My Heart
Emily Coley
The "other" Vietnam Vets
Everybody knows about the men who served in Vietnam. They have at least heard of the
mentally trying conditions during the war and the resulting "post traumatic stress
syndrome" (PTSD) so many veterans suffered from, or heard of the issues concerning
negative public opinion of veterans for their role in a hated war. However, few are aware
of the female role in the Vietnam War; women, the "other" veterans, shared in all of these
problems and issues along with the gun-toting men. They were the nurses, and in A Piece of
My Heart by Keith Walker the stories of many women are presented to better understand just
how the Vietnam War affected women. Working in places like evacuation hospitals exposed
women to the endless flow of casualties from the battlefield, and these experiences took
major mental tolls upon the minds of the women who had to assist them, especially in their
considerations for the value of human life. Women experienced other problems upon
returning home such as the same PTSD and outlashes by anti-war protesters. Women were
veterans of Vietnam just like the men, and they experienced many of the same problems as a
result of their role there. Women were exposed to an enormous amount of pain while in
Vietnam. As veteran Rose Sandecki said, "[The Vietnam] War really did a number on all of
us, the women as well as the men" (20). Nurses in Vietnam were exposed to a nonstop flow
of casualties from the field. The landing of a Chinook with mass casualties on board had
become a standard to Christine Schneider, a nurse in Da Nang. Practically every nurseís
story described the hospital scenes in Vietnam as "busy." Jill Mishkel explained that she
experienced a minimum of at least one death per day. As Ms. Schneider described, "There
was just too much death" (46). Ms. Schneider also mentioned, "Everybody was bad" (45);
nurses only saw the bad because they were surrounded by it, day in and day out. Charlotte
Miller described everything as "on a very negative basis" (324), and that she had to deal
with these problems from twelve to fifteen hours per day, twelve to fifteen days in a row,
a very rigorous schedule. Further emotional damage was incurred by the severity of the
injuries that the nurses had to deal with. Nurses described situations such as little boys
with their intestines hanging out, men with half their faces blown off, men missing their
legs from a grenade explosion, paraplegics, quadriplegics, and in one case pulling
someoneís shoe off and having the foot come with it. In addition, the soldiers they were
treating were only eighteen or nineteen. As Ms. Mishkel said, "They were young, healthy,
good-looking men that couldíve been my brothers or my boyfriends or my husband, and they
were dying" (124). Women in the Vietnam War had a lot of trying emotional stress that they
had to deal with. All of these emotional traumas that women had to experience day after
day had a notable impact upon the womenís moral concept of the value of human life. Ms.
Miller mad a very interesting statement, saying, "I am a professional committed to the
concept that before anyone can administer to the health needs of an individual, one must
recognize the dignity of human life" (322). One could believe that upon first being sent
to Vietnam, nurses, being Americans, had a profound respect for the value of human life.
Nurses such as Sara McVicker "had a hard time accepting that we couldnít keep everybody
alive and bring everybody back" (144). In the early days of her service, Ms. Mishkel said
that she cried often, and that she thought the other nurses were "totally insensitive"
(124). However, after day after day of experiences like Ms. McVickerís, where there just
simply werenít the resources necessary to tend to everybody, where cases with low chances
of survival had to be dropped to make room for others; Ms. Mishkel soon became as
apathetic as everybody else. Many nurses, such as Ms. Sandecki, put up an emotional wall
around them; forcing themselves to care less. As Pat Johnson said, "I donít think Iíve
ever taken life as lightly as I did then" (64). The emotional stress was so great in
Vietnam that often nurses lost their concept of the value of human life, a result of
having to numb their emotions to cope with the pains they were subjected to. Womenís
problems were not over upon returning to the states; women veterans continued to
experience a variety of problems of treatment, in relationships, in the workplace, and
emotionally. Problems began for women as soon as they left the compound they worked on. A
number of nurses felt a degree of guilt in leaving the busy hospitals. As Ms. McVicker
said, "I felt bad about it; it was almost like I was deserting [them]" (145). Upon arrival
other nurses experienced antagonism from the American people; one nurse was denied passage
on her plane home because her clothes were bloody, while another was greeted by anti-war
protesters throwing tomatoes. In addition, many women suffered from PTSD just as men did.
For instance many like Ms. Johnson had trouble talking about the war because it was "just
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