A piece of their hearts: Female Vietnam veterans
I’m a woman, and the daughter of a Vietnam veteran with a long memory (aided by plenty of memorabilia), but I never knew much about the thousands of women who served during the Vietnam War – except for my father’s fond feelings for the female USO entertainers and the morale-boosting powers of pinups – until I attended a heartbreaking performance of “A Piece of My Heart” at Cornell University in 2000.
The characters in that play are based on real women, but they couldn’t possibly have prepared me for the real thing: Kathleen Fennell, one of the 14 Vietnam veterans on our recent journey. She served as an Army nurse in Cu Chi from 1968-1969, and continues to honor the spirit of her fallen sisters through memorials and foundations in America and by working to set up clinics and provide medical care in Vietnam today.
During the memorial service we held between Cu Chi and Tay Ninh earlier this month, Fennell emotionally read the names of the 75 American, Australian and New Zealand women who died during the Vietnam War. They include eight military nurses and dozens of civilians who worked with the American Red Cross, government agencies, journalism outlets and other organizations.
Here she is, next to fellow Vietnam veterans Jeffrey Keahon (far left) and Robert Montarro (middle). Play the audio link below to hear Fennell’s portion of the service, and if you haven’t already, click here to read my earlier post with a slideshow from the ceremony.