A decade after America pulled out of Vietnam, the seeds of the often heart- wrenching oral history, A Piece of My Heart
, were sown when writer and filmmaker Keith Walker met a woman who had been an emergency room nurse in Cu Chi and Da Nang. She and 25 others recount the time they spent "in country" as part of 15,000 American women who volunteered or served as nurses and in the military. After working on too many mutilated young men, one nurse tells of wanting to ask her mother to "check around and see if she could find one whole eighteen-year- old." Like male veterans, many returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. They found it hard to shake the numbness that made a war zone bearable or to settle into a life minus manic highs and lows. "The one thing Nam did for me was that I felt like I could walk on water," says a nurse, a conviction that made later jobs seem worthless or impossibly bland.
From Publishers Weekly
Some 15,000 American women served in Vietnam during the war. As one of them remarks in this collection of extended monologues, "The war really did a number on all of us, the women as well as the men." Despite sexual harassment, ambiguous feelings about the Vietnamese and traumatic combat-zone experiences, the women whose voices are heard here recall their wartime service in a generally positive light. Most of them were military nurses and WACs, but there are also Red Cross and USO volunteers, as well as a civilian flight attendant and a radio personality named Chris Noel, whose voice was familiar to thousands of homesick GIs. No great revelations or insights here; despite the book's twist of focusing on servicewomen, it's all rather predictable. Photos.
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