The Vietnam conflict was one of the harshest, most savage wars in the history of the world. It was also the only time in military history that the United States was unsuccessful in defeating the enemy. Beginning in 1964, U.S. involvement in Vietnam came as the result of a perceived threat of communism. At the time, Northern Vietnam possessed a dictatorial communist form of government similar to that of the Soviet Union.
As a result, according to the United States government, it posed a grave danger to the preservation of democracy and peace in both Vietnam and throughout the world. By siding with Southern Vietnamese forces the United States began a battle which would last over nineteen years, cost the nation over $140 billion, and claim the lives of fifty-eight thousand Americans. And although these figures are staggering, the greatest affects of the war are far less tangible. For with every soldier who died in Vietnam, there are countless others who survived only to have their lives forever scarred by its trauma.
Lynda Van Devanter was one of these people. Serving as a nurse in Vietnam, Lynda was stripped of her youth, her patriotism, and her innocence. Growing up in the small, suburban neighborhood of Washington DC Lynda Van Devanter was the epitome of the all-American girl. She had lived in the same neighborhood all her life, grew up in a house her father had built, and played softball with her friends at the park. She was a very religious girl, and went to the Holy Trinity High School in Washington, later moving on to Mercy Hospital School of Nursing.
Overall, Lynda had had a good upbringing, and a good childhood. However, entering Vietnam Lynda quickly realized that she would have to mature quickly if she were going to survive the war. Lookin at comrades such as Coretta, Lynda said I thought of myself as a girl, (but) there was no question in my mind that Coretta was a woman. The severity of Vietnam had brought about a maturity in all the women stationed there. And it was only a matter of time until its grip would reach Lynda. The day to day tasks quickly took there toll on Lynda, and she could feel herself maturing at an accelerated rate.
After a severe day of operations Lynda said I felt like an old woman. She was no longer little Lynda from Edison Street, but a nurse in the United States Army, working in muddy, dirty conditions, and operating on soldiers ripped apart by mines or rockets. Dealing with a constant onslaught of bleeding, dying men in Vietnam, Lynda Van Devanter had no choice but to grow up, and grow up quickly. Besides her innocence, another major loss of Lyndas life was her loss of patriotism. Entering the war Lynda was proud to be an American, and proud of all that her country had accomplished. During the United States moon landing, for example, Lynda wrote her family describing her immense patriotic feelings, saying The pride in our country filled many of us to the point that we had tears in our eyes.
Even when talking to disillusioned soldiers, who would criticize their country and their involvement, Lynda would always back her country and respect their intentions to preserve democracy. However after time, even Lynda began to doubt her countrys standing. Day after day of seeing innocent people dying began to have its affect, and soon Lynda began to question whether all the lives were worth it. I remained proud to be an American... but as each new soldier came in covered in mud, blood, and his own guts I moved a bit further from my original position. It all seemed senseless. Finally, after returning home from the war, any glimmer of patriotism left inside Lynda Van Devanter was stripped away by unappreciative Americans.
Trying to catch a ride home from the airport in San Francisco Lynda was taunted, given the finger, and spit on by her fellow countrymen simply for wearing an American uniform. Lynda had finally realized she was no longer proud to be an American from Vietnam. Apart from her youth and her patriotism, perhaps the greatest loss to Lyndas life through her time in Vietnam was her loss of innocence. Lynda first began to experience this loss of innocence in training camp. In an attempt to develop Lynda and her fellow trainees into fit and able members of the U.S. military, training sergeants conditioned them by calling them anything from maggots to scum.
Even marching songs were raunchy. They were used to try and harden Vietnam entrees, but Lynda began to feel that... they were trying to change our gender. Later in Vietnam, Lynda again began to feel her innocence fading. The harshness of the war began to force her to do things that she never would have before. During a rocket attack by the V.C. Lynda became trapped in a ditch by the enemy fire, and as a result was forced to relieve herself in the mud in front of two men. She also began noticing herself doing things such as drinking heavily and smoking marijuana in order to cope with the war, two things she would never have done back home.
Finally, perhaps the greatest mark of her loss of innocence was in the way she treated her relationships. Before entering Vietnam, Lynda had only slept with one man, J.J., and to her the experience was very special, and something to be cherished. However upon returning home from the war, Lynda found herself beginning to go to sleazy bars and sleep with numerous strangers in an attempt to feel loved. Her entire approach to relationships, and the innocence she had once felt, was gone forever.
The Vietnam war was one of the longest, most controversial wars in United States history. To this day many question both our nations involvement, and the governments merit for entering such a brutal conflict. However with all these questions of the Vietnam war there is one thing that seems to remain clear - to those who served in Vietnam, the war would leave a lasting impact on their lives that would endure forever. Lynda Van Devanter entered the war to be feel free and to see the world. What she found was that her service would prove to be some of the harshest, most brutal experiences of her life. Returning in June of 1970, Lynda had made it home before morning.
But it was no longer the Lynda that her family had once known. The Vietnam war had robbed her of her youth, taken away her patriotism, and stripped away any innocence which she might have once possessed. After serving in Vietnam Lynda Van Devanter would never again be the same.