Host: Women veterans served on the frontlines long before they were officially allowed in combat, but their stories often go overlooked.
Army Nurses Diane Evans and Edie Meeks met in 1969 – at the height of the Vietnam war when they were bunk neighbors – stationed in the central highlands of Pleiku.
At StoryCorps, they remembered their service.
Diane Evans (DE): We were in a very dangerous place in Vietnam, just surrounded by concertina wire. It was the epicenter of the fighting at the time.
I remember the sound of shrapnel and the sound of thuds and rockets and mortars and that horrible, terrifying sound.
But we didn’t have time to be afraid. What we did was run to our patients and put mattresses on top of them and take care of their I.V. lines so they wouldn’t pull apart.
Edie Meeks (EM): I mean, we were their only defense between the rocket attack and death.
DE: Yes. But I remember one night we were not on duty. And there was the worst sound I’ve ever heard in my life – hopefully never hear it again. The mirror on the wall in my little tiny closet like room that I had fell off the wall and burst into a million pieces. And I decided, well, if I’m going to die, I’m gonna die with Edie.
And so I crawled out of my little room over these glass shards… I knock on Edie’s door, and there you are with your helmet on over your rollers. And you were eating peanut butter and crackers under the bed.
I said, Edie, how can you eat at a time like this? And you said–
EM: –‘Listen, I’m going to die happy. I’m going to die full… Peanut butter. Little chocolate, little crackers.’ [Laughs]
DE: I loved that sense of humor at the time and I still love it. That’s how we survived.
But, you know, if we had died that night, Edie, we would have been in each other’s arms. We would have been together. And I think maybe our biggest fear was we didn’t want to die alone. And because of that feeling, we stayed so close to our guys.
EM: Yes When I got home, everybody expected me to be the person I was when I left. And I wasn’t. You know, the only guys that I could really remember were the guys that died.
EM: And so it was like I didn’t really do anything over there.
And it wasn’t until The Vietnam Women’s Memorial that this fellow came up to me and he said, ‘Hi Edie.’ It was this corpsman named Tom. And I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘I came to see you.’
DE: We wondered all those years if we did a good job. And they came out of the woodwork all across the country. They were walking with their crutches and wheeling their wheelchairs and doing their wheelies like they always did when they were patients of ours.
They wanted to find the nurse who took care of them because they wanted to say thank you. And that in and of itself is so healing.
It’s just something that’s hard for anybody who wasn’t there to understand… It’s spiritual. It’s sacred. And we are sisters and we are brothers.