As an Officer on Active Duty as well as a Public Health Specialist, I would like to share an artistic expression to highlight war from the view point of women in the Vietnam War. I have had the fortune of visiting the nation’s historical monuments such as the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorials and have always been moved by a particular sculpture. The artistic expression that I would like to share is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial (see above).
The statue consists of two nurses, a third female solider and one wounded male soldier. One nurse is standing and is looking up to the sky with an anxious look on her face as if she is she is desperately searching for any sight of a helicopter coming or miraculous help from a higher being to rescue the wounded soldier. This African American nurse has a hand on the arm of a Caucasian nurse who has a rag in hand and is applying pressure to the wound on the chest male soldier. The resourceful nurse is sitting on a stack of sandbags and has the solider draped across her legs for support as she looks into his face. The look that is on her face is one of great compassion and provides me with the emotions that she dedicated to help this solider to the best of her ability but that she is also worn and tired. I think they may be physically drained from being in the field but the heaviest draining aspect seems to be that this young man may die in her arms which I can only imagine was an all too familiar experience for the nurses. The male solider has two visible wounds, one is on his head where his eyes are covered with a bandana and the other is on his chest. I believe the eyes covered symbolizes that the entire life of the young solider is in the hands of these nurses and they are his guides and lifeline. Also, the covering of his eyes covers his identity since this moment could and was experienced by thousands of soldiers .This is a reflection of a moment in time that many soldiers can identify and understand so the wounded soldier doesn’t have a specific identity. His limp arms possibly represent his dire condition and/or that he doesn’t have strength left to fight for his life so he lives through the support of the nurse. On the back of the statue kneeling down staring at the ground as if in a daze is the third female solider with a posture of sheer fatigue and frustration.
The theme of this statue is that women, many unnamed and unremembered, fought alongside their fellow brother soldiers and fulfilled many roles, provided healthcare and compassion to hundreds and thousands of male soldiers during the war. This statue speaks so profoundly to the observer because it depicts the diversity of the women who served as soldiers and civilians, the diversity in the roles/assignments of their duties, the trust and lives that were placed in the hands of every female solider during this war and the physical and emotional weight of their experiences – similar to the weight of the war on the men who they served alongside. As the sculptor states, this is a powerful tribute, that is “centered on their emotions: their compassion, their anxiety, their fatigue and above all, their dedication” (Glenna Goodacre). It’s a reminder, that I can personally appreciate, which expresses to our country to not forget the nameless soldiers but also to not forget the many nameless women who also proudly served their country and fulfilled their duty.
The photo and quote was extracted from www.vietnamewomensmemorial.org.