Vietnam veteran Carol Brown recalls caring for patients in uniform — having no scrubs and often no gloves. Patients were from every branch of the military and even other countries, including North Vietnam.
Brown volunteered to go to Vietnam after a presentation at her nursing school in the mid 1960s. Experienced Vietnam nurses told nursing students they could get 10 years’ worth of experience in one year of nursing in Vietnam. Brown jumped at the chance for the experience.
Having previously never ventured far from her hometown in Pennsylvania, Brown was sent to training and in March of 1970 was stationed at the 24th Evac Hospital in Long Binh, Vietnam, working with a unit specializing in treating head injuries. The Long Binh Post was the largest military base ever built outside of the United States and the last major hospital serving the Vietnam War.
By 1967, most all military nurses who volunteered to go to Vietnam did so shortly after graduation. These women were the youngest group of medical personnel ever to serve in war time.
While off duty, Brown dated Col. Larry Brown whom she had known from her training days at Fort Knox. They were married at the hospital chapel in November of 1970 by an Army priest. The Browns made the military a career and after Vietnam were stationed together in Germany.
In the ’70s, Brown left the service when the first of their three children was born. Later, both she and her husband joined the Oregon Army National Guard, and in 1998, she was chosen to attend the Army War College.
They returned to Saigon for their 35th anniversary in 2005 and Brown retired from service in July of 2007.
Brown was one of 40 Vietnam veterans featured in “The Vietnam War Oregon Remembers,” An “Oregon Experience” documentary by PBS.
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs will spend this week recognizing a handful of the countless brave Oregonians who have served our nation during war and stood guard over our peace.