Women in Vietnam War
Women’s contribution has been witnessed in different fields, including those traditionally considered male-dominated ones. In the past, women’s rights and freedom were restricted by the strong patriarchal system. Therefore, it required great courage and determination for a woman to be at the center stage of any military-related activities. Nevertheless, women have always been critical in wars since they helped the army in various capacities. Consequently, it is important to acknowledge their previous heroic acts by commemorating their contribution in memorials. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C. serves as a good example of such a monument. To have a better understanding of this memorial, one will highlight women’s role in the Vietnam War, the year that the monument was built, and the reason for its creation as well as the elements or views that might be omitted.
The role of women in the Vietnam War was unnoticed due to their diligent service. They served in different capacities in helping their male counterparts win the war. It was estimated that about 11,000 women had been assigned duties in the Vietnam War, to which most of them had volunteered (History.com Staff). The majority of them (roughly 90%) were nurses, although many women were also physicians, clerks as well as air traffic controllers and intelligence officers in the Navy, Air Force, Army Corps, and even Marines (Piccoli; History.com Staff). However, many women also served with different organizations, operating in the region during the war, such as the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and the United Service Organizations (USO) among other humanitarian groups. These women’s age ranged from 20 to 40 years and many of them began their duties as early as in 1956 (History.com Staff). Their numbers increased in correlation to that of soldiers as the conflict in Vietnam intensified. The last nurse left the country in 1976 (History.com Staff). During the war, five nurses had died, including First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane and Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham (History.com Staff). The contribution of all army nurses has been honored to date.
The construction of important places, including monuments, is process stretched in time, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C. is no different. The project’s implementation began in 1984 (“Vietnam Women’s Memorial”), and it was proposed by a group of women who felt dissatisfied with lack of information about women who had participated in the Vietnam War. The government had no information about most of them, and thus, this group offered valuable information that led to the creation of the memorial that was commissioned in 1993 (“Vietnam Women’s Memorial”). The monument was built to help unit the families and friends of those passionate and brave women who sacrificed their lives for the noble cause. The memorial stands next to the wall with names of the fallen soldiers of the Vietnam War. The monument is also decorated with a beautiful statue that depicts the services, rendered by these women during the war. The statue shows three nurses, tending to a critically injured soldier.
The memorial also serves various roles in society. Thus, it is a place where the remaining participants of the war come to console themselves and share their untold stories, especially after hostile treatment upon their return as the community perceived them as combatants. Thus, people blamed them for the many deaths that had occurred during the war. This is also a great place where people are taught their role in society. From the stories of these heroines, the current generation gains confidence and motivation in serving their country in every capacity. The monument also helps those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 48% of women, who had returned from the war, suffered from PTSD. The process of creation of this memorial was quite useful in searching for both military and civilian women who had served in the army during the Vietnam War. Finding them was necessary as they needed health services that would alleviate their suffering that resulted from the traumatic experiences during the war (Tam). For instance, Edie Meeks, who was 69 when the project of the memorial was in development and who suffered from PTSD, had left the army service after returning home (Tam). Thus, sharing her experience with the creators of the memorial helped her relief some of her old emotional pain.
One can find numerous meanings in the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C., but its main one is that women’s contribution to the world is enormous and it needs to be appreciated. This is just one of the many ways that women can be honored for their selfless contribution both in the times of war and the times of peace (Tam). This monument is a message to society that even the smallest contribution of women ought to be celebrated so that they could have courage and confidence in serving both their community and country without any fear of victimization (Tam). Nowadays, women consider it heroic to serve their country.
The monument commemorates the efforts and the determination of those who had participated in the Vietnam War in various capacities. Nevertheless, the creators of the monument forgot to depict certain things in this memorial. Thus, some of the omitted views and elements, experienced by women during the Vietnam War, are still hidden in their hearts, and only a few of them have the courage and strength to voice them. For instance, Claire Starnes, a photographer in the army, found it quite difficult to take the pictures of war since they were quite extreme (Stow). These photos were psychologically disturbing as they depicted the realities of war – dead bodies, mud, and destroyed buildings (Stow). For Starnes, it was quite hard, but she tried to do her job without letting her emotions interfere with her duty. She went to the war and realized that the main players in that war were politicians and not soldiers. (Stow). Upon their return home, many women preferred to be silent about their participation in the Vietnam War. They were ashamed of being victimized by society, and they had to pretend that they lived normal lives despite their buried emotional scars.
Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the role of women, especially in the war zone areas. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C. is a good effort towards promoting their recognition. It is also important to acknowledge that they have helped during the war in different capacities, mostly as nurses. The memorial was commissioned in 1993 with the aim of commemorating those women who had selflessly served their country. Their role is also depicted in the statue that portrays three nurses who try to give care to a dying soldier. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is also a place that has served as a treatment center to the victims of the war who had suffered from PTSD. All their horrific experiences in the war zone as well as the rejection and stigmatization by society they had encounter upon their arrival left a deep emotional impact and led to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. The monument also omits some of the views and elements, such as disregarding their emotions in extreme conditions and doing their jobs as well as hidden scars that they had kept to themselves even upon coming back to their communities and families.
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