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Letter from Rhona Prescott to Eleanor Grace Alexander

Page 1

July 7, 1991

Dear Eleanor,

This letter was begun in December, 1968, meant for your Mother, but never completed. She died about two years ago. I wrote your brother over Christmas, 1989, but it is you to whom I must speak.

We met in Qui Nhon, June 29,1967. You outranked me by a few months, you, "supernurse", the backbone of the O.R. there. Our supervisor, the Major, seemed to have some problems, the main one being her absence during the "pushes". So you and I informally worked it out that we would alternately function as supervisor. I thought you were top notch; you never got rattled, never made mistakes, even managed to look well groomed. I, on the other hand, struggled daily with the tattered lives before me, with my anger and with my frustration and with my frizzy hair. How did you keep it together? You know, the guys really leaned on you. You and I triaged, organized, drove the men and prayed. I screamed at people but you didn't. I really admired your strength and envied it.

You told me many times though, that you wished you had the chance to do what I did before Qui Nhon - work under tents, get the casualties right off the choppers; be in the middle of the heat. When they assigned me to the emergency surgical team, you wanted my spot. We were to be available 24 hours a day, while on that team. When they called but couldn't find me, you grabbed my gear and jacket, and went in my place to Pleiku, near the intense fighting and lots of casualties. When I found out I was secretly glad for you.

Six weeks later, after the mission was over, your plane went down while coming back to Qui Nhon. It was so windy that day. Ironically, I was in a plane on the same flight pattern behind you. You crashed into a mountain deep in v.c. territory. There were bullet holes in the fuselage. Days later, after the monsoon rain let up and the area was secured, your body was recovered. At least you weren't taken prisoner. Did you die instantly? Were you in pain? What did you think?

I couldn't keep it together to go to the memorial service. My way of coping was to get tranquilizers. After I took all the pills I slept and slept. Why did I survive and you die? Eleanor, I cry when I go to the Wall. I cry about your death. I think about it a lot, twenty-three years later. Was it God's Will or did I screw up your destiny and along with it mine? I don't know if I should feel sorry, guilty or what. Did I deprive you of life? Or did I recklessly allow you to live the experience of doing the ultimate in nursing, as part of that team? I wish I knew; maybe I don't wish to know. You are a hero back in New Jersey. I think they even dedicated a little park to you.

I remember your bringing your "reel to reel" tape deck over to surgery for everyone to enjoy. I remember the song you played over and over.. .Roger Whit taker singing the lyrics, "That's O.K., Rose would say. Don't you worry none". I think you felt those words. I didn't think it was "O.K." at all. Later, the Major couldn't remember where the tape deck came from. No one would tell her. I lost composure... I screamed, silently, "how could she not know".

As I marveled at your organization and inner peace, you envied my experience in that Clearing Company, doing surgery, I. V .'s, debridement, everything. You told me you wished you had the chance to do something like I did- really significant. I always thought that you did your job at the 85th better than I did at the 616th. Well, however it really was, Eleanor, you got your chance before you died. It was because of me... both of these things, you getting your chance and you dying, not really, I tell myself, but yet, really.

I am struggling, still trying to make an impact, imperfectly as ever. I must succeed in helping other survivors like me, and I must do it for you.

Your Friend,


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  October 26, 2011
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