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"Men that did not go to Vietnam at all get better treatment than women who were there." (Video Interview, 1:26:42)

   Elizabeth A. Allen
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Elizabeth Allen [2007]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army Nurse Corps
Unit: 25th Hospital
Service Location: Texas; Cu Chi and Pleiku, Vietnam; Pennsylvania; Michigan; Missouri; South Carolina
Rank: Major
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In 1965, Elizabeth Allen was a nurse on a mission. Inspired by her brothers' service in the Vietnam War, having earned a Masters degree in Psychiatric Nursing and graduated from Officer Candidate School, she enlisted in the Air Force, insisting that she be assigned to Vietnam. Once in country, she further requested that she not work in a white uniform--i.e., taking care of officers--but close to the action, with wounded servicemen and civilians. She made a point of giving every patient the same care, including enemy soldiers taken captive. Allen has strong opinions on the way the Veterans Administration treats its women patients--opinions reinforced by her interview location, a VA facility in Michigan.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (91 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Joining the military out of graduate school, insisting she wanted to serve in Vietnam; playing the Army off against the Air Force. (05:57) Arriving in Vietnam was a shock, but not unfamiliar; she was in first group of African Americans who had integrated schools after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in the early 50s; advantage of being black in Vietnam; adjusting to the outhouses constructed for Vietnamese women. (05:39) Would not accept an assignment where she would wear a white uniform, i.e., treat officers; assigned to Cu Chi, the only hospital on a base camp at that time; getting mortared on her second day there; cramped living quarters; learning lessons about survival. (07:50)
Their hospital accepted enemy soldiers as well, and she treated them no differently than any other patients. (03:51) Unhappy about the state of Veterans Administration health care for women veterans, especially those from the Vietnam War; recognition of PTSD limited only to victims of sexual assault; women veterans not feeling welcome at the VA; culture of U.S. embraces only male veterans; men who did not go to Vietnam get better treatment than women who did; double standard on who could carry a gun in Vietnam. (15:01) 

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  October 26, 2011
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