Vietnam Women's Memorial offers a chance for reflection for all veterans

(WJLA) - The Vietnam Women's Memorial is 20 years old, but visits to the monument by those who served still triggers memories anew.

A number of the nurses who led the fight to erect a special memorial just for the women who served the United States in Vietnam returned on Veterans Day, and for many, those memories are still very fresh.

"We were the young caring for the young," Diane Carlson Evans, who at the time was a 21-year-old nurse, said. "Our basic training was not enough. What can prepare you for war?"

Evans helped pave the way for the memorial, which honors the 10,000 uniformed women who served in Vietnam, most as nurses.

The names of eight who were killed in action are etched on the iconic granite wall nearby. For Evans and others, like fellow nurse Sarah Blum, the work was tireless while fighting around them raged.

Sometimes, all they could offer was their hand while a solder died on the battlefield.

"This is our memorial, and it brings back a lot of memories of what happened," Blum said.

There was initially opposition to the women's memorial, until male soldiers rose up and declared that if it weren't for these women, none of them would be alive.

One of those was James Kiley, who at 20 was a kid from Long Island in Vietnam who still recalls the comforting sight of the nurses. It especially rings after being one of the wounded on the first day of the Tet Offensive.

Veterans Day just offers another chance for him and others to say thank you at the place that both honors and heals.

"It really was a breath of fresh air to see them and how amazing they worked," Kiley said.