In an era of universal polemics and political unrest – with no thought of glory, with no fanfare or public notice – 265,000 women volunteered to go where they were needed, to do what was needed. The era was known as Vietnam, and these young women, most in their 20s, risked their lives to care for our country’s wounded and dying. Their humanity and compassion equaled their lifesaving and comforting skills.
For the first time in America’s history, a memorial that honors women’s patriotic service was dedicated in the nation’s capital, placed beside their brother soldiers on the hallowed grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It was the first tangible symbol of honor for American women. The multi-figure bronze monument is designed by New Mexico sculptor, Glenna Goodacre. It is a sculpture in the round portraying three Vietnam-era women, one of whom is caring for a wounded male soldier, stands 6’8″ tall and weighs one ton.
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project was incorporated in 1984, and is a non-profit organization located in Washington, DC. The mission of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation (formerly the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project) is to promote the healing of Vietnam women veterans through the placement of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.; to identify the military and civilian women who served during the Vietnam war; to educate the public about their role; and to facilitate research on the physiological, psychological, and sociological issues correlated to their service. The Foundation has the support of every major veterans group in the country including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and more than 40 other diverse organizations.
Diane Carlson Evans, a former Army nurse who served in Vietnam, is the founder and chair of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation. She became the first woman in American history to spearhead a campaign to place a national monument in Washington, DC which recognizes the contributions of military women to their country, as well as civilian women’s patriotic service.
Vietnam Veterans were not welcomed home as the country desperately tried to put the war behind it. Before founding of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project, little was known of the heroism of American women. Yet over 265,000 military women served beside their brother soldiers – all of them volunteers. Approximately 11,000 American military women were stationed in Vietnam during the war. Ninety percent were nurses. Others served as physicians, physical therapists and personnel in the medical field, air traffic control, military intelligence, administration and in many other capacities. An unknown number of civilian women also served in Vietnam as news correspondents and workers for the Red Cross, the USO, Special Services, the American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Relief Services and other humanitarian organizations.
Many of these women were wounded or killed in the crossfire. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project has given women veterans a voice. It has helped to tell their story through the mass print and electronic media as well as in schoolrooms and universities and at conferences, seminars and conventions. As more and more Vietnam women read and hear of their sister’s service, they come forward with their own experiences. Many of these women had never before shared their personal experiences with others – the pain was too deep.
Now, through their poems, songs and stories, the healing of women veterans has begun. Silent no more, women veterans have a special role in discussions surrounding a call to arms, the role of women in the military and veterans benefits. Their insights into war make their contributions in peacetime as invaluable as their heroism in Vietnam.
A three-day Celebration of Patriotism and Courage, November 10-12, 1993, in Washington, D.C. highlighted the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on November 11, 1993 near the Wall of names and the statue of the three serviceman at the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Thousands of Vietnam veterans, their families and friends joined the nation in honoring these brave and compassionate women.
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation would like your help to support its mission. So far approximately 12,000 women veterans who served during the Vietnam era have been located by the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation. The stories and experiences we learn from the women who contact the Foundation are invaluable contributions to the history of this era. Vietnam women veterans are encouraged to send in their service information and current address to the Foundation by using the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation’s Sister Search form.
The long awaited Dedication of the Memorial was made possible with a loan for its construction, design, and landscaping. The loan was substantial, but friends and supporters of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation did what some may have thought was impossible…they managed to pay the construction debt in full! The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation continues to be faced with other obligations while fulfilling its program objectives. Please visit the “Your Support” page for information on how you can continue to help support the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation.
Click here for a complete history about the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.