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Interview with Diane Carlson Evans

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Evans, Diane Carlson ; McKiernan, Stephen


Diane Carlson Evans served as a nurse during the Vietnam War in the United States Army. Before joining the Army as a nurse, Evans graduated from nursing school in Minnesota. She was the major contributor to the creation of the Vietnam Women's Memorial.




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McKiernan Interviews




McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Diane Carlson Evans
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: REV
Date of interview: 11 April 2006
(Start of Interview)

SM (00:00:06):
Testing, one, two, three, testing. Okay, here we go. Okay, hold on a second. I cannot read this. Oh, you bastard. Diane? Hi, how you doing? I am pretty good. It is pretty early for you. All right, very good. Now let me put on the speakerphone here. Hold on one second. I got it.
DE (00:01:23):
This is my cell phone and I have just realized it is not fully charged, so at some point it will die. So let me give you another phone number you can call me on.
SM (00:01:38):
DE (00:01:39):
That is 406-457.
SM (00:01:41):
DE (00:01:41):
SM (00:01:42):
DE (00:01:45):
I will get beeping on my cell phone to warn me that it is going to die so I will let you know and I will hang up and you can call me back.
SM (00:01:49):
Okay, all right. Well, before we start, I want to say I will be down in Washington next week.
DE (00:01:57):
Oh, you are?
SM (00:01:58):
Yeah. I will be there again. I will be there now, I think, since 1994 I have been there every year for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
DE (00:02:06):
I have missed you most of the time, I guess. And you know what, I am not going to be there this year for the second time in 25 years.
SM (00:02:13):
Oh really?
DE (00:02:14):
I have been out there for 24 years every Veteran's Day and then we always have a board meeting in conjunction with Veterans Day. So, I am going to miss both this year. But my family is kidnapping me. I am turning 60 years old on November 10th.
SM (00:02:32):
Oh, wow. Well, 60 years young.
DE (00:02:32):
60 years young and I have celebrated my birthday every year out there without my family.
SM (00:02:39):
Oh my gosh.
DE (00:02:40):
So, we all decided it was time for me to do something fun with the family on my birthday, so we are going up to northern Montana and we will all be together.
SM (00:02:49):
That is great.
DE (00:02:50):
Yeah, but I will be back there on the 14th because I am going to be on a panel that WE television, with Creative Streets Productions that did the Vietnam Nurses documentary, is going to have a screening and some of the women in radio and television and others are going to be there. And then following the screening I am going to be on a panel.
SM (00:03:12):
DE (00:03:13):
They are going to send the documentary off to film festivals. They are hoping to get some awards, which they just might. It was well done. Did you see it?
SM (00:03:25):
Actually, I got home that night and I could not find it on my TV set.
DE (00:03:29):
Yeah, it is on W-E TV. And I could not get it on my cable either. You have to have high end cable, I guess, to get it.
SM (00:03:43):
Well, will we be able to get that in...
DE (00:03:43):
Before we hang up, we are getting a shipment and it is supposed to come Monday or Tuesday to the foundation, and then we are selling them.
SM (00:03:52):
DE (00:03:53):
And we have already had a lot of requests. They will be available next week, just go on online to and just tell Cindy you want a copy. She will tell you how much money and all of that, where to send the check.
SM (00:04:12):
DE (00:04:13):
We still do not do Visa, we still do not do credit cards for our product. But anyway, yeah, you can get a copy next week.
SM (00:04:23):
Good, I will do it.
DE (00:04:24):
Yeah, it is very well done, Steve. I would highly recommend it. I was very pleasantly surprised. But finally somebody did a documentary that really got it.
SM (00:04:35):
Super. Well, I got a few questions here for you. Are you ready for your first one?
DE (00:04:43):
Sure, let us go.
SM (00:04:44):
Okay. When you think of the (19)60s and the early (19)70s, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
DE (00:04:53):
Oh, the first thing that comes to my mind is war.
SM (00:05:00):
DE (00:05:03):
In the mid-(19)60s, my one brother got drafted. 1966 he was drafted. Before that, my older brother joined the military in early 60s. I was tuned in, connected to the military because of my brothers and because of my local neighbor boys who were getting drafted and going into the military. And then when my 4-H buddy and some other classmates of my brothers were killed in Vietnam and their caskets came home, and some of them were farm boys and my father was extremely upset. He hated the war. He did not like the war. And so there was a lot of war talk. Not a lot of war talk, but there was discussion about what was going on with our military. My dad was devastated because we were farmers and his two older brothers went off to war. Then when I started college in 1964, I do not know why really, but I was interested in what was happening overseas from a nursing standpoint. So, I guess that is the answer.
SM (00:06:21):
Is there one specific event during your youth that stands out above every other event that really had an impact on your life?
DE (00:06:33):
That is a good question, Steve. Man, you are narrowing in here, are not you?
SM (00:06:40):
Oh, I think we just lost you.
DE (00:06:45):
No, I am here.
SM (00:06:46):
Oh, okay.
DE (00:06:48):
I am thinking.
SM (00:06:51):
DE (00:06:51):
I am thinking because that is a pretty direct question, more than anything that affected my life. And you are talking about an experience or an instance-
SM (00:07:03):
It could be something in your life. It could be something that happened in the world, in the United States, just something that really had an impact on you.
DE (00:07:22):
I think more than a direct experience or a direct impact, it was more of something seething inside of me to do something worthwhile since I saw the activism and my peers, all men, having to do something worthwhile, like join the military or do something above themselves rather than... how can I say this? Everything that was going on with the assassination of President Kennedy and the Civil Rights Movement. I felt like the little one room country school I was going to and my high school was not feeding me enough information. I was very curious about what was really happening in the country and around the world on a higher level than I seemed to be getting in high school. And so by the time I finished nurses training, by the time I finished college, I was really ready to move on into the world and discover what was really out there and be an active part of it rather than just someone watching it happen. I wanted to be part of what was happening and do something worthwhile with it. I do not know if that makes sense to you?
SM (00:08:46):
Yes it does. You are part of the boomer generation, in fact you are in the lead of the boomer generation, I think the Boomer generation are those people born between 1946 and 1964?
DE (00:08:59):
Yeah, I am one of the firsters.
SM (00:09:01):
Yep. Well, next year is when I hit it. But when you look at the boomer generation as a generation, what are some of the positive qualities this generation had and what are some of the negatives, just characteristics?
DE (00:09:18):
I would say that the positive things about my generation that I am proud of is that we did answer the call when it was given to us. Many of us volunteered, think about the baby boom generation among the women, 250,000 women joined the military during a very turbulent time in our country when it was very unpopular to go into the military, especially for women because there was still the stereotype of women in the military that they were something to be questioned, or why would a woman go into the military? But these were women who joined because they wanted to serve their country. So, I was very proud of these women, but I was also proud of my generation not only for wanting to do something and serve, and my friends who were going into the Peace Corps, and they were saying, "I do not believe in war. I am going to oppose this." And I thought that that took a lot of courage and they became conscientious objectors. So I was proud of my generation for serving, but I was also proud of my generation for speaking up and for using their voice to identify what it was they cared about and then moving forward with that rather than just sitting passively back in a classroom and watching the world go by and wondering what to do about it. They actually got out in the street. And the women's movement, the Civil Rights Movement, that was all part of the baby boom generation. And Steve, I will tell you, I really resent the use of the term that we are the me generation. And in fact, J. Carter Brown, and if this is identified I have the article, J. Carter Brown, as you know, was the chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts that rejected carte blanche the whole idea for placing a memorial in Washington DC to honor women. And that hearing, where the site and the design in our proposal to honor women was at Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and he absolutely rejected it. This was the first hearing. And then later when he was interviewed by a newspaper journalist, and I have the article so it is on record, I am not making this up. I can send it to you if you want the exact words. But he said that I was part of the me generation so he would just have to see where this goes. I was so angry about him calling me and my generation the me generation when it was my generation, because he was referring to me, I was a veteran, it was three million of us in the me generation that went to Vietnam and over 58,000 of that generation he was referring to whose names are on the wall. We were not the me generation. We were the generation that thought outside of ourselves and were willing to go to the streets to protest the war. I am one of the Vietnam veterans who... I do not hate the war protestors... I hate the results of what them did in that somehow the protesting of the war ended up on the soldiers. Now protesting the soldiers rather than protesting the war, it needed to be divided and protest the war but do not protest the soldiers. And somehow that got muddled. And when we look back on that, we wonder how that could happen but it did. I was proud of my generation for speaking out and doing something and going to the streets and being seen to protest something they did not believe was right. So I guess when I think, I had a knee-jerk reaction to Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, and it is okay to name a book that, but now all of a sudden it is like the only generation that was great in the history of America, the greatest generation is World War II, which I find just another hurtful thing that was put on the greatest generation, if that is what we were going to call them. We are the children of the greatest generation, so if we were the children of the greatest generation how could we be so bad? I mean, they produced us.
SM (00:13:46):
DE (00:13:49):
They produced us and they raised us. And I am proud of our generation.
SM (00:13:55):
Well, so am I.
DE (00:13:57):
SM (00:13:59):
If you were to just list a couple characteristics, qualities that the boomers possessed, what would you say would be the positive ones and what would be maybe some negative ones?
DE (00:14:10):
Okay, well, I would say we were bold. I would say we honored our parents, the World War II generation, and we looked up to them for what they did. I mean, I was very much in awe of my aunt who served in World War II, and she was a role model for me. I was proud of my dad for what he did in World War II. He was a farmer and he also worked at an ammunition plant. He had kids so he did not get drafted, but he did his part and he rationed his tires and he rationed sugar and my mom talks about that. I am proud of them for what they did and how they sacrificed for the war. They sacrificed for the war effort, and I knew how they sacrificed because I grew up on the farm that did not have what we needed because of World War II. So I think my generation, we had some role modeling and we used that and we used it in positive ways, and that is we too wanted to serve so we did. We wanted to be our parents and serve our country. But what my generation did was we started asking questions, and we started asking lots of questions. So therefore, some members of my generation became what was coined anti-establishment. And maybe it was not so much anti-establishment but questioning that establishment and not obeying it, but rather maybe wanting to change some of the old laws like civil rights, like the laws for gender, women, that affected women in negative ways. So, it was my generation that not only looked kind of in awe at our parents’ generations, but we also said, "Hey, it is time for change." And so it was my generation that made extraordinary changes.
SM (00:16:14):
One of the things you often read in the history books, and you will remember this when you were young, is the generation gap, that there was a big separation between our parents and us because we were challenging the war or getting involved in other things. What are your thoughts on the generation gap? That was a term that is often defined as part of the (19)60s generation.
DE (00:16:43):
Yeah, we are coming up with all those phrases that were just... Well, the generation gap is I think what might define the why we did challenge the status quo. And while I did not feel the gap with my parents, because my parents were very anti-war, they did not believe that war Vietnam was right. They were questioning the administration as well. So, I did not feel a gap with my family, but I know so many young men and women did because their parents said, "You serve and you do not question." So, I know some of my peers could not talk to their family so they did not. They literally did not go home and they had big fights, and they fought so horribly that they just avoided each other completely. So there was definitely a gap between parents and their children during this time. And some of those sons went to Canada, as you know, some just disappeared and either became conscientious objectors and were working at hospitals in states and their parents... I mean, there is one couple I know they did not know where their son was for about four years. He had gone off to live in a commune with a distant relative. And the mother, every time I saw her, she could do nothing but cry because she did not know where her son was. But he had gone off to live in a commune. He was not going to live with the status quo. So yeah, the generation gap was a distancing between the World War II generation and the Vietnam generation, because so many young people just could not seem to come to terms with that generation in that we were scorned, some of us, for questioning the government because you do not question the government. The commander in chief makes the decisions and you salute and you move forward. But we asked questions of everything and we defied a lot of the rules. When I am saying that it is collectively, many defied the rules, broke the rules and wanted new rules. The negative part of that, you and I both know, Steve, lots of rules were broken that should not have been and there was violence. There was terrible violence on both parts. There were violent young people who used their philosophical disagreements with what was happening in America and they took to the streets in violent ways, and that is never an excuse and it is never a way to solve problems in my estimation. And the blowing up of buildings on campuses, the harassment of others, the burning of the flag, I do not believe we should burn the flag but I also believe that you should not go to prison for it because if people are burning the flag they are making some kind of a statement that they are allowed to make that. So I think it created a temperament in the country that it was okay to do anything to show your rebelliousness or your displeasure or your disagreement. What was the other phrase we used? Let it all hang out?
SM (00:20:23):
Yes, let it all hang out. In fact, that was a record, remember? That was a song.
DE (00:20:25):
Right, yep, and then it was like let it all hang out. So consequently, Stephen, the younger generation needed to do this in a visible way so they wore clothes that had never been worn before in that manner. They let their hair grow long and ratty, that maybe had not been done since, I do not know, the 1600s or something. But the defiance was not only with words and behavior, but it was also in the dress of my generation at that time. And that they visibly wanted to show the world that they were different. And now I am using the word [inaudible] because I guess I did not rebel in that way. We used the word hippie, but I always said, "Well, I never looked like a hippie." I was part of the hippie generation but I did not get into the... I guess I felt, Steve, that I did not need to rebel. My way to rebel, I think, was to... I did not take to the streets, but instead I joined the military because what I wanted to do was something valuable. And the only thing that I knew that I could do that was valuable, and remember, I was pretty darn young. I was only almost 21 when I got out of college and 21 when I was in Vietnam. So actually, I was 20 out of college, went to basic training, went to Fort Lee, and then had my 22nd birthday in Vietnam. I was a farm girl who was raised to be a hard worker and dutiful, and the only thing I knew was nursing. And so, I guess I can look back now and say I had the courage to go to Vietnam and be a nurse, but I would never have had the courage to march down a street and throw rocks at buildings or start a fire somewhere. I could not do it in a physically, what is the word, aggressive way. Whereas some of my peers, they were not nurses, they were struggling with how do I show the government, how do I show the country, how do I prove to my parents that I do not like what is going on and I want change and I want a difference? And of course, the negative, Steve, we both know, is sometimes certain individuals, certain human beings, all they need is an excuse to be violent. And some were. It was an excuse to be aggressive. And there is no excuse ever for trying to, I guess, expose your beliefs and show how you care about things, there is no reason really to do it violently. Of course, I am a more peaceful person. But I felt privileged that I was a nurse and that I could do something with that and so I joined the military because I thought about my brothers and I thought it was the right thing to do. And I only joined if they said I could go to Vietnam. And of course the military does make you promises and they break half of them, but they did follow through with their promise. They sent me to Vietnam.
SM (00:23:33):
When you look at the years when you were young in Vietnam, and now, have you changed your thoughts on the Boomer generation? Are your thoughts pretty consistent, the same as they were back say in 1975? Are they the same today in 2006?
DE (00:23:53):
About our generation?
SM (00:23:54):
Yes. Have you changed? Some people as they get older they change their thoughts because it is part of the aging process.
DE (00:24:08):
I gotcha. I am going to have you call me back because my cell phone is beeping.
SM (00:24:09):
DE (00:24:09):
Okay, bye-bye.
SM (00:24:12):
Bye. Yeah, the question is have you changed at all your opinions on the Boomer generation from the time you were young to today? You are still young, but-
DE (00:24:23):
Yeah, right. Well, I do not know if I am going to answer this in a way in which you are looking for, but I will say this. Of course it changed after I graduated from college went into the military and served my year in Vietnam and I came home. And when I came home, I was very disillusioned with America and I was very angry at our government for-
SM (00:24:50):
Diane, could you speak up a little bit more? I cannot hear you.
DE (00:24:54):
Now it is the phone that I am on. Maybe I will get a different phone. Does this help at all?
SM (00:25:03):
Let us see. Yeah, that is a little better.
DE (00:25:06):
I am going to get a different phone.
SM (00:25:07):
DE (00:25:08):
Sorry, I did not recharge my telephone-
SM (00:25:17):
That is all right.
DE (00:25:18):
... last night, because when I got up the morning, I thought, "Oh, shoot, my cell phone is going to run out too." Okay, I am going to try this phone now. Try this, is this better?
SM (00:25:30):
Oh, yeah, it is a lot better.
DE (00:25:31):
Okay, that is an old phone. So when I came home from Vietnam in 1969, it was a different country since I left. Of course, I was a different person too then when I left. But it did not take me long to see a 1969 the angry country that I lived in. I felt, on one hand, I was glad that my peers and so many people in America were opposing the war and had taken to the streets, but then I also began to feel, and things that I had heard about while I was in Vietnam, what was being taken out on the soldiers. And then I began the doubt and question, and how can people turn on us, on the soldiers? And I had just seen how these young men had suffered and died and I saw the courage that they had and what they had done for this country and then to be scorned when coming home. And being told literally, you have heard the stories, I was told to not wear my uniform home, and I did not have anything but my uniform to wear home. And of course, that caused some very unpleasant things that happened at the airport in Minneapolis. And I thought, "This is Minneapolis. This is Minnesota. Minnesota is nice." I could not believe the reception at the airport in Minneapolis. And so I began to have a lot of anger that the country could on one hand send us after to war like they sent the World War II generation, and were so proud of them and proud of them when they returned, and no one was proud of us. It was to the point where they were opposite of proud. They did not want to look at us, they did not want to deal with us. They turned on us. And when I say they, that is some, that is not the whole country, but many did. And so, I became very confused and frustrated and basically very angry, but I was internalizing it all. But at that time, Steve, I had not found my voice to be able to speak out, and I did not take to the streets in '69 like the veterans before. In fact, what I did was, because I was not dealing well as a nurse in a civilian world, I was out for less than a year and went back into the military and that is when I went to Fort Bend, Houston, and went back to taking care of wounded soldiers. They were coming right from Vietnam. I was in the intensive care unit. So, I went back to doing what I did well and that was nursing, and it probably saved my life because I did not fit in the civilian world and I was very unhappy and I was isolating myself. I just was not dealing well with anything except I could go to work in the military and do my job and take care of the soldiers. So, the rest is history. No, the rest is not history because then after that, I did not find my voice until the dedication in 1981. But getting back to the Boomers, so the way I looked at the Boomers then was that we were a generation that was trapped by a government that was trying to control us, and by some parents that were trying to, and old values that were trying to control us. And my generation was dying. I mean, I saw my generation dying one by one by one, because then after I came home my peers were committing suicide. And then I was learning that they had Agent Orange and they were dying of that. But my peers were dying after Vietnam. And of course I stayed in the military for several years still so I saw them dying in the hospital. But then when I got out of the military, I saw my peers dying. So, when anybody says to me that we were the me generation, which insinuates that we are selfish and self-absorbed and just think about ourselves, I disagree with that, and I find that is one more way to demean our generation. And this is what people in this country did, and the government did, was they denigrated us. They demeaned us. They named us drug-crazed, glassy-eyed baby killers. The movies came out and the Vietnam vets were portrayed as killers and baby killers. Well, what did the country spend them there for? They taught them in base camp, I mean, you go to war and that is what you do, you kill people. And these young boys did not want to do it. They were told they had to do it. The way I look at the Boomers today is that like the greatest generation, World War II generation, I have watched the Baby Boomers, my generation, really work hard to move up into the world and become good citizens despite the fact that they have had to internalize deep, deep pain and anguish over their service and overcome the enormous challenge to get on with life when we have been so slandered, which most people, plus the vets, even understand that. And that does not diminish World War II generation either. They came home with pain and anguish and drama from the war and wounds that never healed. And they had to overcome all of that too. But at least they could say to themselves, "I did something that I could feel proud of. We won the war. Look at what we did." And I do not think anybody's ever proud that they killed someone, so I am not saying that any soldier would say I am so proud I killed somebody. But they could feel proud that they made a difference for their country. Like World War II [inaudible] can say, well, this is what [inaudible] we were allowed to feel proud of-
SM (00:31:45):
Still there?
DE (00:31:46):
Yeah, I am here.
SM (00:31:46):
Okay. How important was the Boomer generation in ending the war? And I am speaking, one of the criticisms of the Boomer generation is often, well, there is 70 million people and only really 15 percent were involved in any sort of activist activity to end the war, be involved in the Civil Rights Movement. And oftentimes the media will portray the generation it was a small number of people that were involved in these kinds of movements. Your thoughts on number one, whether it is oftentimes how a media portrays the generation as smaller numbers of people being involved in these things, and number two, basically the overall impact that the young people had in ending the war in Vietnam.
DE (00:32:38):
First of all, Steve, the media is fickle. And now look at what the media does to Vietnam vets. Now, today, we are all heroes. We are all heroes. Anybody who wore the uniform is a hero. And in fact, now we have gotten a directive from the VA, maybe you know this, that the week of Veterans Day now we are all supposed to wear our medals to show that we served our country and our pride, and now we were all supposed to wear our medals. And of course, the media picked up on this, and now all the soldiers serving in Iraq are considered heroes. So, I am not quite sure what a hero is anymore, because when I was in Vietnam I knew who the heroes were and I never considered myself a hero. And most of the people I served with did not, we reserved that word for somebody who was really extraordinary. I mean, if somebody says to me, "Diane, you are my hero," I will say, "Well, I appreciate that. Thank you very much," and I will accept it. But I do not put that word on an entire generation or an entire group of people, because then who are the heroes? But anyway, now I lost my train of thought. Oh, well the media is fickle. And where was the media during Vietnam in that I was very proud of the media early on and during the years where they really tried to bring this home to America. That is another thing. The media during the Vietnam War brought the raw, horrible, heinous, tragic truth back to America on the six o'clock news. And at least the people were able to see on television how heinous war is and what it does to the human body and at what it does to civilians, children especially. And so, I am one of these people that actually believed, and still believes, that if we are going to have a war, let the American people, everybody, every single one of us, see what is happening. Let us see what it is doing to civilians. Let us see what it is doing to our soldiers, because then maybe we will have a gut reaction to it and maybe we will stop it... reaction to it and maybe we will stop it. So they brought the raw truth home. But when the soldiers came home, the media picked up on rag tag soldiers who somehow looked disheveled and the soldiers who became war protestors themselves. And somehow the media, to me, and it is not entirely true maybe, but on a very grand scale, I think the media was also to blame in how soldiers were treated when they came home from the war. Rather than keying in and picking up on the stories about what the soldier had done and how he had served his country, or she, and a report on that... And that happened. It did not happen until 1982, in my estimation. This is all my opinion. But in 1982 when the wall was dedicated, and I went out to the wall for that dedication and all of a sudden, I felt this sense of the country was turning to really look at who we were as soldiers and veterans. And I was followed around by this cameraman because I was wearing my booty camp from Vietnam. And he followed me around and finally I thought, "He is following me." And this has never happened to me before. And I looked at him and I said, "Why are you following me?" And he said, "Well, you were in Vietnam were not you?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Well, what did you do in Vietnam?" And I said, "Well, I was a nurse." And he said, "Well, can I interview you?" And I had such a knee-jerk reaction and so much distress like, "What is he going to do with this interview?" And so I said, "No." I said, "Would you please go away? I just want to be alone. Just leave me alone." And it was like I felt like he wanted to exploit me like I had been exploited before. And so, I did not trust the media. But after the dedication of the wall, there were stories that were published in every major newspaper across the country about Vietnam vets, who they really were, where they came from, what they were doing today, how they were feeling. And so it took a long time for the press to come around and start putting us in a more accurate light. And of course, that is all we wanted was the accuracy and we just wanted the truth. We did not want to be turned into a bunch of heroes or turned into something we were not. We just wanted the truth. And of course, then that gets into the next phase of my life, Steve, which is there was something seething inside of me again that I just wanted to do whatever I could to help this truth be told. And the truth was that the women who served in Vietnam were completely invisible and then they were invisible again at the wall after the dedication of the statues of three men. And so, I just felt like, "I need to do something constructive with how I am feeling or it is going to kill me." In about five minutes, I have got to switch my tape here, but a very important question. And that is, when you look at the issue of trust, one of the questions I have been asking all of my interviewees is the question of this quality of trust and whether we have it within the Boomer generation because of all the experiences we had growing up as young people watching Lyndon Johnson say the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. And of course a lot has been written about that. That was a lie. We go back to President Kennedy and how we got in Vietnam and there was some questions there. We go back to Eisenhower and the U2 incident and how we lied in public. And then of course we all go back to Watergate, which was an unbelievable experience for young people. And many of the Boomers, if not most of the Boomers, just did not trust anybody in positions of power and responsibility. And my question is basically this, as Boomers have grown up and have gotten older and raising their families, are we a generation that just does not trust? And by not trusting people and not trusting leaders based on our experiences, what is this doing to the next generation? Well, I think, Steve, that it is only some members, and of course neither one of us know.
SM (00:39:56):
Diane, could you speak up just a little bit?
DE (00:39:58):
SM (00:39:58):
DE (00:39:59):
Neither one of us know what the percentage is of our generation, but they are out there, who do trust. And that I am so surprised. And I am so disappointed in many, many members of our generation that would trust this president of the United States to go to Iraq, preemptive war, without the evidence that states that they had... And from the very, very beginning, I was absolutely against preemptive war. And I did not trust. And of course, one of the things that I came home with Vietnam was the sense that I could never become complacent. I was actually afraid of becoming complacent because I was a little afraid after I came back from Vietnam and I was so quiet that I had all this stuff going on inside me but I could not use my voice and I did not know how to be an activist and I did not know what to do with all these thoughts inside of me and all the feeling that our generation had been betrayed and lied to. And so, after the dedication of the wall when I was able then to take something tangible and move it forward, and it took 10 years, and maybe it needed to take 10 years for those years to have to raise the awareness and raise discussion and bring in the support that was necessary and help people become educated and change their minds and all of that. But where are the members in my generation who did not stand up to this government and say, "We learned lessons [inaudible] and are not going to [inaudible] and we have not been attacked by Iraq. We were attacked by Al-Qaeda. Let us put our energy there?" Where were the members of our generation in influential positions in government and Congress and as consultants that did not rise up against like we rose up in the (19)60s and said, "No, we will not support the president on this?" And I have had discussions with fellow Vietnam vets who have just saluted President Bush and said, "Well, I agree with what he is doing. I think we need to go over there." And so now look at the mess that we have. And I think that we could have risen up against the president. And as you know, Steve, I have been all over the country talking to university students and I talk to honors groups and I talk to political science classes and I talk to history classes and I talk to gender, women's studies classes. And when I am through talking, invariably one of the people in the room will say, "I do not know what is wrong with our generation. Your generation revolted to protest it. You went into the streets and you did all this stuff, but we were not doing that and we do not know why. How come we are not... Why are we still doing nothing?" And I just found that really interesting because now why are not they? And where were the [inaudible 00:43:19] country? There were some of us who were protesting in our own way by writing letters to our congressmen and disagreeing with the policies of this war in Iraq. But members of my generation who have been there and who could have made a difference, and some did, some did speak up against it, but it was not powerful enough. And we have lost our reputation around the world because of what this president has been allowed to [inaudible]
SM (00:43:56):
Good points. One of the things that we look at our generation when we were young, many of us said that we were the most unique generation in America history. We are going to be the change agents for the betterment of society. We thought we were going to be the panacea and the cure-all to ending war and on basically a lot of the bad things that were happening in the world at that time. When you look at the generation making those kind of comments when they were young, just your thoughts on is the Boomer generation the most unique generation in American history?
DE (00:44:38):
I do not think so, Steve. Because [inaudible] like saying that World War II was the greatest generation, what about [inaudible]. What about that-
SM (00:44:46):
Diane, I cannot hear you very good. Could you speak up just a little bit more?
DE (00:44:51):
Yeah, I will get a little closer into the phone.
SM (00:44:54):
DE (00:44:59):
I personally do not like to categorize and put everything into a box because when we talk about the greatest generation, what about the Civil War generation? What about the Revolutionary War? What about the founding fathers and what about the generations of immigrants that came and leveled all those trees in the land and built log houses and battled every kind of hardship, every kind of horrible hardship possible that you and I cannot even imagine? They were a great generation and they were a unique generation too. So, no, I will not say any generation is the most unique or any generation is the greatest because I think that is unfair to all generations before us who have done enormous things to build this country into what it is. So, we could say we were a unique generation in that we stood up to establishment. And the outcome of that is women do have it better. Civil rights did make a difference. And we were not there yet. And women still are not there yet. We still have a long way to go, but that is the process and that is life. Keep fighting old battles over and over and over again because we are human beings, we fall into old traps. But I guess where I am disappointed in my generation is that we did not do more to prevent this president from entering into a preemptive war without solid factual information. And I am not a pacifist because I believe in defense and I believe our nation- ... that is going to happen because we are human beings. And human beings seem to love war and trample on other people's territory and [inaudible] other people's territory and want what others want. But where was my generation in defying the lies that were being said to us? And I blame the media for a lot of this because here, the fickle media again, some of our media sources which are headed by corporations who have agendas that slant the news to a point where the media is an arm piece for the politics of the administration rather than telling the truth. Where is the truth anymore? And the American people are hard pressed to know what the truth is unless they read The Guardian. And I read about 10 newspapers. Thankfully, I can go online now. But I am certainly not just going to read the Independent Record, which is my paper here in Helena. And I go online and I read papers from all over the world and I read all kinds of newspapers to try to get the news because I know I am not getting it on television. But that takes time and it takes interest. But if people just watch Fox News, very intelligent people when they say that they watch Fox News, they support everything the president does because they are watching Fox News. I just find that abhorrent. And I guess maybe that is because I am of my generation where you do not believe everything. You question, question, question, question. And for me to be... There is this blood thirsty, counterfeit patriotism in the country right now. And it is blood thirsty and it is counterfeit not through patriotism. And patriotism is not supporting the president. Patriotism is supporting the Constitution and believing enough in the Constitution to keep the Constitution intact. And it is believing in America. You were not in the military, Steve, but in the military, we were taught as officers that we are... We take an oath to uphold the Constitution. You do not take an oath to uphold the president of the United States. What if the president is wrong? And so, to me, there has been a lot of phony patriotism in this country with the flag waving. And if you think if you put a yellow bumper sticker on your car that says Support the Troops, that is all you have to do.... So, I have given a lot of talks here and all over about what it really means to support the troops. I said, "Bumper stickers and flying the flag are ceremonial. And it is good to fly the flag. It is our flag, it is America's flag. But if you fly it only because you think America is best in the world and we can do anything we want to protect ourselves to the point of imperialism and moving in on a country and just setting up bases and all under the guise of lies, I differ with that." And so, I have been called unpatriotic because I do not support Bush. But they do not hurt my feelings. I know who I am and I know what I have done. And I have dedicated my career... My entire life, my entire career, has been dedicated to advocating for veterans, for the soldiers. And talk is cheap, but it is what you do that is the truth.
SM (00:50:43):
That is beautiful, Diane. That is beautiful. A question here. What will be the lasting legacy of the Boomer generation? When the best history books are written, they are often 50 years after an event end. The Vietnam War ended in (19)75. So really if you look at that, the best history books are still to be written on this year are probably in the year 2025. Just your thoughts on the lasting legacy of the Boomers?
DE (00:51:13):
Yeah, well, the lasting... Let us hope, Steve, and I will make this very clear, let us hope that whatever the history books write that they try to write the truth. And that is always the problem. It is like history according to whom, Lee or Grant? But if they write the truth and they really look at our generation, they will see that our generation was exploited and used by a government on false premises, on lies. And look at the historical, the war itself, and what that did to my generation and what it did to the people back home and how it enriched a lot of people and corporations. And what those enriched corporations have been able to do with the money to abuse next generations, which is the corporate greed, the corporate... Halliburton and how corporations and newspaper corporations and how that evolved so that they could one day use their agenda to exploit the American people. But I think the legacy of my generation is also that we defied the system, that we asked questions and we made a difference. And that maybe in every revolution there has to be, not has to be, but it seems like in every revolution for people to be heard, they have to do radical things like women going braless. I never took off my bra [inaudible] to make my statement known, but some women felt they needed to do that. To be heard they felt they needed to be radical. And the suffragettes, they were radical. Think about the early 1900s and what the suffragettes had to do to get heard, they were radical. Of course, my radicalness was to join the military. But each person in my generation found a way to either use the system by defying it by... Because of the deferment, college students could stay in college and not go to Vietnam. And now we can criticize that, but that was the system. That was the way the government set it up. Now, I believe that there should be no deferment. And I believe in the draft. If we are going to have a war, draft every man and woman in America. And then because it is going to touch every man and woman in America, every son or daughter, then they will speak up and say, "Hey, this is not a war I think is worth fighting." And if they do believe it is worth fighting, they will put the uniform on. But a draft is a great equalizer. It makes people think. It is going to affect them. It is not somebody else's kids like the voluntary draft. But having said that, the legacy of my generation will also be that they went to Congress after the war and told Congress what their problems were and that they needed help. And they filed a class action lawsuit against Agent Orange because the VA would not help them. When they were dying from poisonous exposure to their war experience and the government was not there to take care of them, they filed a class action lawsuit. That is one example. They went to Congress and said, "We are committing suicide by the tens of thousands. We are depressed, we are having problems." And because of Vietnam Vets, we now have the Vet Center. The Vet Center, by legislation, was adopted in 1979 and it is now a place where Vietnam vets, World War II vets, any vet, is now able... It was set up for Vietnam vets, but now it is any vet. And veterans coming home from Iraq are already going to the Vet Center. And they are being identified more quickly with post-traumatic stress disorder and they are getting the help that they need soon rather than years and years and years after the war. So Vietnam veterans have made a difference in legislation and civil rights. And because of us, women today have more rights. That is part of our legacy. And I know I am forgetting a whole lot. And we also have a memorial on the Mall in Washington DC, something no other veterans had not done. And it was necessary for the education and for the healing and for helping to expose the truth. And following those memorials, there were all the others. And there is one more thing, and that is we forgot our prisoners of war. All other wars, we have left them behind and the case was closed and the issue was over. Vietnam vets today are still out there demanding that POWs return home. So my generation of Vietnam vets changed how America looks at how we treat our POWs and bringing them home. Of course, this administration under President Bush has gone back to the dark ages with the whole issue of torture and how we treat other prisoners of war. And that is a whole other topic.
SM (00:56:50):
Right. I want to ask a question about the term activism. Activism on college campuses today, at least at our university, they look upon the word as a negative term. They say, "This is a term that is from another era, another time, and it is not really defining today's college student so come up with another term." I just did an educational session at a conference on this with a couple students.
DE (00:57:19):
What is the term?
SM (00:57:21):
DE (00:57:22):
Oh, okay.
SM (00:57:23):
There seems to be feelings that activism is a negative term for whatever reason. Your thoughts on just saying the word activism in today's society and just your thoughts on activism as not only as an action, but as a word?
DE (00:57:41):
Well, I think we need to listen to our younger generation and what they are trying to tell us. Because the word feminism is the same. They do not like the word feminism. They do not identify with it. They wonder why we use it. And my son, my oldest son, when he started college, because he grew up with me in a feminist household because my husband is definitely a feminist, and we had discussed it and he knew about it and he was very proud of it. And so he was in class and he was shocked because the teacher brought up a discussion of feminism. And the women in his class, literally, they did not consider themselves feminist. They did not care about the word, what does it mean to be a feminist? They were just oblivious. So, it is not our responsibility. It is up to the young people, the younger generations today, to come up with their own terms, to come up with their own beliefs and to come up with whatever works for them. And if activism and feminism conjure up some old fogy or, "That is in the dark ages," kind of reference like maybe we looked at references from my parents' past... And I hardly knew what the word... Honestly, Steve, I do not think I knew what the word suffragette meant or disenfranchised. Those were not words I was familiar with until I got into college and really started reading about it. So the younger generation today needs to come up with something they can believe in, something is their torch. What is their torch? What is their mantra? I do not really know. And I get the same thing when I talk to students all over the country. It is like they have not come up with some guiding principle or something they are willing to lay down and give up their time and their money for. They were very worried about, and as they should be, their jobs and how they were going to feed themselves and how they were going to pay the bills. But maybe that is the generation that is self-absorbed. And I am not going to call any generation the Me generation because I do not think it is fair. But the generation now, I think because they are seeing the disillusionment with the war in Iraq... But again, it is not touching a lot of them. Because unless they are in a family where they have a sibling serving in Iraq, it is still pretty remote. So, I do not know.
SM (01:00:13):
The question here about healing. I want to read something here and I would just like your comment, "Do you feel that the Boomers are a generation that is still having problems with healing? The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Women's Memorial did a great job with veterans and in some respects the families of veterans. But do you feel that the healing has really taken place in large numbers beyond the community, and for that matter, within the community?" I am referring to, have these memorials really healed the nation from the Vietnam War? And there is two kind of questions here. Number one, what job has it really done for the veterans and their families? I see it every year when I go down there. I think there has been a lot of healing in the Vietnam veteran population, their families. But what has it done to the nation, to the Boomers, the 70 million who were alive during the Vietnam War and has it really healed the nation?
DE (01:01:14):
I am not sure it has, Steve. And I agree with you in that of course-
SM (01:01:19):
If you could speak a little louder. A little louder.
DE (01:01:21):
SM (01:01:21):
DE (01:01:22):
For the better part of, well, all the part of that I have, like you, watched what has happened in this nation and early on how they treated the veterans. And then their own issues, their issues of guilt, their issues of anger, all of the issues that the whole generation had, not just the veterans. But when the nation saw us come together as veterans, they started to look at us differently and begin to feel that, "We should not have taken this out on the soldiers. We should have separated our views." And then there is the guilt about... And I have had many, many people, a lot of women, coming up to me and saying, "I was a war protestor and I am so sorry. I am not sorry I protested the war, but I am sorry that it hurt you, that it hurt the soldiers." And so that healing and being able to articulate your feelings about that I think is healing. And I think the veterans community, individual veterans who come together now, we are healing each other. We help to heal each other. But I do not think we have felt a lot of healing coming from our nation. It has come from each other. Veterans hug each other, they bond with one another. We understand each other. And we go to the memorials and there is a ton of healing that is done there. And hopefully these memorials and the fact that we have come together has prevented thousands of suicides from happening. Because there were thousands before those memorials were dedicated. And they are still happening. You and I both know that.
SM (01:03:08):
Yes, yes.
DE (01:03:10):
But when I am around the country and because of my activism here in Helena and... I helped to draft a resolution to present to the City Commission here. And the name of the resolution was Support the Troops and End the Military Occupation in Iraq. I cannot tell you how many people came out of the woodwork and how they lined up at the City Commission. And one woman told me I was sick. She told me I was sick for not supporting the war in Iraq. And yet I had just testified about we need to support our troops and I identified how you support veterans and legislation and mandatory funding and what the needs are for the soldiers and it takes letters to congressmen to provide the financial backing to help these soldiers. It is not just supporting the soldiers, it is going to take money, it takes effort. We have to help the VA here and we are not. Time after time Congress is voting against benefits for veterans. So, I went into all of that, but all she could see was that I wanted to end the war in Iraq. That is all she could see and she called me sick. And then all these men got up, mostly men, but this one woman, they got up and defied everything I said and said, "If we do not fight those terrorists over there, they are going to be here." And I took a lot of flak and I was accused of this, and I was accused of that. And some of these are members of the Baby Boom generation. So, there is still a lot of, I think, anger left over about Vietnam and people wanting to finish that war and not wanting to believe we lost that war so they cannot stand the fact that we might lose another one. And there is this pride thing, "We lost the war in Vietnam. We cannot lose this one." And so of course, I am miles apart in thinking with that. We are in Iraq now. We have to solve these problems, but let us have a plan. Let us have some leadership and let us have the truth.
SM (01:05:25):
Yeah. I remember when I interviewed Gaylord Nelson, the late senator from Wisconsin. It was several years back and I am sitting in his office and he had a tendency at times to go off into environmental issues because that was his number one issue in his life. But he said, "Steve, are you asking me if people go around Washington DC and they are showing that they are not healing on their sleeves?" He says, "It is not possible." But he did say that, "The body politic will never be the same." And he was referring to the Vietnam War and in response to the question of healing. And I think on the other person that had an influence on me was Lewis Puller before he killed himself. And if you recall, I took students down to the Vietnam Memorial two days before the Women's Memorial was dedicated and Lewis met seven of our students at one of the benches not far from where the Women's Memorial is. And when I take students to Washington now, I always make sure they sit at that bench. And when Jan Scruggs came over to the wall and they were sitting at that bench, we took some students down in the spring, Asian American students, and two people were visiting from Vietnam, from North Vietnam, who actually work with I think it is Bobby Mueller, I had them sitting at the same that bench. But what they are really getting at is the healing issue. When we sat with Lewis for two hours, Lewis talked about that and how he had healed. And then if you remember, Bill Clinton had come to the wall that one year.
DE (01:07:15):
Yes, I sat right behind him.
SM (01:07:17):
Yes. And I have this question here as well. This is what I asked from Senator Nelson, actually, Senator McCarthy and Senator McGovern, "Do you think it is possible to heal within a generation where differences and positions were so extreme? And then is it important to even try? Should we care? Is it feasible?" And for example, this was written a little while back, "During my many trips to the wall, I have been to several ceremonies with veterans in the audience. They hate or seem to openly hate Bill Clinton. They hate Jane Fonda. They hate all those individuals who protested against the war and never gave veterans a royal welcome home on the return to the mainland. The wall has helped in a significant way, but the hate remains for many. At least this seems apparent from my perspective." Then this is how Senator Nelson responded, he looked at me and he said, "Steve, you cannot heal 70 million people." Should an effort be made to assist in the healing beyond the wall? Your thoughts? And it is because I have been so impressed with the wall and what you have done by the memorials in Washington being non-political and just caring about the vets, I wish they could take these examples and take it into society as a whole. So just your thoughts on just the healing within a generation, is it even possible?
DE (01:08:43):
Well, I do not know. And I struggled with that during the building of the Vietnam Women's Memorial because I soon realized, oh my gosh, Steve, you know this, but after I started the effort, my God, I had no idea there was still so much anger and hatefulness and mean spiritedness. And I learned about what the word misogyny means, build a hatred towards women. And it was killing me, Steve. I was losing weight. I was grinding my teeth at night. I went to a physician and I was anemic. I was a mess because it was becoming toxic. I was taking in all this stuff. And I am a healer. I am a nurse, I am a mother, and my role in life through compassion and touch and wanting people to heal and this is what I wanted this memorial for. And then here I am, this person who is a nurse and just trying to help people heal, and all of a sudden, I am the bad person. A woman called me and told me that I was no better than whale shit. That is just one example. And finally, I had to overcome this and- I had to overcome and just... I had to overcome this and realize and turn my nursing skills around in saying, "There are people I cannot help. I am not God, I am not omnipotent. I cannot help these people. They have to help themselves. All I can do is get this memorial built and the memorial will be the healer." And then I just decided I am not the healer. I am not the healer. I am not God. I am not... The memorial will do the healing and the education will help with the healing and bringing the veterans together. And I totally had to have sort of like this epiphany that if I was going to survive this, I had to detach myself from all of this anger and realize some people will never be helped. I actually had to have some police surveillance around our homes because I had threats. We had threats; people called in the middle of the night.
SM (01:10:53):
Oh my, God.
DE (01:10:54):
And so my husband was worried about me. It was either going to kill me or I was going to rise above it and just say, "Hey, I cannot [inaudible] these are people I will never be able to help." But I want to talk about something, Steve; this is my view of what President Bush and this administration have done in exploiting Vietnam veterans. They have used us and I will tell you why. Because they know that during the Vietnam War and after, that when America did not support the war, they also did not support the veterans, or some did not and it hurt the veterans. So, this President has made it very clear, and so I argue with and debate with have made it clear that you cannot have it both ways. To support the troops, you have to support the war. So, it is all or nothing. You support the troops, you support the war. And that is where a lot of people in the nation are coming from. And that is because of Vietnam. They are afraid that if they do not support the war, it is going to hurt the troops. This country is so guilty for feeling what they did to Vietnam veterans because they took it out on the troops. So now this President is exploiting that and making us all heroes. All Vietnam vets are heroes. Everybody is a hero. And you cannot have it both ways. The former governor of the state Judy Martz... I disagreed with them, spoke up against what she said, and that was Governor Judy Martz said that you have to support this war because we are supporting this group and you cannot have it both ways. And I said, "You can have it both ways." We have a right and we have a duty, and we have a responsibility to oppose a war we believe is wrong. We have a right and a duty to support our... And by supporting... Those who think our troops would want to vote when they are overseas, we are not hurting their morale. That is my [inaudible]. Do not you say, "Is not it only fair to our troops, our soldiers who are serving overseas to think that the Americans back home are asking questions about the war they are serving in and are asking questions about its mission and its role and asking questions about when they get to come home and asking questions about being redeployed and redeployed and redeployed, and is that right for our soldiers to have to be redeployed three, four, five times? Should not other people in America be sharing this burden that maybe we need to grasp or maybe we need to stop going and find other solutions?" But this is not fair how we are treating our troops. The longer they are there, the more they are realizing this. And I think our soldiers have a right to know that Americans back home are asking questions and are really concerned about their needs and what they are doing and questioning the war as well. So yeah, I think this generation... I think the politics of America right now in this war in Iraq is a lot of the thinking is right out of... Because of what happened during Vietnam.
SM (01:14:03):
It is interesting because I work in a university environment and I have paid a heavy price for doing a lot of programs on Vietnam. By heavy price, I will not even go into detail here, but one of them is I just do not want to hear about Vietnam anymore.
DE (01:14:20):
SM (01:14:20):
On anything.
DE (01:14:21):
Right. It is denial. They want to put their heads in denial and live in a fantasy world. And it is coming out now in major newspapers and articles, and it was New York Times and CNN last night that President Bush is living in his little fantasy world. Well, when American people do not want to face the horrors and face the fruit, it is easier to live in your little world of denial. Let us not think about it. Let us not talk about it. But that, I think, is what is frightening in this country is that as a whole, America has been willing to follow this administration without asking the hard questions and believing what they see on the news because it is easier.
SM (01:15:10):
Well, the last part of my interview is just for you to... I am going to list some names of people from that era and just your gut-level reaction, your feelings on them. Just a comment here or there. Are you ready?
DE (01:15:25):
I am ready. Uh oh, I am in for it.
SM (01:15:28):
All right. Tom Hayden.
DE (01:15:30):
Pardon me?
SM (01:15:31):
Tom Hayden.
DE (01:15:34):
No comment.
SM (01:15:36):
Jane Fonda.
DE (01:15:37):
Okay. I knew that was coming. Okay. I have a visceral reaction to Jane Fonda for a very explicit reason. She was one of the few women that were heard during the Vietnam War and the press, the media, the country, and the world capitalized on Jane Fonda and what she did. So it was almost like Jane Fonda was the spokesperson, or she was what women were doing. She was like, "Be representative, be symbols of the Vietnam War." And I am angry and resentful about that because she is the woman that is being heard. And yet there were more than 10,000 women in Vietnam doing the hard work and the courageous work and the brave work. And they were in there getting their hands dirty, doing the work, and 250,000 women were serving around the world and supporting the armed forces and doing the hard work. And they were not heard from. The press did not interview them. The press did not photograph them. They were not in the newspapers. They were not in magazines. They were not on the six o'clock news. And so we were working behind the scenes and behind the cameras doing the hard work, but it took the Vietnam Women's Memorial in 1993 to show who the women really were in this country and all those women who were working for women's rights and the women who were working for civil rights and so on and so forth and then we have Jane Fonda. So I have no highest esteem for her because what she did was pitiful. And the way she protested; she could have protested in a different way.
SM (01:17:27):
Lyndon Johnson.
DE (01:17:29):
Well, I have a visceral reaction to Lyndon Johnson. Steve, I rarely use the word hate. I do not think it is healthy to hate anybody. It hurts the person more than... It is hurtful to you; it is to yourself when you hate. But I have to admit and be candid that I hated that man. I hated him so badly for what had happened under his watch and the thousands of soldiers that I had cared for because remember, I worked in military hospitals in the United States for several years besides Vietnam. I realized that for me, he was the epitome, he was the target, he was the symbol. And when I was at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Program Medical Center, working as a nurse in the intensive care unit, the chief nurse came to me, Colonel Cleveland, while I was on duty, and I will share this with you. This will portray for you my distaste for Lyndon Bates Johnson. And the seventh floor of Brook Army Medical Hospital was reserved for LBJ. He had a lot of health problems, and they would bring him in by helicopter. The ward had to be opened; the whole seventh-floor suite. We could not go up there; it was locked. Nobody had ever seen it. We would only heard about the seventh floor; just for LBJ. Colonel Cleveland came to me while I was on duty and said to me, "Captain Carlson, here are the keys. I want you to take the elevator." The elevator was locked. You had to have a key to get in the elevator to go up there, "And open up the seventh floor and prepare it." And I knew what that meant. Before I could even think about any career in the military or disobeying an order or saluting and saying, "Yes, ma'am," I looked at her and said, "Colonel Cleveland, I refuse to take care of that man." She looked at me, and of course, if I ever thought I was going to have a career in the military, it went out the window. But at that point, I spoke my conviction and I said what I thought, and I was not going to care for him. She looked at me and said, "Captain, it is not Mr. Johnson coming in. It is Mamie Eisenhower. She is coming in by chopper. She is having some kind of an allergic reaction to something." And I said, "Yes, ma'am. I will go right up there." So I went up and opened up the seventh-floor suite and I got a chill because this was the room that LBJ had been in many, many times. You could see it was set up for a former president because it was all telephones everywhere and everything was nice and perfect and wonderful and huge. And I got a chill because when I was up there, this was where he had been, and I was extremely uncomfortable. But I went into my professional... I went into nurse mode, my professional mode, I got the respirator set up, and the breathing apparatus that I had used and everything was ready. So when Mamie Eisenhower came in, I was there to admit her. And then I was her private duty nurse for about three weeks. But I am just sharing this with you to let you know how strongly I felt about him, that I had so much disrespect, so much anger, and that I could look at the good things he did too. But for me, sometimes you wrap everything up in one person. For a lot of vets, it is Jane Fonda, they wrap it all up in her and that is where she is the lightning rod; same with LBJ.
SM (01:21:28):
Wow. How about John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy?
DE (01:21:32):
JFK? Are you talking about-
SM (01:21:35):
Yeah. JFK and Bobby Kennedy.
DE (01:21:39):
Oh, my distrust. I was feeling okay. With JFK, there was a lot of confusion because later I learned that he is the one that got us into Vietnam and he could have kept us out. And then also, I later learned about his escapades with him. I mean, he had hundreds of women coming and going. That is a fact. And then I felt the hypocrisy with Bill Clinton. We had JFK, and then the government does this to Bill Clinton. So, there is this hypocrisy that is just so blatant among Americans and politics that... Who cares [inaudible] Bill Clinton that I did not... But I guess when I was younger, it was ask not what you can do for you... I mean, he was inspirational. He had charisma. I looked up to him. I mean, I was in high school. I remember exact... As most of us do, I remember exactly where I was. I was in speech class and I was in the middle of giving a speech.
SM (01:22:41):
Oh, wow.
DE (01:22:41):
Came over the intercom and that JFK had been killed. And of course, the horror of that. I guess I was not a lot like... I guess I was kind of different. But the girls started crying and they got... But I was crying. I [inaudible 01:23:00] sobbing and I was just, "Oh my, God." But it was also... I do not know. I did not enough about history. I had not read enough about Joe Kennedy and that Kennedy, that Camelot family, was not what they were portrayed [inaudible]. So I was disillusioned. I was disillusioned by them.
SM (01:23:27):
How about Dr. Benjamin Spock?
DE (01:23:32):
I do not know. I was raised with five siblings and was taught... I do not know. Dr. Benjamin Spark influenced, yes, generations of babies and mothering and babies. But I did not read him. I was sort of out of text with that. I was interested in other things. I did not read Dr. Spock on how to raise my children.
SM (01:23:57):
He was involved in the anti-war movement too. He was a protestor. How about the Black Panthers? Huey Newton, H. Rap Brown, Eldridge Cleaver, that group.
DE (01:24:10):
Well, for somebody like me, they were pretty scary people. I am not giving you very... I do not know... In-depth answers here.
SM (01:24:24):
But still it is just-
DE (01:24:26):
What I am thinking about at the time, not now. Is that what you want? How I felt?
SM (01:24:30):
DE (01:24:32):
It was just another one of those extraordinary, out-of-the-ordinary things that were happening at the time in my generation where... I mean, all of a sudden I went from this little girl wearing skirts and little corduroy dresses and tights to school and having to dress up. We were not allowed to wear pants in high school to all of a sudden graduating from high school and now girls are going without bras, and they are wearing miniskirts and white boots.
I mean, things are so bizarre. And the teenage [inaudible], the hairdos and makeup or no makeup. Everything was so out of whack and so weird and so strange. And so it was like, "Well, this is just normal for my generation to be abnormal." So then it was the Black Panthers. I would see them on television, and it was just very bizarre to me. But I think I just rolled with the punches.
SM (01:25:33):
How about... Well, I guess here is another. The Berrigan Brothers, Daniel and Philip Berrigan.
DE (01:25:40):
See, maybe I am out of touch. I do not even know who they are.
SM (01:25:40):
Okay, how about Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin?
DE (01:25:50):
Well, I do not know. I do not if I had any real thoughts about them. I cannot remember.
SM (01:25:55):
Timothy Leary?
DE (01:25:57):
Uh-uh. Who is he?
SM (01:25:58):
He was-
DE (01:25:59):
It is tough.
SM (01:26:00):
He is psychedelic. He was the man...
DE (01:26:00):
Yeah. I have to tell you, Steve, anything that was psychedelic or the crazy music, Black Panthers, all of that stuff, I could not relate to it, so I did not. I do not think I thought too much about it. I just kind of knew it was out there.
SM (01:26:20):
All right.
DE (01:26:21):
Remember, I was this curious [inaudible]. I mean, during this period of time, it is like my husband said, I did not go to movies. I was going to school full-time. I had two full-time... Not full-time. I had two part-time jobs. I was working at a nursing home and I was working at a hospital. When I was not studying or working at the hospital where I was training, I had jobs. And then I would go home to the farm and if the kids needed me and I would help with the farm. I would go home and help with farm work. I would go home and help with harvesting when I could. And so my life was very focused on jobs and college and the farm. I would go home and help my mother fill the freezer with meat and vegetables from the garden. I mean, these were the practical things that farm kids had to do. And it was like, could I be listening to music or going to movies or caring about the Black Panthers or psychedelic shit? I was so focused on the reality of life, my life at the time, just to get through college and to help my family on the farm. And then when I went into the military, I have to tell you, I was working so hard, the long shift, that I was not doing what you might say normal kids my age normally would do. Girls my age... I did not date believe it or not. I was not dating. And so, I think I was pretty isolated in my own little world of work and college and the necessities of life, the surviving life that I did not pay much attention to the music side or the Rolling Stone or a lot of that stuff that my husband, even though he was in medical school... I mean, he went to all these movies, and then later after we were married, he would talk about these movies, but I had never heard of these movies. Hey, you have never heard of that movie? [inaudible] music?
SM (01:28:26):
How about... Well, obviously you knew about Robert McNamara, your thoughts on him?
DE (01:28:28):
Oh, my thoughts on him are the same as LBJ. I disliked him. I did not trust him at all from the beginning. I did not like him. I did not trust him. I guess I was paying more attention to politics, Steve, [inaudible] to other stuff and the generational stuff. But McNamara was, for me, the epitome of sleazy. He reminds me a little bit of Rumsfeld. Now, the arrogance, the I am right, the... It is just the arrogance, the one-sidedness. And how I knew at the time, or I think I knew, but I knew later how there were... McNamara and LBJ had all kinds of bright people coming to them and telling them, consulting with them the truth about not getting involved in the war in Vietnam and what would happen if they did, and trying to enlighten them about history. But he was so self-righteous and arrogant and like Rumsfeld just self-righteous and arrogant. It is their way and no other way. So that is how I felt.
SM (01:29:50):
And two other people I know you really loved, and that is Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
DE (01:29:56):
Oh my God. They were, for me... I think that is when I really started to become internally depressed because I think I have... I know I have because it has helped me throughout my life. I seem to have... Maybe it is nursing skills and being able to observe personalities. I distrusted him from the beginning. And of course, Agnew and Nixon, for good reason, were non-trustworthy. But I think when Watergate happened, I really shut down. It was during that time that I quit watching television. When I got married, I told my husband that we would not have TV in our house. I could not bear anything on television. It just conjured up this extreme emotion in me to the point where it was frightening in that our country is... I was frightened for our country and what these men... I used to call them their wargasm. Men in their testosterone and men in their orgasm and the power that they had and what they could do to our nation. And I still have that feeling today. And I sensed it with Bush from the beginning after 9/11. I saw it in Bush in this warmongering, this wargastic kind of testosterone, this sense of power and control. And for some people, it absolutely goes to their head where they become so self-righteous and so arrogant that it is an aphrodisiac, Steve. It literally becomes an aphrodisiac for some men. I think that is what it was, certainly for Nixon and Bush, whereas at least LBJ, the one thing I can say about him is he did not run again. He did not run again. I think he did feel some honest sadness and some remorse, but I never felt that with McNamara. I never felt that he had authentic remorse. I felt it was disingenuous. Watching the fog of war made me sick. He still came off arrogant and disingenuous. These are the frightening men. These are the men that frightened... That have led countries into their downfalls.
SM (01:32:43):
Diane, I got only a couple more questions then we will be done. I am just going to switch my tape. All right. I am back. Just a few more names. Muhammad Ali?
DE (01:58:02):
I will pass on that one.
SM (01:58:04):
Martin Luther King, Jr.?
DE (01:58:06):
Oh, well. He is a hero. He is a true hero and an absolute hero. He made a difference in my life in that I actually had someone that I could look up to and believe in and was so proud of. I do have hope for America because there are so many good people in this country. I meet them all the time, like you do when you are out and about. It is just my concern is how come these wonderful, good people who have integrity, why do not they become president? Why do not they become Secretary of Defense? Why do the people who get into power are the ones who are not the leaders and have the vision to make our country what it is based on and its principles and its true values, not their personal values. I do not know what our values anymore are when President Bush talks about values. Yeah. Well, his values are not my values, so whose values, are they?
But Martin Luther King was brilliant and had those qualities where he could lead people together in song and in speech and with the kind of values and with the kind of leadership that gives people hope. It came from love rather than a need for control and power. They say... What is the saying when love overcomes the need for power... I forget exactly what it is, but he provided for this nation, I think, something that was so necessary and so powerful. And then, whew, he has gone. And then who replaces somebody like him? Who replaces Gandhi?
SM (02:00:23):
Right. The other power figure here is Malcolm X. Any thoughts on him or?
DE (02:00:31):
Oh, I will pass on that one.
SM (02:00:32):
Okay. Some of the other political figures from that era, President Ford. Gerald Ford.
DE (02:00:39):
Well, President Ford granted amnesty to those who went to Canada, right?
SM (02:00:49):
DE (02:00:50):
Well, there were a lot of Vietnam veterans who were angry about that. I had mixed feelings, but yet I was not angry at him for doing that. I was glad those men were able to come back to the United States. Many of them did not. Again, I think it was my sense of compassion and forgiveness, and that these were young men who absolutely did not believe that they needed to go to Vietnam. To go to Canada and leave their families, bold acts of courage. Some could say it was cowardice. Maybe it was both. But I am not the judge. The war was wrong. We were lied to. We were sent for the wrong reasons. And I was okay with them being granted amnesty. I admit that. I do not apologize for that. We were a generation that was used and abused and exploited, and there were so many men... That is another thing. What about all the men of my generation who went to prison and the men who were in the, we called it the Long Binh Jail, it was LBJ Jail. You know about that?
SM (02:02:11):
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
DE (02:02:11):
SM (02:02:13):
DE (02:02:14):
While I was in Vietnam, I knew of a lot of men who were going to that jail. Again, I felt the unfairness, and the war is just so horrific in what it does to people. So I think coming from a nursing standpoint, coming from a compassionate, forgiving standpoint, I was sad. I have always had this overwhelming sadness for our generation, for those who went to jail, for those who went to Canada, for those who lost their innocence and lost their family ties where they could not speak to their fathers. Their fathers just literally disowned them. This is what our government did to us. And for what? For what reason? Outside of their aphrodisiac needs for war and power and control. The fact that they could have gotten us out of Vietnam, Steve, because remember, I was there in (19)68, and that is when, 'Oh, we are going to wind the war down. We are going to [inaudible] troops home." While I am there, I know more troops are coming, more are coming and more are dying. We lost more... The majority of names on the wall in Washington DC are from (19)68 and (19)69. So, you can see why I feel so strongly the way I do. I have to say one more thing because I know we want to end this, but it is one thing when your country lies to you. It is another thing when they want you to lie for them because when I was in Pleiku at the 71st Evacuation Hospital, we were just kilometers away from the Cambodian border. We were getting all these wounded from Cambodia. This was the time that the administration was telling America we were not in Cambodia, but we were in Cambodia. And I knew it. We were getting all these patients. I was told not to put anything in the records, that patient's records, that he was in Cambodia. I was to lie. I was supposed to lie for the government. I think that is when my political conscience was galvanized, at that.
SM (02:04:21):
DE (02:04:21):
So if you talk about galvanizing moments, when I was told to lie on a patient's record that he was not wounded in Cambodia because the nation was saying we were not there, for me, that was the straw that broke... That did it. I think from that point on, it was like, "You can lie to me, but you cannot force me to lie back." I think that is what really propelled me to build the memorial and want to tell the truth and... Well, I know it is.
SM (02:04:54):
Wow. Actually, there is only four more questions here. Very brief. I just list all these politicians, put them in a nutshell: George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, Barry Goldwater, and certainly Dwight Eisenhower. They were all politicians that were around when the boomers were there, when they were young.
DE (02:05:19):
Yeah. But how am I going to answer to all of them? They are also different. Dwight Eisenhower, my God, he is the one that warned us about the military industrial complex. It was prophetic. We are right now in the military industrial complex at its height in what he prophesied in that it would be a train going down a track so powerful, there would be no stopping it. And look what is happening. It is a corporation. So, how can we put them in the same... I cannot... like with George Wallace and George McGovern. McGovern is still out there speaking against the war. In fact, he was supposed to be a speaker here because his daughter lives in Montana, out there in Hamilton. I do not know how to... What would you say about putting them all [inaudible]?
SM (02:06:08):
Well, I would not put them all together. I would say just a few comments about each of them. Certainly, McGovern, last night I watched on television on what is going on with politics today and the elections coming up next week. They are still talking about the negative influence that George McGovern and that generation had on the political process. And then they interviewed him. It was just like his name keeps coming up over and over again in terms of the decline of the Democratic Party. We have had him on our campus, too. Certainly, you could have comments on each of them. And you have already done it on Eisenhower. What are your thoughts on George McGovern and the 1972 election?
DE (02:06:53):
Well, I feel that there is a faction in this country that is very good. They are experts at denigrating people who tell the truth and who have integrity and who defy them. Their way of denigrating them and diminishing them is to distort who they really are and what they really believe in. I think George McGovern is one of those.
SM (02:07:30):
Mm-hmm. Of course, Hubert Humphrey, we all know that he ran with Lyndon Johnson. If he had separated himself from Lyndon Johnson early on, he may have been president. There is a lot of thoughts...
DE (02:07:41):
Well, I come from Humphrey country. He was our neighbor. His daughter worked with my mother. I met Humphrey on many, many occasions, just lived across the marsh from our farm. He was in Waverly, Minnesota. I grew up on a farm south of Buffalo. You could look across the big marsh and see the Waverly Tower. That, of course, was where Humphrey had his lake home. But I grew up believing Humphrey was a great man and he was compassionate. The welfare system in Minnesota became what it was because of Humphrey. My parents definitely supported Humphrey. Yes, if he had separated himself... But back then, the vice president had no power. It is like they were just in the background, unlike Cheney today. But think of how the country might have been different if it had been Humphrey or McGovern. I wish that Humphrey could have made a difference, but I do not feel like he was in a position to make a difference with LBJ as the president. So, I feel there was some failed... Some things that would never come to fruition because he was in the shadow of LBJ. But in his own right, he still did some wonderful things.
SM (02:09:10):
Even with Barry Goldwater, so much has been written about him recently, that he was the man that really is the leader of the conservative movement. There is actually several books out right now on him. It was ironic that he and Hugh Scott were the two that walked into Nixon's office and told him he had to resign. So, there is pretty powerful... I am going to end with some terms from that era. You do not have to give long responses. It is just a gut-level reaction to them. Woodstock.
DE (02:09:42):
Okay. I wish I had been there. I missed out. I missed Woodstock. Because of my upbringing on this farm, I guess I felt too timid to think that I would want to be there at the time. But it was unique. It was extraordinary. I wish I had witnessed it myself, but I could not have gone naked or done any of those things. Politically, I am not conservative, but personally, I would have been a witness to it, watching it happen. Steve, I would have been on the sidelines. I would have been watching it happen.
SM (02:10:27):
Right. How about communes?
DE (02:10:28):
SM (02:10:30):
The communal movement?
DE (02:10:32):
Yeah. Yeah. We had a distant relative who got involved. Again, I felt that my peers, the people of my generation, were moving outside the normal course of traditional life and leaving the security of their homes and wanted something different. Because I grew up on a farm and communed with the Earth every single day, I could not quite understand why they felt they needed to bring teepees out. My dad laughed about it because we had communes out around us where some kids brought teepees out and they just put their teepees up on private land, farmers' land, and then the farmers kicked them out. But they wanted to commune with the land. And of course, I grew up commuting with the land. But I guess, again, I think I was pretty non-judgmental of... I was very judgmental of the government. But I was pretty non-judgmental of my generation and my peers thinking that, hey, they have different ideas; they have different thoughts about things and they want to try something different. I guess I did not feel judgmental about that because for me personally, my way of breaking away was to go into the military and find out something about life in the military, I guess, and do something positive with it. So, I figured if they want to live off the land and get rid of all their materialism because my generation, really in the beginning, did not want the materialism that their parents accumulated. I mean, they sold their skis; they sold their car; they sold whatever they had. They did not want any materialistic objects. They just wanted to go out and have free love and live off the land and get away from it all, which was an escape. Of course, that was just their [inaudible].
SM (02:12:36):
How about the counterculture?
DE (02:12:36):
The counterculture I never quite understood because I never felt a part of it. I was not in the drug culture and I was extremely [inaudible 02:12:48] it. I had been invited to some drug parties, Steve, and I did not know because of my naivete, that I was being invited to a drug party. When I got there to this house, I was pretty shocked because I smelled the smells and the doors to the bedrooms were all closed. The person who invited me came out and said, "Hi, Diane." I looked at her and I said, "If you had told me this was a drug party, I would not have come." And I turned around and left. It pretty much scared me.
SM (02:13:27):
Right. How about Kent State and Jackson State.
DE (02:13:33):
Horrific, sad, tragic, awful that our own National Guard, our own government... That is another thing. Just briefly. I talked about how my generation spoke out, rioted, protested. Some did it violently, which was not as acceptable, really. But look what our police did and our National Guard did to two young people and their violence and the beatings and the sticks and whipping them with guns and then shooting. Again, I had a visceral gut reaction of this awful sadness that I could not... disbelief and horror, and again, anger that our college students could be unsafe and shot like that in really cold blood.
SM (02:14:32):
The Chicago Eight?
DE (02:14:34):
I will pass on that.
SM (02:14:36):
How about the Democratic Convention of (19)68?
DE (02:14:41):
I was in Vietnam, Steve. I was pretty busy focusing on saving patients. But I heard about it. Again, I was becoming used to the volatility, that this is normal. This volatility that is going on in the United States, for me, it was now almost the norm. So, what happened at the Democratic National Convention was just crazy. It was just crazy. I have often said that serving in Vietnam was like living in a hallucination. Some of what was going on in America at the time was also like the hallucination. Apocalypse Now is a movie I actually related to. When somebody asked me why, they said, "Well, that movie is so nuts; it is so crazy." And I said, "Yeah, but that is how I felt. That is what I was living at the time." I was living in an hallucination. Things were crazy. Things were out of control. You could not put piece things together because they were so out of control
SM (02:15:50):
And Watergate?
DE (02:15:54):
Watergate for me was like a watershed. It was like they got caught. They got caught. There is justice. There is justice! When he was impeached, or when the impeachment process took place, I had this sense of relief, almost. It was a sense of relief. They got caught. Thank goodness. There are people in the country that will work hard to expose the evil. I hate to use that word now because [inaudible].
SM (02:16:31):
Now, I have three more terms here and then we will end. Two of them are probably very important to you. Tet.
DE (02:16:44):
I arrived in Vietnam in late July, the first part of August. I knew about Tet because I was at Fort Lee, Virginia at the time, and I was getting patients in the orthopedic unit. We were filled. There were no extra beds. We were shipping patients and evacing back and forth to Walter Reed. I took care of patients at Fort Lee, Virginia that had been in Tet. That was my first real exposure to what happens to men who have been in war. They have gone through something horrific. I learned a lot on that unit. First time I dropped a bed pan in the middle of the night, it was really frightening for me because I had just dropped a bed pan. It was a little bit noisy, but every single patient was on the floor and some of them were in flashbacks. It was really eye-opening for me. One of the patients told me, "Do not ever do that again. You might find yourself dead," because they just were out of control and crawling around on the floor and looking for their weapons. So for me, Tet was the tragedy of the loss of so many human lives and so many wounded with horrific wounds. But it also showed the determination of the enemy. I do not think I really went to Vietnam wholly naive like so many of the women have said. I think I was really prepared. I prepared myself for the worst. I think Tet helped prepare that inside me because I knew it would come from anywhere and nowhere and at any time. This enemy was determined. These were not [inaudible] were intelligent warriors.
SM (02:19:01):
How about the Gulf of Tonkin?
DE (02:19:04):
Well, Steve, for me, the Gulf of Tonkin was one of the sick lies the government got by with. So, if they got by with that one, why would not they get by with the weapons of mass destruction? For me, it was so deja vu, that the level of my anger during Shock and Awe was so high that my daughter told me, "Mom, you have to do something about your anger. It is going to kill you. It is just way over the top." And my response was, I said, "What have we learned? The lies from Gulf of Tonkin..."
SM (02:19:41):
Go right ahead.
DE (02:19:53):
It was the ultimate betrayal. It was the ultimate betrayal, that we did not learn that lesson from Vietnam, that the American people could be duped with a lie to get us into... But the American people could be duped to the lie to get us into a war, and Bush got by with it. So, for me, again it was a visceral gut reaction. Another offset betrayal that the government can abuse, abuse of power and convince people of their lives. And of course, I cannot be convinced, so then I am at odds with a lot of people who are convinced. Then I begin to wonder how can people believe this stuff? Why are they so... I do not know. That is enough, Steve.
SM (02:20:43):
Okay. And then, when did the war end? Was there something that happened in the United States? Some people say that when the war came home to middle America, when bodies came home in caskets in Ohio and the Midwest, middle America finally said, "This war has to end." Others say, "Well, it was what happened to Kent State University. When they can shoot their own children on the homeland, that is the beginning of the end." In your opinion, what was the magic moment that ended this war?
DE (02:21:25):
Well, for me, because I was a nurse, it never ended. The war did not end until the helicopter landed on top of the embassy and... What did we call it? The Presidential Palace?
SM (02:21:42):
DE (02:21:42):
SM (02:21:43):
DE (02:21:43):
In 1975, right?
SM (02:21:46):
DE (02:21:47):
And that picture where the people just hanging on to the rudder of the helicopter trying to escape with everybody else, and those last people dying. That was the kind of official moment. My god, we were out of there. That was the moment for me that the war officially ended, but the war never did end. The war has not ended for most Vietnam vets. We are still battling it, fighting it, dying in VA hospitals. But symbolically, I think you are looking for a symbolic ending. For me, there is no symbolic ending. None. Because for me, I watched the soldiers suffering for years following that war, and taking care of them in hospitals. So, there is some symbolic ending.
SM (02:22:42):
My very last question is, when did the sixties begin? Not necessarily for you personally, but when do you think was the beginning of the sixties?
DE (02:22:57):
I would say '64.
SM (02:23:05):
Is that after Kennedy passed away?
DE (02:23:09):
Well, Kennedy was killed, and then the Gulf of Tonkin was (19)64, was not it?
SM (02:23:14):
Yes, it was.
DE (02:23:14):
So, for me, that is when it began.
SM (02:23:21):
I guess the last, do you have anything else you would like to say or comment on?
DE (02:23:26):
Yes, one more thing, and that is I want to talk about what the sixties meant for me as far as women in the military opening doors for the next generation women.
SM (02:23:41):
Diane, could you speak up just a little bit more?
DE (02:23:43):
Okay. I do not think I have addressed enough about the military women in the sixties, who signed up during that unpopular war, and going to Vietnam and serving all over the world. And how my generation of military women opened the doors for the next generation of military women. And which prior to me, the military women opened doors for us. But we really threw that door open wide in proving that, in Vietnam, that we survived. And that we did have the courage to be in a war zone and work hard and get through it and rise to the highest level of ability and capability and service. Of course now, we have women in Iraq who are carrying weapons and are using them. Whereas in Vietnam, I say we were not issued weapons in Vietnam, but we should have been. And we should have been trained to use them. We were in a combat zone. The only difference was we could be shot at, which we were, but we could not shoot back. Today, women, without being clearly defined that they are in combat roles, they are certainly in combat. We have almost 80 or more of them who have been killed in Iraq. I do not know what kind of advancement we can say that is, that we have opened the doors so women can be killed in combat, but I think what it says is that men and women today are serving side by side pretty much in equal roles. For many of these women, it is their choice. If they have joined the guards, of course, it is all by choice because nobody is drafted. But women have proven themselves and prove themselves every day, but it is just... I have been asked, and I will say this, that I was asked several years ago when the war broke out in the first Desert Storm in the early nineties, how I would feel about daughters coming home in body bags. I said, " I have sons. What is the difference if my daughter or my son comes home in a body bag? I do not want either one of them to come home in a body bag." And certainly, there is really no difference. It is both horrific, it is both tragic, and it is both, it is unthinkable. But I am proud of women in the military today and what they have achieved and what they do. I am very proud of them, as I was proud of my generation. I am just so sad that we have to have a war at all and that they have to be participating in it. But I am very proud of the military women today.
SM (02:26:37):
When you sit there at the ceremony every year at the Vietnam Memorial, on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, and you are sitting on that stage before Jan goes up and starts the program itself, and you have a chance to look. You are looking over all those veterans and families of veterans and just friends of veterans and just interested observers. What are you thinking? I know you are thinking about the introduction of this person that is going to speak, but what is going through your mind when you sit up there and you are glancing over all these people every year?
DE (02:27:14):
Well, I often think, Steve, that we are unusual in that there is a sea of love out there, and we come together out of love. There is just this overpowering sense of understanding and love among us. We all have some needs that we come there every year. Some of us maybe like myself, I should be there because I am the chair. But I need both, too, for my own sense of being together with like-minded people whom I love, and I feel a sense of peace with these people. But I also feel this ordinary responsibility that it is so important that we continue to come there to show our honor and memory of those who died during Vietnam. And to show the country that these memories have to be kept alive. I feel a sense of responsibility to be there as a veteran's advocate, but on a personal deeper level, I just feel this sense of, like Jan Scruggs and myself and all those who work so hard with us, to make sure those memorials got there. We did not do it alone. It took thousands, thousands, and thousands of people and dollars and work. We were just the symbols because we were the leaders of the efforts, but we did not do it alone. I just feel this tremendous pride for the people who did make it happen, and relief that it is there because it is so important for a nation to remember those who-who have served and died. And so, I do not know. I never can put it into words, Steve, because it is pretty overwhelming for me.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Diane Carlson Evans

Biographical Text

Diane Carlson Evans served as a nurse during the Vietnam War in the United States Army. Before joining the Army as a nurse, Evans graduated from nursing school in Minnesota. She was the major contributor to the creation of the Vietnam Women's Memorial.





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format


Material Type



3 microcassettes

Interview Format


Subject LCSH

United States—Armed Forces—Nurses; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Evans, Diane Carlson--Interviews

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Baby boom generation; Peace Corps; Conscientious objector; Civil rights movement; Women's Rights Movement; War protest; Watergate; The Guardian; Suffragettes; Activism; Troops; Congress; Women in military service; American Memorial; Lewis Puller; Lyndon B. Johnson.



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

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“Interview with Diane Carlson Evans,” Digital Collections, accessed April 25, 2024,