In her foreword, Van Devanter states that she wanted to create an account of the war in order to share her story with others and to assure the other men and women who had had similar experiences that they were not alone. In addition, she “wanted the parents, children, brothers, and sisters to know how hard [the hospital staff members] tried to save lives” and how terrible they felt when they could not do so.
At the beginning of the narrative, Van Devanter describes herself as an “all-American girl” who goes into nursing as a profession because she wants to help people and who enlists in the Army because she believes that she has an obligation to serve her country. She volunteers to go to Vietnam because of her belief that this is the place where she can do the most good.
When describing her initial introduction to Vietnam, Van Devanter is quick to point out her own naïveté. She was shocked by the conditions in which the medical staff had to live and work. In addition, she was appalled by the types of injuries that she saw. Throughout this early section, her patriotism and support of the war are evident; she has a difficult time coping with the cynicism of some of the more experienced staff members. Her feelings change, however, after several months of seeing an unending stream of casualties. After a time, she too becomes cynical and, along with others, begins to voice her objections to the war openly.
The majority of the book focuses on the author’s experiences at the 71st Evacuation Hospital, where she spent the bulk of her yearlong tour in Vietnam. She emphasizes the situation in the operating room and often...
(The entire section is 679 words.)