Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse’s 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C.

By Diane Carlson Evans, Bob Welch, Joseph Galloway

What is the price of honor? It took ten years for Vietnam War nurse Diane Carlson Evans to answer that question—and the answer was a heavy one.

As a nurse in Vietnam in 1968–1969, Diane Carlson Evans learned to overcome seemingly impossible odds—including the night she and a corpsman kept twenty-six severely dehydrated soldiers alive in the darkness as artillery barraged their hospital. Fourteen years later, this Wisconsin mother of four felt called to establish the first memorial honoring military women on the National Mall. But she had no idea what she was in for.

What followed was a ten-year battle to overcome sexism, bureaucracy, and betrayal within her own rank. Evans was labeled a “feminazi” and received death threats. At a national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, she was all but booed off the stage. Allies undermined her. Editorial writers opined that a women’s memorial adjacent to the Vietnam Veteran Memorials was “like putting an Elvis statue on Mt. Rushmore.” But Evans persevered; detailed notebooks reveal that she completed more than twenty thousand tasks in the quest for her decade-long dream. And in November of 1993, she made history: the Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated near The Wall, bringing honor, healing, and hope to the 265,000 otherwise forgotten women who served during the Vietnam War.