Female Vietnam veterans remembered Memorial honors their service

September 19, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Betty Kruger heard the incoming rounds. She watched as helicopters brought the wounded by the hundreds. She saw the damaged bodies of her fellow Americans and tended to them.

Now she and thousands of other women who served in Vietnam will be remembered for their service by a bronze sculpture to be placed across from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11.

The sculpture was on display yesterday at Golden Ring Mall, where ceremonies marked its passage through the area. The mall was one of 21 stops for the memorial on its way to Washington.

The sculpture depicts three nurses caring for a wounded soldier. It was created by Glenna Goodacre of Santa Fe, N.M., and was commissioned by the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, in remarks at the ceremony, said it was proper that the contributions of the women were being recognized.

"They shared the danger with great courage," he said. "They risked and sometimes lost their lives while doing their duty."

Ms. Kruger, of Bel Air, was an Army nurse in Vietnam for most of 1970. At the time, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were still engaged there, and the end of American involvement was three years away. She retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1986.

Ms. Kruger was an anesthetist with the 85th EVAC Hospital at Phu Bai, between Da Nang and the demilitarized zone to the north. Her unit treated wounded of the 101st Airborne Division.

"The whole thing was such a shock," she recalled yesterday. "I really haven't tried to think about it until the last few weeks. We were in danger, but we worked so hard -- sometimes as much as three days straight through at a time -- that we didn't have time to think about it. We just put on our helmets and headed for the bunker when the shells started coming in.

"The ones who gave the most were the boys out there. I was very proud of them," she said.

More than 11,000 U.S. military women were in Vietnam, 90 percent of them medical personnel. Eight were killed by enemy action. Their names already are etched in the wall of the memorial.

Linda Davenport of Millersville also was at the ceremonies yesterday. She was a surgical intensive care nurse at Long Bihn, 18 miles outside of Saigon, from 1968 to 1969 as part of the 93rd EVAC Hospital, which worked with the 1st Cavalry.

"I actually have fond memories of the experience," she said. "It was the best year of my career. We were so needed.

"I had some difficult times after I came back. I saw some bad things, and I had nightmares and the like, but I'm OK now.

"The men were very grateful, and that was the payoff," she said.

Ms. Davenport, mother of two daughters, met her husband, Tom, at Long Bihn. "He flew a helicopter that brought the wounded in to the base," she said.

"I had thought for a long time that the contributions of women in Vietnam had not been appreciated," she said. "But I think they are appreciated now."

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