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.
"A powerful book. A necessary book. Within the first dozen pages, tears were flowing. Diane took on three heroic tasks in her life: serving as a combat nurse in Vietnam; despite ferocious opposition, leading the battle for a monument on the Mall to women who served in Vietnam; and telling her story in this book of the emotional price paid when she was shamefully rejected and reviled by fellow Americans. Diane recovered from the war and its aftermath by acting, doing, and salvaging the memories of the women who served. We owe her an incalculable debt."
– Theodore Roosevelt IV, Underwater Demolition Team 11, Vietnam two tours: 1966 and 1967
"Evans' book is a soulful accounting of her long-fought journey to recognize the immense contributions and sacrifices of women during the Vietnam War."
– Chuck Hagel, 24th Secretary of Defense, United States Senator, and Vietnam Veteran
"A fascinating, yet heart-rending chronicle of Diane Carlson Evans' heroic journey and her decade-long struggle to honor the women who served during the Vietnam War. Every Brother and Sister veteran, their families, and those who haven't served, should read Healing Wounds."
– John Finley Sommer, Combat Medic, 3/12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, Vietnam, 1968 and Executive Director, The American Legion, 1991-2009
"Diane Carlson Evans went from working as a combat nurse to becoming a national advocate for all the women who served during the Vietnam War. What makes Healing Wounds different from other nurses' wartime memoirs is the aftermath. Evans came home with the awful inventory of battle in her memory. She married and became a mother of four, yet the loss and sacrifice she witnessed in her fellow nurses and patients never left her. This emptiness, combined with the country's indifference to the women's war efforts, drove her into the political world to push for a statue to honor those females who served, next to the statue of the Three Soldiers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. One powerful Washington, D.C. committee vetoed the idea and said if there was a statue dedicated to women, the next statue might have to be for the dogs who served in the K-9 units. It is this compelling story of perseverance that will make you angry, proud, and inspired."
– Elizabeth M. Norman, PhD, RN, author of "Women at War: The Story of Fifty Military Nurses Who Served in Vietnam," and "We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Women Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese"
"'The sun is shining on us,' Diane Carlson Evans said on a radiant fall day as she opened the ceremony to dedicate the Vietnam Women's Memorial on November 11, 1993. I was among 25,000 others who celebrated in a triumphant moment for our nation, for all women who served in Vietnam, and for Diane, whose dignity, decency, and courage are of the highest caliber I know. I was in Vietnam as a twenty-two-year-old reporter. Diane, a twenty-one-year-old nurse. We thought we were all grown up. Healing Wounds affirms what I have long believed: the best Vietnam war stories are love stories. Diane's love of her country, her patients, and her fellow nurses, carried her through the mud and blood of Vietnam. Her love carried her over every obstacle placed in her path in the ten years, ten years, it took her to spearhead her vision into reality. Don't be fooled by her Minnesota nice. Diane is a woman warrior who fights with love and courage of her convictions instead of bullets. Healing Wounds is exquisitely painful, heartbreakingly beautiful, and ultimately, triumphant. Finally, the sun is shining on Diane Carlson Evans."
– Laura Palmer, Author, "Shrapnel in the Heart," Co-Author, "War Torn, Stories of War from the Women Reporters who covered Vietnam"
"I was Lieutenant Sharon Lane's Head Nurse when she was killed by a rocket while on duty in our hospital in Vietnam. She is remembered with her name etched on the Wall in Washington, D.C. Diane Carlson Evans' long journey fighting for us has helped heal my deep emotional wounds and those of thousands of sister veterans who lived through that war and who are honored and forever remembered by the Vietnam Women's Memorial."