by Edie Meeks, Nov 11th 2003.
Before coming here I spoke with my son, Bill, who is 29 - so he must be someone elses son - I said it was too bad the Army wouldnt allow women my age to join. Id make a much better Army nurse today than when I was young. He paused and then said "And whose orders would you take, Mom?"
Ten years ago I came to this site filled with fear. I didnt know what my being here would do for me but I knew I had to be here. I had left Vietnam 24 years before and got on with my life. Because of my friendship with Diane, I came.
Because of this memorial I learned I could, and probably would, be sad about that war for the rest of my life. In speaking to other women who served I learned that what I felt was not unusual. I was given back my memory. Ten years ago I couldnt remember my roommates name. I had lived with her and worked with her for 6 months. I arrived in DC and there on the bulletin board was a note, "Edie, if you are here, I am in Room . Judy." I was given a safe place-other women who knew exactly what I was talking about. No explanations needed.
But most of all, I was given back my pride in service. At the color guard ceremony 10 years ago when the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard marched by while the band was playing, my heart was filled with the joy of service. I had been proud to be an Army Nurse-and Im still proud.
In coming here twice a year to be with Diane, and to celebrate the memorial, I have been given so many gifts. NY Chapter Three of Rolling Thunder took me under their rumbling, loud, joyful wings and showed me the healing gift of service to other veterans. The 1st Cavalry Association of NY and NJ helped me to see what the working soldier experiences, and how important the women were, and are, to making it all happen. Two days ago I visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center with three of their members (all Purple Heart recipients). Together we completed a circle of hope and healing for some of those young soldiers from Iraq.
I was asked to speak before my daughter, Gwyneths class at Mt Holyoke and her introduction began, "Id like to introduce my mother, Edie Meeks. She was an Army Nurse who served in Vietnam-and Im so proud of her." Today, I am so proud of all of us who served during that time. Whether in the Armed Services, Civilian agencies, Red Cross, Operation Babylift, etc., in country or not, no matter where our service-those were difficult times. But, we women did not sit on the side lines-we stepped out-took a chance-participated in life. We were proactive, vital, strong women who cared. I am so proud of all of us.
This memorial has shown me we were not victims of a time but participants. We were women of courage who did not run or look away, but saw a job to be done gave our all and went forward-even when under attack from our fellow Americans.
This memorial has evolved in my mind and heart in the last 10 years. When I first saw it, I thought it was about women of heart and soul, and sorrow. Today the sorrow is there but I also see immense courage and love. I see women with skills that were honed to a sharp edge. We were the special forces, the SEALS of our time, who did our job and then quietly faded into the night.
We are WOMEN WHO SERVED - and Im so proud of us.