Skip to main content

Dr. Jeanne Marie "Sam" Bokina Christie

:: ::




McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Jeanne Sam Bokina Christie
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Eden Lowinger
Date of interview: 27 January 2022

(Start of Interview)

SM: 00:00
You kidding, Philadelphia's cold but not this cold [laughs].

JSBC: 00:03
And we are expecting two feet of snow on Saturday.

SM: 00:06
Oh, wow. Well that is Wisconsin, anyway. But just when you went to Vietnam. Okay, first off, the one question I want to ask, which I have been asking everyone is in at any time with your family, did you have any kind of a generation gap on these issues? You had, obviously, you had the support of your parents to go to Vietnam. But was there any gap at all on discussions of for or against the war?

JSBC: 00:32
Not really. I have two brothers and an older sister, my older sister was, you know, engaged and getting married and doing the woman things at that point, the two boys were still coming up through high school, they were 10 years and 12 years younger than I was. So, you know, it is like, that is my older sister type stuff. No, there was no real discussion that I remember. There may have been some conversation and, but nothing that stands out in my mind. You know, they pretty much, mom and dad said you can go, go type thing. And that cut the feeling they had. The boys were always curious. I did send home, my, you know, like poncho liners and my uniforms and things like that to them. And they played with them. So they were a lot younger at that point. And, you know.

SM: 01:31
When you entered the Red Cross, what was, was there a training period that you had to go through?

JSBC: 01:37
There was a training period, we had to report to Washington for two weeks. And we had to have our uniforms, we had to have our navy blue raincoats, we had to have our black handbags, we had to have our black loafers. We had, you know, a list of things that we had to have, and our foot lockers. And I had talked to a gal in Milwaukee who had come back from Vietnam. And she was telling me all sorts of stories. And it was just like, "I really want to do this, I really want to go." So, we had a list of things that we had to have before we went to Washington, when we got to Washington, we were put up in a hotel, I do not remember the name of the hotel at this point. And the very first day I got there, I was wearing my little navy blue suit with my red and white polka dot blouse with a tie [inaudible] on it. And took the elevator upstairs, and there was this woman on the elevator and we are chatting. And I said, "Well, I am going for the training for the Red Cross to go to Vietnam." Turned out to be the director [laughter].

SM: 02:43
Perfect timing.

JSBC: 02:44
Perfect timing, I will never forget that and you know, she just kind of rolled her eyes and laughed. So that was my introduction to the Red Cross, it was a lot about and I did not know this at the time, about rank, organization in the military, things you can do, things you cannot do, things you should do, things you should not do. But a lot of the girls came, and we were all girls at that point still. A lot of them came from military backgrounds. I came from the quasi you know, Fire Department background. So there, there was some structure there, but I did not know the ranks and they did not know the you know, the different services and things like that where others people did. So they went through all that and they taught us you know, "This is, how many stripes? What does that mean? What organization? Is that army? Is that navy? How did you, do you drink? When do you drink? Do you? Are you in uniform? Do you drink? If so how much do you drink?" You know, things like that, that we needed to know when we hit the ground running. It was not a lot about the world at that point. It was about our jobs at that point. So again, there was no emphasis on what was going on in the world right now. It was there was a war you were going to go and this is how you are going to you know get through it. Basically they showed us how to do programs. As an art teacher I you know I could paint anything I draw pictures I can do that. So.

SM: 04:24
They were actually taking, each of these individuals were taking your skills and how they were going to apply to this job. [crosstalk] Excellent.

JSBC: 04:29
They were taking skills. Yep, as well as your willingness to go they would take your skills. I was, you know, everybody loved having an art major come because that made making signs and posters really easy. Yeah, it was it was a lot of that stuff. We got into mischief. We had fun we would go out at night as a group and if we would run into some soldiers of course we would start talking and you know, have a drink with them and whatever. But we-we ran as a pack and nobody got into trouble. So, there were a couple girls that really were questioning whether they want to go after the at the end of the two weeks. And you had the option, you could, you know, you could walk away. But most of us went, and then we had to get our shots at the very end, we had to had a whole list of shots we had to have before we got there. And then they finally gave you the GG shot. And we swore that doctor was just a, you know. But we, you know, they virtually shoot you in the butt and then they say, "See you later," and they put you on an airplane for how many hours and it is like, ohhhhh.

SM: 04:40
Yeah. My gosh.

JSBC: 05:46
But we all survived. And then we flew from there. And we went to the airport, and we flew out to California to Travis Air Force Base. And there were about 13 of us that went to Vietnam on the flight that I was on, all in our little blue uniforms and chitter-chattering away with all these guys that are, you know, giving the 20,000 mile stares because they were returning to Vietnam. And they were you know, "You guys have no idea what you are going to get into," that thing. But we were fine. You know, we were fine. And when we got close to Vietnam, they turned out all the lights, it was dark. And we all kind of looked at each other like "Oh my gosh," flew in in the dark. And when he opened the door, it was just this blast of tropical heat coming in.

SM: 06:40

JSBC: 06:41
And everybody started, the Marines or the military started yelling at all the recruits and the guys on board the plane and we kind of looked at each other and said, "What have we gotten into?" They took us off, isolated us, and took us to BOQ where we spent the night. Next morning, we got up and I saw the guards sitting in front with guns. It is like, "Holy moly."

SM: 07:07
A lot different than being home.

JSBC: 07:10
Yeah, a lot different than Wisconsin. So that that was kind of the rude awakening into to Vietnam, and we had to go get uniforms and they were, we were issued boots. You know, pants, shirts, caps, which promptly we put on took a picture, and then pretty much got rid of the gear because we could wear our blue uniforms. And we just had a lot of logistical things that we had to do. Then we have training sessions at the Red Cross headquarters there on how to do a program. I had a friend from Wescott, a friend I did not- I would not know his name at this point. A gentleman from the Red Cross from Wisconsin was there. And the phone rang and they said, “Jeanne, that is for you.” I was still Jeannie. And you know, I am in Vietnam, what the hell is calling me? Happened to be this guy from the Red Cross in Wisconsin, in Madison. He said, "I have a motor scooter, let us go, I will show you around the city." So I got permission. And we went out and drove all over Saigon at that point. I remember going to the zoo, I remember driving in traffic. And here I am on the back of a scooter. And just having a wonderful time. [laughs]

SM: 08:31
My gosh.

JSBC: 08:33
Totally different, you know, the training sessions were supposed to be at. And it was, you know, it was easy. They kind of assessed the group and decided who would go to which unit at that point. And after a couple days, they said "You are going here you are going there. The flight is leaving at, you know, in 20 minutes from the airport, you better get over there." There was no great farewell, a farewell ceremony. And I was sent to NhaTrang for my first duty station.

SM: 09:08
Now did you go, when they broke the 13 up, how many kind of stayed together? Were there four of you, or two of you? Or how many?

JSBC: 09:15
No, we all kind of went different places. I do not remember who went where. I know I was the only one going to NhaTrang. And it just depended on how many, you know, slots were open. And-

SM: 09:30
Oh, okay.

JSBC: 09:32
-where they were, you know, who was rotating out is what mattered. So they had to fill those slots. And I was the only one that went to NhaTrang.

SM: 09:40 Now how long were you there?

JSBC: 09:43
Oof, I am going to say about six months.

SM: 09:48
So, half the time you were in Vietnam, you were there.

JSBC: 09:51
Well, I was 13 months in Vietnam. So. I was there, I came in the end of January. [counting] February March, April, May June. Yeah, about six months, about July, and had a great time, learned a lot. We learned from each other at that point. You know, we were paired up with another girl who had been there obviously a long time or much longer than we had at that point. And, you know, we were shown the ropes. "This is who we, who you need to see, this is who you need to go to, this is where you have to go. This is oh, this unit over here, that is over there. Come on, we can go on to this group over here." So it was, it was a learning experience the whole time. They did, of course, do a little harassment. I had to pull guard duty the very first night. They made me sit on the front steps and our hooch was shared with the nurses, it was on the hospital compound. The separating factor was a roll of barbed wire. And the village homes right on the other side of the barbed wire, and there were kids playing over there.

SM: 09:53
Okay. Wow.

JSBC: 11:02
And the girl said, "Well, you have to do guard duty that night. So, we are going to give you a whistle. And we are going to give you a helmet, and we are going to give you a flashlight, and if you see anything, you have to blow your whistle." They had a horrendous time laughing that night. I was scared to death. [laughter] Somebody comes down the road, what am I do now, type thing. Well, it was, you know, just pure harassment. And it is funny now, but you know, it is, that is how you start. You pay your dues. And I had some really great roommates and I had some really good people to work with. Kathy Wickstrom, who has passed away now, was my roommate for many, many months. She was from Illinois. And oh, gosh, she was just great to me, I mean, she could charm the pants off a snake, you know, she could, she knew how to do it all. And she always wore her hair up on a, in a bun up top. And one of the funnier stories about Kathy is, of course, we are out programming and she walks underneath a branch and it catches on her hair. And she used to stuff it with nylon stockings, to keep it fluffy. And as she is walking away, the stocking is coming out of the back of her hair. [laughter] And the guys are in hysterics laughing and I was laughing and Kathy was like, "What is going on?" But she you know, she was just cool. And she knew the weapons, she knew how to get the guys to talk about the weapons. "Tell me about your, what is this rifle over here? Well, why is it different from that rifle?" She knew the banter that would go with it. So she was a great teacher. And we had a lot of fun on different things. And-and, you know, I cannot say, I am sorry she is gone. But she-she really taught me a lot about how to deal with everything.

SM: 12:58
Now did you, but when you would go out to be with these, the troops, did we did, were you taken in a helicopter or a truck or both? Depending on where you were?

JSBC: 13:10
Yeah, sometimes we would go out in a jeep. Sometimes if it was, you know, close by on the base, we would go out on the Jeep. A lot of times, we had a quarter ton truck and we had two drivers, Richie and gosh, can think the other guy's name right now. And then a lot of times we would fly, we would go by chopper, we would go by the, special forces used to take us out in a different plane. Cannot-cannot even think of the name of the plane now. But it was not unusual to you know, show up at the Special Forces location and they would say, "Okay, today we are going to do here, we are going to go there and, you know, get in that aircraft." So it just depended on-on where we were going. Sometimes we rode the duck, we went to [inaudible] Island, and they had this water duck, you know, ride the duck type thing. And we went out to the islands on the duck and did our programs and then got on the duck and came back. So it would vary from what they had available as to where you had to go in Nha Trang.

SM: 14:20
Were the numbers of soldiers that were there, dd you, were they waiting for you? Or do they just, you were there doing things and they just kind of walked up? Or how did that work?

JSBC: 14:29
A little of each. Sometimes they knew we were coming, sometimes if we were flying in, you would drop out of the sky and it is like, "Oh my God, they are girls." You know, and it was like wildfire. "The girls, the girls came on my helicopter." So it varied. There were occasions when we had a regular stop that they knew we were coming on Monday at, you know, 11 o'clock or whatever it is. So they would have a group kind of gathered around and, you know, nobody was required to stay there. They could walk off if they did not like what you are doing. A lot of guys just would stand in the background and watch. So it, it varied. It varied. You had to roll with the punches at that point.

SM: 15:16
Did you, now were you were only there one day? Or did you sometimes be there two days?

JSBC: 15:20
No, we would be there an hour.

SM: 15:22
Oh, an hour?

JSBC: 15:23
An hour usually. Yeah, you would do six or seven stops during the course of a day.

SM: 15:29
Wow. That is a lot of stops.

JSBC: 15:31
It is a lot of stops. And so we would go from one to the other. And again, it depended on how, your, what your transportation was. And then, you know, how long does it fly- Does it take to fly such and such a place? How long does it take to you know, get the truck to, when-when we left town in the truck, we had to stop at the White Mice Station? And they had to pay the-the Vietnamese guards off for safe passage. So that was that was kind of interesting. I was like, "Richie, what are you doing?" He said, "We are paying the guards off." So, you know, the White Mice knew that we were in the area, and they would, it is okay, the girls are coming out and blah, blah, blah, blah, type thing. So that was after staying in [inaudible]. So you know, it varied, it varied.

SM: 16:23
In a typical week, would you be doing this seven day a week or five days a week?

JSBC: 16:30
Maybe six days a week.

SM: 16:31

JSBC: 16:31
You might have a day off, but let me clue you. If you are in a combat zone, as a woman, there is no time off. [laughter] Because anyplace you go, you know, you are drawing attention and the crowd is coming. But we technically had one day off. And I know, because I became very good friends with [inaudible] and she would take me shopping. And we would go into town, we would go shopping. So I know I had time off to do that. And we cook different food together. I went to her-her house at one point and met her children it was, I was very honored actually to be able to do that. And then her husband wanted to give me a ride home. And I weighed more than he did on the motor scooter. So [laughter] he was a little, a little embarrassed that he could not give me a ride home. They had to find a vehicle for me to ride in.

SM: 17:31

JSBC: 17:31
But, you know, it is- we genuinely had one day off.

SM: 17:36
In those, and you did this for a year now, six months or a little over six months at this location, and then other locations. Were there some men or some of the troops that stood out, like in other words, that you are doing your programs, but they might want to, you know, I have not been able to talk to my mom or dad. I you know, did they ever kind of open up at all?

JSBC: 18:04
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you would go in there you do you learn to do, we learned very quickly to read nonverbally, what the case was going to be. Sometimes you would show up and they had just lost somebody. You knew that you, kind of forget the program, there was going to be no-no giggles and laughs this time. We also learned to sit next to them instead of in front of them. We very quickly learned that so that they could talk to you without being threatened. And sometimes all we felt like were-were great big ears, because we listened to them. And that was one of the things we learned to do a lot of from the older gals. Just listen to them. Let them do the talking. And if they will not talk, again, get them to talk about their weapon. They will always tell you about, you could wake them up in the middle of the night. "Tell me about your guns." And you know, they'll rattle it off. So just to get them speaking was sometimes a major accomplishment. Sometimes we heard sentences that all started with f. And we knew the meaning of every one of them. We did not pass judgment, we just listened.

SM: 18:56
Right. Were you, also were these protected areas where you were, in other words you were when you were when the troops, there was a group farther away that was protecting the area where you were. I say this because you know your very first experience on arrival in Vietnam was to have the lights turned off on the plane. Obviously you knew then that it was a different lifestyle there. You know your work, dd you ever feel worrying about, you might yourself be killed?

JSBC: 19:53
You know, that was one of the things that we laugh about and we reflect back on the younger generation now. Then we, we were 21 years old, we were like the kids now, invincible. Nothing would ever get us. We knew there was danger, we knew there was a war zone going on. We know people are getting killed and dying. But it was not first thought on our mind. We could not go to work if we, you know, we worried about that. So it was it was a danger. It was situational. There were times that things did happen. There were times that, you know, several women did get killed while we were there. But it was, you know, it was not at the top of your list in your mind. You cannot do your job if, if you were worried about that. So we just did the best we could. We, our driver had a gun. So you know, we had an armed guard technically. You know, the men were very protective of us. If anything came up, we were the first ones they would grab and, you know, get out of the way. So, it was not anything we worried about at that point in our life. Now it is a whole different thing. I would worry about it. But back then, no, being 21. And, and you know, the world is your oyster type thing. We did not think about it.

SM: 21:34
Do you know how many in, once the war was over how many in the Red Cross had died?

JSBC: 21:40
Oh, gosh, I know, there were at least five. There were three in our program that died. And I just found out the other day that there was another woman whose husband was there. She was working for another organization. And she was killed during Tet.

SM: 21:58

JSBC: 21:59

SM: 22:00
You know, I reflect upon the-the wall in Washington DC, of course, the women's memorial in (19)93 that was opened, but I reflect upon the wall because I think there is only 12 names on the wall of women.

JSBC: 22:12

SM: 22:13
And are there any of them Red Cross?

JSBC: 22:16
Red Cross has a plaque that has their names on them. But because we were not technically military-

SM: 22:24

JSBC: 22:24
-we could not be put on the wall. And that still to this day is one of those bugaboos. You know, I live in a community that has a veteran’s group, but I am not a veteran.

SM: 22:38

JSBC: 22:38
I am a veteran of Vietnam.

SM: 22:40

JSBC: 22:40
But not a Vietnam veteran.

SM: 22:41

JSBC: 22:42
And that, you know, that is a very fine line of distinction. And there is resentment when you get into a group and you are not a DD 214 veteran.

SM: 22:53
Right. I understand that. I know there is, when the wall was built, all these restrictions about what other things that can be placed near the wall. Of course, the three man statue, that got through because of some power [inaudible] Vietnam vets. But, of course, the women's memorial was way overdue, way overdue. And thanks to Diane and all she did in her group. But, you know, there, I have gotten to the wall now, on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, except the last two years because of COVID every year since Lewis Puller died, because I got to know, I know, I got to know Lewis and I really felt I had to be there every year from that point forward. And-and it is interesting, because I know there has been men who had dogs that they love, there needs to be recognition for the dogs. And of course, they, no way are they going to be recognized at the wall and certain-. But people like you and who went over and we were with the, maybe there was a discussion down the road that that will change.

JSBC: 24:01
I doubt it very truthfully. I really, I cannot see, they, if they did that there are so many things they would have to do. If we all die out, then somebody might recognize it. But then they would not have to give us medical coverage or, you know, Agent Orange coverage or anything else. PTSD. We all were exposed to the whole stuff. But because we are with a private organization, we are not covered under that. And if they recognized us, then they would have to do that. So once we all die off, it'll probably happen, but not until then.

SM: 24:38
I think. Yeah, the things that were happening in America. During that time that you were there. Were you cognizant of what was going on in America itself?

JSBC: 24:48

SM: 24:48
Because of the tremendous protests and divisions and everything else. The race issue racial issues, drugs, everything.

JSBC: 24:56
No, I was not well, the drugs and the race issue were after I came home. And they were not that prevalent when I was there. Because I was there early. I was there (19)67.

SM: 25:12

JSBC: 25:13
So, you know, that that starts in afterwards and becomes a problem in the (19)70s. So I was not aware of that. I, we knew there were drugs. And if you wanted them, you could get them. But it, it was not a problem for us then. If that makes sense. I mean, it sounds crazy.

SM: 25:38
And they always, they always say that the real heyday or the, when the real deaths were happening in large numbers was from (19)67 to (19)71 were the real crisis years. And I know Phil Caputo who wrote the book "A Rumor of War," he wrote the book because "Hey, wait a minute, I was there in (19)65 and (19)66. And there is a lot going on there too the-the Ia Drang Valley was very early."

JSBC: 26:04

SM: 26:05
So you know, I bring these things up. Because you see, so many books have been written and you know, the war was a long one and there was different periods of ups and downs, and, and certainly drugs. You know, what was happening in America was somewhat prevalent, what was happening in Vietnam as well in the early (19)70s. What, what did you do when you were after six months, where did you go after that?

JSBC: 26:30
After NhaTrang, I went to Da Nang with the First Marine Division. And we were, we had quarters in a house that we lived in and in Da Nang proper. We had a driver who had a red and white Volkswagen bus [laughs] to take us back and forth. We had a center up on freedom hill, and we had a center on the flight line for the Marine Corps, which was blown up shortly after I got there. So you know, it was a very different. I had been with the army, and I had been with the Navy in NhaTrang, basically, in special forces. Now all sudden, I am with the Marine Corps. And that was an adjustment. That was an adjustment. Not a bad one. And you know, but it was a different way of looking at military service and your obligation and things.

SM: 27:29

JSBC: 27:30

SM: 27:30
I can understand, I know a lot of Marines and-

JSBC: 27:33

SM: 27:34
-to get to be a Marine is very difficult.

JSBC: 27:36

SM: 27:36
And you know, you can go through training and you do not cut it and then go into the army and but you are not a Marine.

JSBC: 27:42

SM: 27:42
And so, there is a pride and there is a call and I can see it the Vietnam Memorial every year, the pride is really there in being a Marine, and it goes from generation to generation too.

JSBC: 27:51
It does, and you know, great guys. A lot of I mean, I knew some of the dirty things that were going on when I was in NhaTrang. For example, I am going to backtrack a second, I had two friends who were with Air America. And they used to come by the house, the house that had the barbed wire on the outside, and we would sit and chat and talk and everything else. And one of the guys was dating a nurse in town, not a gov- not a military nurse, but a civilian nurse. And, gosh he was good looking guy, good looking guy. And anyway, one day, the other friend came by and he said, "I want to tell you that so and so is no longer here." And I said, "what happened?" He said, "He killed himself." And I said, "Oh, why?" "Well, he shot the nurse. He killed the nurse. And then he turned the gun on himself." So we knew things like that were going on. But, you know, it was a much grander scale when we got to the Marine Corps. And they had a lot of dirty stuff. I mean, you know, I, the standing joke about the "Oh apricots for me." They showed me a string of-of ear.

SM: 29:05

JSBC: 29:06
When I was out in the field one day, and I really thought they were apricots. I really did. And today I look at apricots and I see, you know, the same thing [laughs]. And I was like, "Hmm." And then seeing shrunken heads and different things like that, and some of the beatings and some of the other problems that went into it, that I did not see in NhaTrang a lot. I was more exposed to it when I was with the Marine Corps. They were tough. There was, there was no you know, leeway. You were, you either did it or you did not do it type thing. And great guys. I love my Marines, absolutely adore them. But their duty was very different from that of the Army or the Navy. And you know if anything happens, if I ever need protection, I am going to get myself a couple of good Marines.

SM: 30:03
Yeah, I think I can remember when we had Jan Scruggs and Country Joe McDonald, they came to West Chester University back in, I think (19)99, we, we did the traveling Vietnam memorial at the university and, and-and they were speaking and Jan helped us get Country Joe. I remember we were at dinner one night and country Joe was just talking with Jan, Jan was talking to the students and-and then country Joe, just out of the clear blue says, "Well, you know why there were not any hostages, why there were not any hostage- North Vietnamese or Vietcong hostages, do not you?" And, "Because they were all killed." And I did not, I did not quite understand this, I thought there were hostages. And because what happened is a lot of the guys gave them, they gave them off to the South Vietnamese Army, and they did whatever they wanted to do to him or something.

JSBC: 31:02

SM: 31:03
So that and I, and Jan did not even say anything, this is all Country Joe saying it. Any he kind of, you know. So and it came up due to a question from a student. I wanted to ask you, since you were with, around these guys, you know, for an entire year and you know how America treated them upon the return home, this has really upset me for a long time, is how Vietnam veterans are treated upon their return to America. I have locals’ stories of veterans coming home and not even allowed into a Viet Veterans of Foreign Wars office. And because a lot of it has to do with My Lai and this perception that they are all crazed, and they are all bad. And that affected the women too.

JSBC: 31:46

SM: 31:47
Did you notice when you were with the, for that year, the mental health issues that were facing a lot of the young men and women who were serving in Vietnam, and we all know now cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. And-and you said the one gentleman killed himself and then his girlfriend or whatever, just-just the overall mental health of, you know, the Agent Orange and all the things they were going through?

JSBC: 32:19
I am going to say no. As a general term, Agent Orange, we did not know about we did not understand it at that point. The mental health issues. Yeah, there were a lot of issues. And there were a lot of guys who were stressed out. But again, our job was to listen to them, and not debate the issues. And if they had a paragraph of all F words, we under, we listened to those too, and tried not to get into the debate if that makes sense. PTSD, nobody knew about at that point. You know, it, it was an emotional thing. I had, I had a Marine come into the center one day, and we had a music room where they would play drums and everything else. They were supposed to check the weapons. He brought us up, brought a weapon in with him, and all sudden, I am on duty. And I hear this, "Boom." And, you know, now what, you look. And they said, "Oh, in the music room type thing." I went into the music room, he had shot himself in the foot. So he could get out. And he left. I mean, he was gone before I even got there. "Where would he go?" "Well, he shot himself in the foot, you know, took off." So, you know, yeah, there were, the guys were under a lot of stress. And again, it was not our job to get into that finite portion of right or wrong with them. Listen to them.

SM: 33:57

JSBC: 33:58
Listen to them. So it was very interesting. You know, I do not know what I can tell you. I mean, laughter was best, the best medicine. And, and we knew that from again, the previous training from the older women that had been there before. If you get-get them to laugh, they cannot cry and they cannot laugh at the same time. If they can laugh at you, make them do that. If they can laugh at themselves, even better. You know, try and bring some humor and break that facade. If they cannot talk to you. You know if you are serving chow and you have got six of them sitting over on the other side just watching and you know, spill something on yourself or drop a dish and make them laugh. So, you know, you were always aware of that factor. I do not know if that makes sense to you.

SM: 34:56
Yeah, it does. It does. I-I was not there. I think this- It is important because the people who will be listening to these interviews, you know, it is all about research and scholarship and trying to understand the times and that war. And it is, and believe me, 20, 30 years from now, generations will be listening to these interviews as well. And I just do not want this, the (19)60s and (19)70s and the Vietnam War, and the lessons learned from these times to ever be forgotten. That is one of the goals of everything we are doing. What-

JSBC: 35:31
I can, I can tell you though Stephen. When I came home, I was accosted by women. I was doing a panel with Red Cross one night in Madison. And after I was all done, a couple of the women came up to me, and they were shaking their fingers at me. And they said, "We know what you did in Vietnam." And they were furious. You know, it is like, "You are, you are a whore. We know that." And I just looked at them kind of dumbfounded. And I sealed it off. I never talked about it for-for 10, 15 years afterwards.

SM: 35:32

JSBC: 35:32
It was just like, I am not going to deal with it. They do not, you know, nobody knows, as a woman, where I was for that year. It is no big deal if a woman disappears. For a guy, they were going to assume that they went over into service. But for a woman they would not. And so I just, I refused to talk about it.

SM: 36:26
When now, when your time was nearing an end for 13 months, were you thinking about what you were going to do next when you got home or were you thinking?

JSBC: 36:37
Oh, I knew. I knew already what I was going to do. I had applied to graduate school, from Vietnam. And I applied to NYU and I applied to Miami of Ohio. NYU accepted me, but did not give me any funding. And of course, I did not have any money. And so Miami gave me a full ride. And I said, I know where I am going. [laughs]

SM: 37:02
That is a good school. I worked Ohio University my first job, that is a very good school.

JSBC: 37:07
Yeah, yeah. So that, that made it very easy. But no, DaNang was a wonderful place. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about life. I learned a lot about difficult situations that men can get into. You know, I had wonderful opportunities to kind of expand my whole knowledge. We were, we had sniper fire at night into our house. Never knew I could get under a bed in hair rollers so fast in my life. As I said, our one of our centers was blown up. And I still have to this day a piece of shrapnel from that day. I you know, I used to see guys in the hospitals that look like somebody had taken the course pepper grinder to them. And I would stand there and look at them. I really did not know what at all was, it was shrapnel. And finally, after the center was blown up, it was kind of "Oh, that [laughs], that is what that is" type stuff. You know, oh gosh, going into the hospitals and I learned what burn victims smell like. We had one guy in there. He was isolated and kind of put off to the side. He was covered in patches. He had a little teeny tiny peephole, like a quarter of an inch of the bandage that he could see through. And we had gone into the wards, they had to leave him alone. So we did our thing. We talked to the guys on the ward. On leaving, we went past him. And I just could not resist. I said, "That is a nice peephole." Well, as soon as I said something, the corpsman grabbed me and decided that they were going to give me a shot, an injection, which was just water. But anyway, they got this guy who was just totally bandaged to laugh. And it was probably one of the best moments [laughter]. Here is his little itty-bitty peephole. That is all he could see is these corpsmen grabbing me. And, you know, it was it was a wonderful moment for him. It was a wonderful moment in the hospital just to give that relief to somebody. You know it-it was terrific. We had some very nasty things happen up there. We had some great things happen up there. The Air Force was up there as well. And we got to know a bunch of them. When they would do 100 missions over North Vietnam. They had a fire truck that you could, it was a water truck and you could hose anybody down within range. Well, we got to ride the fire trucks when they hosed people down [laughter]. A lot of people probably hated us. They had some music centers where we could go in and totally just decompress and just listen to music. On tapes, we all had tape decks at that point. Speaking of music, one of the great moments and to this day, I still get tears in my eyes, listening to music and Dvorak, New World Symphony.

SM: 37:46
Wow. Oh, wow.

JSBC: 40:25
When they started playing "Going Home," we had we had it playing in the center one night, or day. And when that got, I mean, it is noisy in the center. I mean, everybody's talking and people are moving around. And they were very noisy. And that piece came on. And I just remember absolute dead silence.

SM: 40:45

JSBC: 40:46
And all these tough Marines just in another world of going home. It was beautiful.

SM: 40:53
Is not that-

JSBC: 40:54
Absolutely wonderful. And to this day, I hear that peace out. I just think that those guys just standing there. And how meaningful it was to them. God bless America was another thing that that would stop them. And so you know, you had wonderful things like that happen, as well. And very meaningful.

SM: 41:14
I know that you know, those Bob Hope tours were very important to the trips too.

JSBC: 41:18

SM: 41:18
Every year and of course, the singers and the entertainers that came over. But the music is known "Good Morning, Vietnam." And there is truth to that, because you know, what, no matter what you are talking about, about the people that served in the war, the music was a very important part of their lives.

JSBC: 41:34
It was.

SM: 41:35
And, and just about all that music from the (19)60s and into the mid (19)70s. I mean, we are talking. Typically, Vietnam War, we are talking (19)59 to (19)75 is what you talk about, but you know, disco came in toward the very end and everything. But, you know, did you hear music a lot when you were going around these places, were they playing it on a transistor radios?

JSBC: 41:58
If we were out in the field, no, not a lot of music out there. If we were in the centers obviously, we had the music.

SM: 42:05
Right, which of the-

JSBC: 42:07

SM: 42:07
-were there, were there groups that you felt were like the groups for the troops?

JSBC: 42:14
We did not ex- I did not experience that. I am going to say I personally. We had Bob Hope with us at Phan Rang, which was my third stop. And that was meaningful. But for the most part you know, we did not go to the shows in Da Nang. They were too rough, they were too dangerous for the most part. Our center, as I said, the one on the flight line was blown up. The big center up and Freedom Hill, a couple times we were evacuated out of there because they would just throw us in jeeps and get us out there is because VC were on the other side of the hill. So you know, we kind of had to pace ourselves and see what was going on. But music, if they could, if they could hear it, they loved it. And they would play it. Not a lot of radios out in the boonies [laughs].

SM: 43:11
Now that, I am going to get into your post-Vietnam. But when you were in Vietnam, of course, you had the African American soldiers and you had the Latino soldiers and you had Native American soldiers, there was a couple books written right now, why I served. Native Americans and certainly Asian Americans as well. Did you see, was there a camaraderie between these groups during the time that you were there?

JSBC: 43:41
I did not notice the difference. Believe it or not in (19)67 I did not see the Black or the Latino or the Asians or whatever group you want to call it. I just saw soldiers. They were all brothers back then. And we had Black, white, pink, polka dot striped whatever friends amongst the groups. There, this, as crazy as it is going to sound, I did not see that difference. And maybe that is part me. And maybe it is part them. But it was early. And we accepted everybody on the same level.

SM: 44:27
As they should.

JSBC: 44:28

SM: 44:29
Yeah. And because you know, anybody I have talked to who has served in war, and I did not do it, so I cannot talk on it, but I have when I have talked to others is they were our brothers and sisters.

JSBC: 44:39

SM: 44:39
When we were in war, we do not think about this.

JSBC: 44:42

SM: 44:42
We think of survival and helping them survive.

JSBC: 44:46

SM: 44:46
And what happens beyond that is another story.

JSBC: 44:50
Yeah. [crosstalk] I know some of the women that came after me in the later years, noticed a difference but when I was there, I did not. People felt the same.

SM: 45:01
The last thing I wanted to mention on the what happening, was happening in Vietnam. Did you ever experience or hear about fragging?

JSBC: 45:09
Oh, yeah. We know about fragging. [laughs]

SM: 45:13
Yeah. Because-

JSBC: 45:13
Sorry about that. I know. No, we knew about fragging. We also knew and again, we would hear things when the guys came in, and they were angry. You knew you know, the next time, oh, he was fragged.

SM: 45:14
Because, uh you know, graduates of West Point in Annapolis and they had come to Vietnam and some of the young guys under them said, "Who are these guys?" Wow.

JSBC: 45:38
And you knew what happened. So we knew that was going on. I did not know anybody personally, who was fragged. But there, you know, there were things going on. There were.

SM: 45:53
On your flight back when you knew you were coming home. And were you going to just go home and visit your parents first and then go to the Miami of Ohio?

JSBC: 46:02
[laughs] Oh, you are a dreamer. [laughter] Let us see, let me let me backtrack for a few minutes. I just want to say one thing about when I, my third assignment was Phan Rang. And that was with the Air Force. [inaudible] sit on the other side, the Aussies were in the middle, we were with the Air Force. And that was where I was a unit and programming director. And for the first time, I really became aware of the danger that some of the women were in. We had VC picked up, and they had photographed the women. So they were targeting them. We had one of the girls in the group, she had gone to the beach with a soldier, and which was fine with me, they got a motor scooter, and they were going to the beach. And they had some charcoal with them. And they had, somebody put a grenade in the charcoal.

SM: 46:54
Oh, god.

JSBC: 46:54
So, we, you know, I became very aware of some of the dangers. We had a lot of people peeping toms, we had VC that would be watching the house and we had a dog, the dog would, dog was our security. Dog would bark, and you would go to the door and you would see somebody run up the hill. So we knew, I knew, I should say I knew of some of the dangers at that point that were lurking out there. And I did not, I was not aware of them in the other two locations as such. So, by the time I would become unit and program director because, I would hear from the commanding officer, this is what has happened, you have got to be aware of this. So that is, that is kind of that story. But on to coming home. Came home. I knew where it was going. I flew into, well, it was during Tet, and I could not get out. So I was in Saigon, there were five of us who were rotating out. And I, you know, I wanted out at that point. I, I had a date. I mean, I knew where I had to be in XYZ days, you know, type thing. So I eventually, it was Tet, we went with to the top of the hotel I can never remember the name of, it had a bar on the top. And we could watch all the fireworks going on all the you know, gunships and [inaudible] the ground. And I found a pilot who had a bird dog who was willing to get me back to Phan Rang, where if I got Phan Rang, I could get to Cam Ranh, if I could get to Cam Ranh and I could get a C-23 or C-130 out of the country. So that was my route. And I had a flight suit at that point. So that morning, we left first thing in the morning and the fires were still going on-on the flight line. There were bomb craters all over the place. And he got the bird dog out. Took me to Phan Rang. I got there and they said, "I thought you left, you know, what you doing back here?" And I said, "I am going to Cam Ranh, get me on a flight to Cam Ranh" and got Cam Ranh, wore my flight suit and boots, and got all set to go. But because I was a civilian, I still did not have a stamped passport. Because of that. I had to go back down to Saigon and get somebody, anybody to stamp that book, that passport book, so I could get out of the country. I had orders, but I did not have a passport. I mean, I could get out of the country. I could not get into another country.

SM: 49:38

JSBC: 49:38
So, you know back and forth and down and I finally got out, headed towards Okinawa on a military flight, and in Okinawa, then I was able to eventually get to Japan and got a commercial flight home to San Francisco. Got to San Francisco and I did not, I was not ready to go home yet [laughs]. I went to see one of my buddies. And he was an old, I had, you know, it is hard for people to understand. I had so many good friends and buddies, men. And he was an F4 pilot. And he said, you know, on your way home come to McChord Air Force Base, let us go flying. I held him to it. So I had the flight suit. And I had short hair. So I went to, I went from San Francisco to McChord Air Force Base, and we flew T-33s. And just had a wonderful time. And, you know, eventually then I got another flight and went to Madison, Wisconsin. Saw my family, "Hello, I am safe," you know, whatever. And "Oh, by the way, I have to be over in [laughs] Miami at, you know, in Oxford Ohio in a few days here." So I, short stay at home and headed towards Miami of Ohio and got into mischief there, so [laughter]. I was a handful. So that was, that was my flight home. I mean, I you know, I did not really go home-home for any length of time, I spent my time seeing a buddy. I often wonder whatever happened to him, I know he is married. He was an awful nice guy just is the one that said, you know, you are 10 pounds overweight, your head is a mess, get your act together. And, you know, it took a good friend to say that.

SM: 51:40
When you, when that plane took off, you know, I am going to ask, when that plane took off, and you were off the ground, and you were heading home to San Francisco. What was going through that mind of yours?

JSBC: 51:51
Well, that flight was out of Japan.

SM: 51:53
Oh, ok Japan.

JSBC: 51:54
Out of Japan. And I had a very nasty dirty man sitting next to me and he wanted to give me a permanent gig, give me a job. He had a position for me. I said, "I have been through a year, you know, 13 months in Vietnam of all these men, and it was an extra dirty old man who was [inaudible] me?" [laughter] I could not believe it.

SM: 52:15

JSBC: 52:16
So, it was a very quiet long flight. [laughter]

SM: 52:22
Okay, so when you were going to Miami, Ohio, what were you going to major in?

JSBC: 52:28
I was getting a master's in educational supervision.

SM: 52:32

JSBC: 52:34
And I was working in the art department. Specifically in the ceramics lab.

SM: 52:41
Is that a two-year program or-?

JSBC: 52:42
No, it was a one-year program. And at the end of it, we had to do an exhibit. We had to you know, pass our exams. And then we took a bunch of kids and we went to New York. You know, so it was kind of fun. But it was an interesting year, and I had developed a very good friend, who I decided I was I was not going to stay in the American, in America anymore. I did not like American women at that point. They were snippy snotty, and they had no clue what was going on in the world. And that was just my bias. And so I had I had an opportunity to apply for the USO and become an associate director of the USO. And they offered me a job in Guam or back to Vietnam. And I said, "Well, I have been to Vietnam, I might as well go to Guam." And this other gal in our department, liked what I was doing, she decided she was going to apply but she was six months younger than I was. So of course, she got to go to Thailand. And that was where I wanted to go. And you know, we had many, many funny stories as that story goes on. But that was what I did afterwards.

SM: 53:58
And how long were you there?

JSBC: 54:01

My tour was almost two years. And I met my husband over there. So I kind of ended it a little bit early and my mother came over and my mother and I traveled around the world.

SM: 54:15 Wow.

JSBC: 54:15

SM: 54:15
What what-was the- your job responsibilities with the USO?

JSBC: 54:20
Well, one thing it would have been, it did not last that way. Our director heart attack and died. So two of us who were the associates became, you know, the surrogate directors. We ran a daycare center. We had a big facility on a beach. We did a lot of things, civic programs that were, we were involved. I took the guys what we call duney stomping, we would take them hiking up in the hills of Guam where they were still fighting Japanese from World War Two up there. So it, you know, it varied again but it was another tropical island.

SM: 54:59
And after Guam you came home again?

JSBC: 55:02
After Guam I came home again and I did get married. I was not 100 percent sure, as the closer I got to New York that I wanted to do that, but I did.

SM: 55:13
Right. How did you get your PhD?

JSBC: 55:19
Raised two children, went through PTSD did a bunch of other things in the community, and decided, well, why not? I have got a Master's degree. And so I applied, and I was interested in the adult learning program. And just did it on a lark basically, got accepted and cried all the way across town saying, "What have I done, what have I done? Oh, my God, what have I done now?" And anyway, you know, I had to live on campus for a while. And my husband moved in the meantime, down to Virginia for a job. So we were back and forth. And, you know, got all the way through all the exams and everything else. And working, this is just as computers were coming in. So I would send papers home, and it would take a week to get back up to Connecticut, and then 10 days to be read and, you know, back down, and it was not working out one might say. So, I took one degree and then decided that I was ABD at that point, that I still wanted to write the dissertation. And I was interested in women in the Iraq war and their communication patterns. And so I proposed it to another online school at that point, they accepted it, and I finished the PhD that way.

SM: 56:43
Wow, that is a good story, too. My God.

JSBC: 56:46
Yep-yep. So, I got to meet some of the girls from the Iraq war that that way that I am still in touch with, which is really neat.

SM: 56:52
Do you stay in touch with any of the people you worked with in Vietnam?

JSBC: 56:57
In Vietnam? Oh, yeah. Yeah, we have a whole group of us, a whole group of us.

SM: 57:02
Do you meet? Or do you just kind of-

JSBC: 57:05
We periodically try and meet, of course, COVID has not helped. And we are going to, a couple of us are in charge of a conference that will be held in (20)23, up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. So, we are getting that one in the in the works at this point, which is kind of fun. We try, it tries to move it from different places around the United States. So other people can go when it is, you know, closer by.

SM: 57:30
I want to ask you about if you and your peers in the Red Cross, after leaving Vietnam, went through what we just talked about briefly here about how you were treated in in the United States upon your return, when people knew that you served. You know, Vietnam veterans are treated so poorly until (19)82, when the wall was built.

JSBC: 57:53

SM: 57:53
In fact, they were even I was in California at the time. And I, but I heard there were protesters outside on the streets, even when the wall was being opened, which I thought was ridiculous.

JSBC: 58:04
Oh, yeah.

SM: 58:05
What the heck-? But just that-that has been, it is not happening now. Because now we got the issue of people lying that they were Vietnam veterans.

JSBC: 58:15

SM: 58:15
You know, because they are, they are accepted. But at that time, they were treated poorly. Did you experience any of that?

JSBC: 58:21
It still happens, it still happens. I will give you an example the other day, with a veterans group locally here, I kind of walked in, well, I backtrack a second. They have two libraries in two of the clubs here, one for each of the buildings. And there are a ton of books about war, and Vietnam and the other wars. There was not one book about women. And when I looked at the shelf, I said, "What, I can do something about this!" So I had a couple books, and I took them over when the group was getting together that they meet once a month. And I gave them to the guy who was running the group. And I said, "Here is the start of your woman's collection." And I said I was a Donut Dollie in Vietnam, and he was very receptive. He took me into the room and he introduced me. And [groans] not everybody is enthralled by you know, being a Donut Dollie in Vietnam. Because a lot of people still do not like the Red Cross. And it is a mixed review, let us put it that way. And they said, "Well, you can stay" and I said, "No, this is a veteran’s group." And again, I am a veteran of Vietnam. I am not a, you know, Vietnam veteran.

SM: 59:41

JSBC: 59:41
And I said, But I would be more than happy to help you and anything you need done, just call me, just let me know. So I left and about two weeks later, in a ladies group. I am sitting there and I am talking to [inaudible] some of the women and I said something. And the one woman looked at me whose husband-husband was a West Point graduate. And she said, "Oh, the Donut Dollie!" And you know, it has taken me several weeks to figure out, that was not the biggest compliment. [laughter] So her husband must have gone home and said, "Oh, and we have a Donut Dollie," you know. And she came through and it was not gracious. So, you know, it does still happen. They do not always accept it. And it was difficult for a woman to really say where she was, and to be accepted.

SM: 1:00:43
Well, we all know what Diane Carlson Evans went through when the hearings in Congress and she was called everything. And boy, just like Jan Scruggs and creating the wall, it took a lot of courage and guts to get through all the battles to make it happen. But when what where, did you visit the, were you there the day the woman's memorial was dedicated, or?

JSBC: 1:01:11
Yes, I was.

SM: 1:01:13
That was in I think, November 11th of (19)93.

JSBC: 1:01:17
I am not sure the year but yeah, I was down there.

SM: 1:01:20
What, can you talk about that day, in terms of your feelings, being there with the nurses, Red Cross, Donut Dollies, I know Holley Watts, I know her well.

JSBC: 1:01:33

SM: 1:01:33
Just the feeling of being there on that day?

JSBC: 1:01:38
Well, I think for most women, it has come a long way. And they are they are pretty darn accepting of one another right now. No, we were not nurses, we did not do what they did. They did not do what we did. It took all of us to make that year, go away for the you know, for the guys. And it was about the men, it was not about us. And so, you know, it, the recognition from one another as females has increased a thousand fold. At one point, we were each other's enemy. You know, in Vietnam, the nurses or the Donut Dollies, or the USO people or the special services. Everybody kind of protected their own turf. But afterwards, after the-the dedication to the wall, and specifically when the dedication of the women's Memorial, it really became more of a united group. And there, many of the organizations that if you were there, we do not care. You can be, you know, be a member of this. I did receive a Presidential Award for VV, from VVA at one point. And so, you know, that made me feel pretty good. Three of us were asked to show up in Springfield convention and they gave us an award. So this is very nice recognition. You know, there is still, a lot of doors are still closed, they always will be. Whose problem is that? Is that the other side's problem or ours? I think it is the other side's problem.

SM: 1:03:22
I agree, I agree.

JSBC: 1:03:24
And, you know, we have many generations that have gone past now. And that is kind of cool.

SM: 1:03:32
I often ask people who have been to the women's Memorial, of course, have been to the Vietnam Memorial. The first time you visited the Vietnam Memorial. I do this and I am still doing it every time I go there I, when the when the remembrance events are over, I sit in a chair before they put all the- I sit there for about an hour. And I just, I look at the wall and I am not a veteran and [inaudible] to go through but I lived through it through a college student and all of all that stuff. I see so many things on that wall. I know Jan Scruggs, I told him about this, I see what you guys did to make this wall happen. I just still do not know how they made it happen. It took, because I know his story as well as Jack Wheeler, who sadly was killed in Wilmington, Delaware a couple years back and I see the faces of Vietnamese, I see the faces of the soldiers I see the faces of the nurses I see the faces of, you know, the Red Cr- I see everything there. I-I just kind of stare at it, and it is just me. But I am wondering what other people, when they see that wall, what they see? I do not know if you if you tend to spend time there you know, I know a lot of the women go to make sure they look up the names of the 12 nurses who were there. And, but and of course, the Vietnam vets you know the guys that died by their side, Jan Scruggs has a whole section where the guys who you served with died, so he would obviously go there.

JSBC: 1:05:07

SM: 1:05:07
The Ia Drang Valley guys go to another section. I mean, do you? What-what do you see? Or what do you think some of the other women see when they go to that wall?

JSBC: 1:05:19
I think it is going to be very personal for each one that does it. More than the wall, the massiveness of it, because we did not know a lot of their, their names, when we went to see the guys, I mean, if we tried, it hurt too much to know that it was Steve Smith, or Joe Blow, it became hairy or slick, or what, we gave them nicknames. So, I do not know who those names are there, per se. But what I do is I see the faces of the people who are looking at the wall. And I see and sense their feelings. It has it has touched so many people in different ways. That it is, it is almost a gut feeling. If somebody's in trouble, you just go over and you have to put a hand on their arm or a shoulder or, you know, look at them in the eye and just say I understand, you do not have to say anything else.

SM: 1:06:30
Right. I love it when I see grandparents with parents and grandchildren. I see it more and more. And now we are talking great grandchildren-

JSBC: 1:06:44

SM: 1:06:44
-because people are living longer.

JSBC: 1:06:45

SM: 1:06:46
And-and when I see kids there and-and they are pointing to a name of a grandfather that they never heard of.

JSBC: 1:06:55

SM: 1:06:56
It touches me. It is about [crosstalk] history, it is about never forgetting.

JSBC: 1:07:01

SM: 1:07:02
And I, and when I when I see that wall I, it is about remembrance. It is like what Jan Scruggs originally said, to heal a nation but most importantly to heal the families of those who died in that war, who gave-

JSBC: 1:07:17

SM: 1:07:18
-their ultimate sac- who paid the ultimate price for service.

JSBC: 1:07:21

SM: 1:07:22
Plus, also, to pay respects for those who are still alive and served and were never treated you know, like they should have been upon their return and, and not make it a political entity. It is about service.

JSBC: 1:07:38

SM: 1:07:39
And that has, Jan has done a tremendous job in making sure that happens. Politics always comes up, you know, at some of the remembrance events about you know, Tet and the soldiers' stories in the you know, everything- politics does come up and Bill Clinton went to the wall, obviously the booing took place because he did not serve. So it was that kind of thing. But I thought the courage of Jan Scruggs and Lewis Puller to bring him to the wall on that day was important.

JSBC: 1:08:08

SM: 1:08:09
It was so important. And I was there and, and I understood why the guys were booing, but I also understood the other side. That is why I like Lewis Puller because it was Lewis, I do not know if you ever knew Lewis. He was an unbelievable veteran who did not live long enough. He wrote the brunt, I think the greatest book ever written on, you know, "Fortunate Son." And he wanted to be up there and he wanted to introduce Mr. Clinton, and he did.

JSBC: 1:08:41
Good job.

SM: 1:08:42
And it was about healing. And one thing, Sam, that I want to mention to you, too, is something that has always been on my mind, I would like your thoughts. Do you ever think about the healing process in terms of not only our Vietnam veterans and their families, their survivors, but also the nation as a whole? Do you think, do you think about the healing process of that war and how it really still affects us?

JSBC: 1:09:11
It still affects us and I am going to share an incident with you that we could not have done a while ago. When I was teaching at the University of Connecticut at Western. I had been in the department teaching probably 10 years. One of the fellow officers from their police department used to love to come to my class and we would do a course or, you know, a session on nonverbal behavior. He was a wonderful placement, he had first experience with nonverbal, was with a Native-Native American who would not give him eye contact. So, I knew the story and I knew how to act as he has told the story. And you know, the kind of shook the kids in the classroom. They say, "Woa, we had not thought about that" type thing. And anyway, as he was cleaning up that one particular day, he was muttering and sputtering, he had to go back to the office and his boss was a hardass Vietnam vet. And I went, "Hmm." And I, I did not say anything. I just kind of looked at him and said, "He is?" And he says, "Oh, yeah, you know," and I said, "Why did not you tell me this a long time ago?" Well, when I wrote the thank you note, which I always did, to the chief of police, I, you know, said what a wonderful job has his man had done and you know blah, blah, blah. I could not resist because I sent a box of doughnuts. And-and I signed it "DD Vietnam 67-68." Well, about three, I figured I would either get parking tickets for the rest of my life over on the campus, or I was going to, you know. And three days later, the chief of police called me. And he said, “This is Chief McLaughlin.: I am like, yes, waiting for the shoe to fall. And it did not. And we started telling stories. He said, when were- you were and I told him, I said (19)67, (19)68 He said, "I was there (19)67, (19)68. Where were you in [inaudible]." He was in Nha Trang when I was in Nha Trang. And one evening, I was going into a restaurant with an officer, we were going to dinner, there was a scuffle and a bang. I mean, it is a war zone. Not a big deal. And we went into the restaurant to obviously get out of the way. And we heard that a 14 year old kid had been shot. Nothing ever happened of it. I mean, nothing in Vietnam ever came of the whole thing. I am talking to the chief of police from my university. And he says as I am telling them the story about going into a restaurant and there was a kid shot. He said, "Stop, the hair on my arms is up." That kid was 14 years old. And I just stopped and held my breath. And he said, "I was MP on duty that shot him."

SM: 1:12:08
Holy cow.

JSBC: 1:12:11
And, I mean, it was, you know, it was like, "Ughhh." We met at a ceremony that they were holding a couple of weeks later, I still did not know who the man was. And I walked in, some of the cops are there and I said, "Where is the chief?" and they said, "He is out there." As soon as I walked through the door, and he saw me, he broke into tears. This is a huge burly guy. And he is just sobbing. And he grabbed me and you know, just sobbed and sobbed. And suddenly, you know, they finally got his act together again. And because they have ceremonies to do, he had to, to lead the group. So afterwards, we got talking. We became very good friends. And we were good friends for about four years and he developed cancer and then eventually he died. He left the campus and he died. When we went to the funeral, the cops are standing Color Guard [inaudible], and then walked down and they said, "No wisecracks from you, no wisecracks from you, no wise- [laughs] you know, this is a serious event." And I said, "No problem, no problem." I did my, you know, my honors, and got over towards his family, and his sister grabbed me. And she said, I want you to know that Neil McLachlan was a name, that Neil was a [inaudible] SOB until that day. And after he met you, and found out that he had saved lives, his whole life changed.

SM: 1:13:43

JSBC: 1:13:45
And it was just like, I guess you never know when it is going to happen. But Neil was very special. And when he passed away then, we got him a memorial stone at the State Capitol in, in Connecticut and Hartford. And we have now moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Neil is buried 20 minutes from here. And it is just like "Do-do-do-do-do-do" so my husband and I for Veterans Day, drove down to the cemetery. And we went to see Neil, and we laid stones, and we laid, actually we laid coins on his grave to remember him.

SM: 1:14:22
What a memory, what a story.

JSBC: 1:14:24
Yeah, it is just like, you never know-

SM: 1:14:27

JSBC: 1:14:28
-when it is going to happen, or what meaning it is going to have to somebody.

SM: 1:14:33

JSBC: 1:14:35
So that is, you know, that is kind of a neat story about just that connection that you develop.

SM: 1:14:42
Yeah. Wow. Have you put that in writing?

JSBC: 1:14:47
I have not. I have not. I have told a couple people about it. And I have written a book about the Civil War women but it does not- [inaudible]

SM: 1:14:56
Yeah, that is what my next question-

JSBC: 1:14:58
-does not come up in that book.

SM: 1:15:00 I am just going to-

JSBC: 1:15:00
But no, several people I have told about that. And you know, it is just one of those profound life experiences that you have that I mean, it was so simple that night. It was a gunshot and he was EMP.

SM: 1:15:15
My gosh, I only got maybe three more questions. When I was talking about the wall, what I, I kind of write down things after every time I visit the wall and, and Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. I also go to the World War Two Memorial for my dad who was not allowed to see it.

JSBC: 1:15:37

SM: 1:15:38
The two things that came up to my mind every time I go to the wall in Washington is, American heroes.

JSBC: 1:15:46

SM: 1:15:46
American heroes, number one, but then unnecessary death. Looking at the war, and-and I also feel sad for the Vietnamese who died, because I see a lot of Vietnamese lives were lost.

JSBC: 1:16:04
Right, yep.

SM: 1:16:05
And I have talked to enough Vietnam veterans now who have gone back to Vietnam. And they can empathize with Vietnamese soldiers, just like they can with the American soldiers.

JSBC: 1:16:19

SM: 1:16:20
You know, they were doing their duty, they were called to war and they were serving their nation. So I kind of leave it at that. I am going to maybe conclude here with, I would like to know about your book. "The Women of City Point, Virginia, 1864- 1865."

JSBC: 1:16:37

SM: 1:16:38
And how that might be linked to Vietnam.

JSBC: 1:16:40
Very easy. Back in the (19)80s, we were doing a peripatetic form for southern New England telephone. There were eight of us that the Veterans Center in New Haven, Connecticut had put together and we would go out and talk. This is when awareness about feelings and your family started. And we would go out and talk to the families of people from southern New England telephone, about the Vietnam experience. And one of the guys [inaudible], Joe Mariani ,was working for a bank, and they were cleaning out a vaul- vault one day, and he saw "Women in the War" by Frank Moore, it was a (18)65-(18)66 book. He asked if we could have it, they said, "Yes," he eventually got it and gave it to me. I opened it and like Neil, the hair on my arms went up. I said, I know these women. I know, you know, the sights, the sounds, the smells. I know these women. Long story short, Fred said, you cannot write about everybody in the Civil War, and one of those transfers to Virginia for his job, Civil War territory. We had, you could go out in the backyard and find bullets in your backyard. So I started to manage, I was still going to school, I managed to do a research internship with the National Park Service down there. We started with 12 women. When I left we had 177, then I did an exhibit for the park service. And I wrote an article for Virginia cavalcade magazine. And everybody kept saying, and it just kept snowballing. I mean, I could not leave the women alone. And I had hundreds of them. And so they finally said, you know, proverbial expression, you know, something or other get off the pot type thing. So I started writing the book, and I tell the stories, I could see the difference of the women's jobs and roles because of my experiences. And I understood not all of them were nurses, like women in Vietnam, we were not all nurses. And I started writing it like the stories I would tell people that would come to the park service, to city point. And so their stories, as well as research at the end of what happened to a lot of these ladies. I had approached a lot of different publishing companies. And finally, McFarland said, "Sure, we will publish the book," I nearly fell off my chair, but and so I wrote it. And there are no pictures in it because of copyright issues, we could not do that. So, it is just the stories, but it is of eight different groups of women basically. And frequently, I just did a lecture or presentation to the Civil War group here about the book and the different roles of the women. And it is, you know, they are just fun stories, there is sad stories, there is sweet stories they are you know, difficult stories for some people to tell. But I have done it and I am working on a couple other things. [Inaudible] lady that was from Connecticut, who is a courier for Judah P. Benjamin. And I will do another presentation in the spring, well April I think I am doing that one and throwing it out so that the guys from the group can put their input into, what am I missing? What-what I, do I not have in this? So, it is just kind of been a love of life that has gone from it. But it all started with a book from, you know, women in the war.

SM: 1:20:29
Golly. I bet Diane Carlson Evans would love that book.

JSBC: 1:20:33
Ah, I bet she would. Yeah.

SM: 1:20:36
I might email or a let her know or whatever. I am not in touch with her. But I could certainly-

JSBC: 1:20:43
And of course, it came out right as COVID started.

SM: 1:20:46

JSBC: 1:20:46
Went into lockdown. [laughs]

SM: 1:20:49
My last. My last question is this, and this is I started this a couple of interviews ago. Since this, these interviews that I am doing are going to be listened to by people who are not even alive yet. The goal of the Center for the Study of the (19)60s is to create a really powerful digital center of its kind for research and scholarship, which is what Binghamton University is all about too and, and national scholars so that people will come here to not only listen to tapes, but to study and study this period. We hope to get PhD students eventually, they are going to be hiring a director, a PhD, who will be the director, but also work with Dean Curtis Kendrick, who is the head of the library, and I am running this whole thing. And-and so I am trying to, losing my train of thought here, you ever had that happen?

JSBC: 1:21:43
Never-never, never.

SM: 1:21:47
What, it is a message, it is the message that you would like to give to those who are listening to this 20 and 30 years from now, even the ones today, of course, but 20 and 30, based on your experiences in Vietnam, and what you have learned in your life, what message would you like to give to those who are listening to your interview 10, 20, 30 and 40 years from now?

JSBC: 1:22:13
Oh, gosh, there is an inner strength in each of us, I think that most people never even tap into. And that strength will get you through a lot of difficult times. And life is going to be difficult. There are going to be some very difficult times in life. You can learn I mean, you have a choice, you can go forward. Or you can go backwards and being able to say, "Okay, things are not good today, things are wrong things are whatever it might be." And Heaven only knows what it is going to be 20 years from now. But we have a choice, we can go forward. And how are you going to do that? There is a direction that you can move in, and it is your choice to make that direction. I think that is one of the lessons I learned in Vietnam.

SM: 1:23:08
Well, Sam, very, thank you very much for spending this hour and a half with me.

JSBC: 1:23:12
No problem.

SM: 1:23:13
And I am going to turn the tape off right now, and thanks again.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Dr. Jeanne Marie "Sam" Bokina Christie

Biographical Text

Dr. Jeanne Marie "Sam" Bokina Christie, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, joined the American Red Cross after graduating from college and served as part of the Supplemental Recreational Activity Overseas Program (SRAO) in Vietnam, circa 1967-70. She served in Nha Trang, Da Nang, and Phan Rang.  After Vietnam, Christie attended graduate school and received a Ph.D. from Walden University, and became a college professor at several schools including teaching Communication at Western Connecticut State University and Manhattanville College.  She recently wrote her first book, Women of City Point: 1864-1865. 





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format


Material Type


Interview Format


Rights Statement

Many items in our digital collections are copyrighted. If you want to reuse any material in our collection you must seek permission, or decide if your purpose can qualify as fair use under the U.S. Copyright Law Section 107. If you think copyright or privacy has been violated, the University Libraries will investigate the issue. Please see our take down policy. If using any materials in this online digital collection for educational or research purposes, please cite accordingly.


Military women; Vietnam War; Red Cross; Volunteering; Donut Dollies; Nineteen sixties; Baby boom generation; Vietnam; Graduate school; College education.


Jeanne Sam Bokina.jpeg

Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

Link to Collection Overview

Link to Browse Collection Items


“Dr. Jeanne Marie "Sam" Bokina Christie,” Digital Collections, accessed April 23, 2024,