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"I was not prepared for taking care of people who had been to war." (Audio interview, 8:46).

   Gail A. Gutierrez
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War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Persian Gulf War, 1991
Branch: Navy Nurse Corps
Service Location: Corpus Christi, Texas; Sigonella, Sicily; Portsmouth, Virginia; Guam (Mariana Islands); Long Beach and San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; Washington, DC; Bethesda, Maryland
Rank: Captain
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Although she did not serve in-country, Navy nurse Captain Gail Gutierrez saw the ravages of the war first hand. Sent to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1969, straight out of nursing school, she treated patients who had been flown home from Vietnam with debilitating injuries. Working with men who were so young and so badly wounded left her feeling inadequate and helpless. While she found it hard to cope with the stress and exhaustion of wartime nursing, she discovered that her natural assertiveness made her a perfect fit for a Navy hospital ward. Following her time in naval medicine, she retired in 1994 and embarked on a second career as an artist.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (3 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (53 min.)
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»Vietnam War: Looking Back
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (3 items)
Feeling unprepared to treat patients coming from Vietnam; adjusting to treating such young patients; interactions with young men; having the sense that she was not doing anything valuable because she wasn’t serving in Vietnam; seeing horrific wounds; bending the rules in order to ease the pain of patients. (12:24) Rising through the ranks because she was naturally organized and assertive; learning lots of different types of nursing; extreme stress and exhaustion; taking sleeping pills in order to rest; working fourteen days with no days off. (03:58) Developing chronic fatigue syndrome; applying to college and getting a degree in art; becoming an artist; designing a piece that portrays her time in the service. (03:23)

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  October 26, 2011
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