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"If [the colonel] says 'You’re going to Vietnam,' then, you’re going." (Video interview, 9:53)

   Elia Astrid Ortega
Collection image
Ella Ortega [detail from video]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army Nurse Corps
Unit: Letterman Army Hospital; 36th Evacuation Hospital
Service Location: Presidio, California; Vung Tau, Vietnam
Rank: First Lieutenant
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Army First Lieutenant Elia Ortega was initially drawn to the romantic vision of military nursing presented to her by recruiters—and their promise that she would not be sent to Southeast Asia unless she volunteered. After a year spent at the Presidio in California, nursing patients who had been wounded overseas, she was shocked to receive orders to go to Vietnam. Based on recommendations from her patients stateside, she requested to be stationed at the 36th Evacuation Hospital near Vung Tau, where she worked twelve hour days, six days a week, and grew close to her fellow Army nurses.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (3 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (56 min.)
More like this
»Vietnam War: Looking Back
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (3 items)
Shock of getting orders to go to Vietnam; asked to go with a good friend who was also a nurse; asking patients at her stateside hospital where she should ask to be assigned; assignment to the 36th Evacuation Hospital; arriving in Vietnam. (03:38) Receiving huge amounts of patients during Tet offensive; developing "short-timers syndrome." (02:00) Developing very close relationships with her fellow nurses; going to reunions; memories of service; the day her service ended; being delivered to Oakland, California, with no money; had to call friends to get picked up from the airport. (03:49)

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  October 26, 2011
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