"With the Colors"
Beth Parks' experiences as an Army nurse in Cu Chi, Vietnam, 1966-67.
Click on the picture at left or here to read the article written by Tom Walsh for the Ellsworth American.
Article by Tom Walsh for the Ellsworth American (12/20/07)
Like many of the men going over to Vietnam to serve their country, young women from all over the nation volunteered to serve as nurses in the hospitals and medical facilities in South Vietnam. These women volunteered for a variety of reasons: to serve their country, to help the service men who were wounded, to receive training and an education, to further their military careers, to prove themselves or just to have an adventure. The nurses served in the hospital ships of the Navy, the airlift helicopters and airplanes of the Air Force and the hospitals and field hospitals of the Army. They arrived in Vietnam with various levels of nursing experience, from newcomers to the field with barely six months of nursing under their belts to experienced veterans of twenty plus years. Usually the more confident and experienced the nurse, the better they were able to cope with the stress and the sheer number of casualties they treated on a daily basis.
The Vietnam War was the first major conflict to use the helicopter to transport wounded quickly to medical facilities; sometimes a man would be in the hospital receiving medical care barely half an hour after he had been wounded. This new medevac system saved the lives of thousands of men who in previous conflicts would have died in the battlefield waiting for medical assistance. Because of this phenomenon, Vietnam nurses were faced with more patients and more severely wounded men than they had seen in previous conflicts. These nurses were required to make quick decisions on who was treated first and what type of treatment they would receive; a much more autonomous state than nursing in the states where they were expected to follow a doctor’s orders and nothing more.
Combat nurses worked twelve hour shifts six days a week and when a mass casualty incident occurred, like a major battle, those twelve hour shifts could easily turn into twenty-four to thirty-six hour shifts. Nurses also volunteered their time in the communities around them, often going to the local orphanages or hospitals to offer the civilians their medical services or to teach classes on basic hygiene, first aid or even English. In addition, nurses had to deal with numerous emotions: stress from the amount of patients they had to serve, anger at seeing young men so horribly wounded and guilt at not being able to save all of the wounded men or make them whole again.
Despite the long hours and sometimes horrifying wounds these women had to face, many nurses found their service rewarding. They were able to serve their country and save and comfort the wounded men in their facilities. During the Vietnam War 98% of the men who were wounded and made it to the hospital survived. Nurses witnessed some truly miraculous events such as men recovering from their wounds or acts of true selflessness that are common during combat situations, and many nurses made close friends with their fellow coworkers some of whom still keep in contact into the present day.
Materials related to Beth Parks' Vietnam experiences are housed in The Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University. You can access the virtual archives related to Beth by clicking here.
A second taped interview and transcript by Davida Kellogg, Ph.D., of the University of Maine can be obtained through the Veteran's Oral History Project of the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine (2361 C1407).
In 2013 Texas Tech celebrated the nurses of the Vietnam War during National Nurses week from May 6-12. Beth Parks was selected as one of eight nurses featured in the online post:
""TV Show to include Beth Parks' Photos"
Beth Parks photographs from her film, A Chunk of My Soul, were chosen to be included in the TV documentary, Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delany.
(The documentary won one of the two Emmys for which it was nominated in 2007. It also took First Prize/World Gold at the New York Festival's Film and Video Competition.)
Click on the picture at left or here to read the article written by Eric Russell for the Bangor Daily News.
Article by Eric Russell for the Bangor Daily News (8/18/06)
The following section contains some of the articles written about Beth Parks and her experiences in Vietnam.
Click on the article's icon or on the "here" link to access an article's PDF, created in Adobe 8.0.
Click on the Adobe Reader icon at left to download a safe, free version for your operating system.
"Lessons of Battle"
Beth Parks recalls her experiences as an Army nurse at the 7th Surgical Hospital MASH) and the 12th Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi, Vietnam, in 1966-67.
The interview followed Beth's keynote address at the dedication of a new exhibit at the New York State Vietnam Memorial Gallery in Albany.
Click on the picture at left or here to read the article.
Article by Konrad Marshall for the Glens Falls, NY, Post-Star(5/30/05)
"A Chunk of My Soul"
Click here for a description of Beth Parks' powerful film, A Chunk of My Soul. The article was written by a student for the University of Maine Women in the Curriculum Program (WIC).
A Chunk of My Soul is not available for public access or sale. Contact Beth Parks to schedule a showing.
Banner photos above: A Visit from Santa, 12th Evacuation Hospital, Cu Chi, Vietnam, Christmas 1966 (left); Pat Wojdag (Coté), 7th Surgical Hospital (MASH), Cu Chi, Vietnam, 1966; Rocket's Red Glare, portion of the Vietnam Women's Memorial, Washington, DC, USA). All photographs © 2013 by Beth Parks, Ed.D. (All rights reserved.)
Beth Parks produced A Chunk of My Soul (2001) using her Vietnam photos, along with Super-8 movie footage donated by two men with whom she worked. The 43-minute video engages the viewer as a first-person observer of the Vietnam War. Click here for sample comments from people who have viewed the film.
Footage from A Chunk of My Soul was used in the television documentary, Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delany. The documentary won one of the two Emmys for which it was nominated in 2007. It also took First Prize/World Gold at the 2007 New York Film and Video Festival. The DVD can also be purchased on amazon.com.