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Interview with Aida Nancy Sanchez [6/29/2004]

Kathleen Scott:

Today is June 29, 2004. This is the oral history ofretired Lieutenant - Colonel Aida Nancy Sanchez who served as a Physical Therapist in the Army Medical Specialist Corps during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. - She served at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado; Medical Army Hospital, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Landstul Army Medical Center, Germany. She established the Physical Therapy Clinic at Andrew Rader Army Clinic in Arlington, VA and also served at Letterman Army Medical Center, San Francisco, CA, TripIer Army Medical Center, Hawaii, Rodriguez Army Hospital, San Juan, Puerto Rico and also at the 95th Evacuation Hospital, near a combat zone area close to Da Nang, Vietnam. Her last tour of duty before she retired was at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia. She graduated from St. Mary of the Woods College [at] St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. After graduation from college, she went to the Army Physical Therapy School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, graduating in 1953. She attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she earned her Master of the Arts degree in Physical Therapy with a minor in Educational Psychology in 1968. She has several decorations and certificates of achievements. They include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two ... bronze OLC, the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze service star, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign - Medal and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with a bronze palm. - This interview is being conducted for the Oral History Program at the Women's Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, Veterans - History Project. - For the record, Nancy, please introduce yourself and tell me when and where you were born.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I am Aida Nancy Sanchez. I am really known as Nancy Sanchez more than Aida Nancy or Aida Sanchez, so I will say that I am Nancy Sanchez. I was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico.

Kathleen Scott:

The date?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

29th of November 1931

Kathleen Scott:

Tell me a little bit about your parents.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

My parent, my dearest mother, who was a tremendous influence in my life was Rosalia Revera (nicknamed "Talia" by all our family members and friends). My father who was a wealthy man, who was a farmer you might say, but actually he was in the business of dairy products and cattle. His name was Felipe Sanchez Osorio. I have quite a few half-brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, I have two younger brothers, my mother's sons too. One of the two, full brothers, the second oldest after me, was a Major in the US Air Force, working in the OSI of the Air Force. He was also a linguist and he also worked as an interpreter for the AFOS1 as well. He is now retired from the USAF. His name is - - Luis Felipe. My youngest brother is a very successful criminal lawyer in Puerto Rico. His name is Felipe Benicia.

Kathleen Scott:

What were your parents like as people?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

My wealthy father was very generous with his money and every Sunday he would sit by - the dining room table, open up this very big hardcover checkbook that had two rows of - checks on each page, and he would be writing checks to all the people who were lining up from the street to all the way into the house. They included nuns and the homeless. - This became a routine that happened every Sunday, late morning and early afternoon. My Mother was also a great, Good Samaritan. She spent her life until she died at age 82 spreading good-will and helping others, not just to the three of us, but everybody who needed help in our entire community. With the help of my lawyer brother, she even got some drug addicts to get into a rehabilitation center for drug addiction. She called her work helping others a "Labor ofLove" to help as she said "My fellowmen." Both of my parents were a good influence on me, especially my mother. From them, I learned a lot about life and love. For them, life meant all the gifts that God has given us, the beauty of nature and the environment surrounding us, enjoying the animals, all of them, and how much they give back to you when you love them, not hurt them, enjoying all the wildlife, smelling and seeing the beauty of God's creation in a garden, giving as much as you can, give without expecting anything in return, enjoying your individual self and being very grateful for your uniqueness and thanking God for such a wonderful life. Regardless of the state of your life, offer all the love you can give to your family and your friends. So, at home, we were all huggers and kissers. And, we shared a very deep - - love for each other. Those lessons are now part of me, ofmy inner-self and I guess they -will always be there for the rest of my life. In military life, I learned not to be so open with my emotions as I was with my family. In the military you really have to be very - careful how you express emotions and concerns, you know (Laughs).

Kathleen Scott:

And your mother, what was she like?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I think I have already mentioned in this interview what my mother was like, but I am so glad you are asking this question because I also would like to add to what I already have said about her, since I loved her so much. There are many more beautiful things that she did. She was so mindful of other people's needs that she could also go to the home to bathe an older lady because she just could not do it on her own. When anxieties, tensions and concerns came, she would sing and thank God for all she had had. She had a strong grip on her life at the worst possible moments. She truly was an incredible human being!

Kathleen Scott:

Rosalia, right?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes, that was her name. Her family and friends called her "Talia" as an endearing nickname.

Kathleen Scott:

Was your family religious?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

My family was religious in the sense that we prayed at home. We felt that God was with us no matter the situation or wherever we were, but we did not regularly attend church. I became more religious after. I began going to St. Mary of the Woods College, Indiana. I won a scholarship to go there after winning an essay contest about "Logic," given in the high schools in Puerto Rico. After winning this essay contest and winning the scholarship to go to this college, my mother said to me, "God has given you this .. - opportunity. You go." So, here I was, 15 years old, alone and heading off to college in _ Indiana.

Kathleen Scott:

What did you think of Indiana?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Oh, I am glad you are asking that because I want to be sure that in my life, if anything is - written about it, that the Sisters ofProvidence at St. Mary ofthe Woods College in - Indiana be recognized for not only giving me a higher education but also for giving me a spiritual, religious learning that has stayed with me forever. My upbringing and the spiritual values that I learned at St. Mary of the Woods College helped me immensely in my military career especially during my tour of duty in Vietnam. I am very grateful to the Sisters and I thank them for all that they did for me.

Kathleen Scott:

Let's see you had been growing up during the World War II years.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes, I was rather young when the war ended. I remember when FDR died that I was in Puerto Rico, not quite a teenager yet. But I also remember one ofmy half brothers, Mike, who was one of the pilots in World War II of the Flying Tigers of the Air Force. His plane crashed in Japanese territory and he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese. When our soldiers came back home at the end of the World War II, he was nowhere to be found. Finally, months later, the Department of Defense sent us a letter, telling my father that his son was liberated from Japanese hands by English soldiers and was in England, suffering from amnesia but recovering very slowly and doing well even though he also had lost two ofhis fingers of his right hand and had suffered chest wounds that were now healed. Mike finally came home a year later after the war had ended.

Kathleen Scott:

Okay, well, when did you graduate from college?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

In 1952

Kathleen Scott:

1952 and...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I earned a B.S. degree in biology and chemistry.

Kathleen Scott:

Wow, that's really incredible. So you -did you have any particular dreams or goals upon your graduation?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, I did. Through my physical education teacher in college, Miss Young, I got very - interested in the Army Physical Therapy school program. And she said to me, "Why -don't you apply for it? It could happen that they would accept you." I have to say that I was a good college student with an AlB average and so I applied and they accepted me. They had to waive my age. I was 18 years old when I graduated from college and the requirement age to enter the Army Physical Therapy program at that time was 21 years old. And so, this is how I got to know the Army, through my physical education teacher in college.

Kathleen Scott:

So what were the educational requirements for physical therapists?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

The fIrst thing is and always has been in the Army that you have to have a Bachelor of Science or a similar degree with the appropriate basic science courses needed to enter into the Physical Therapy School. So that was the main thing but also your grades (grade points) when you graduated from college, your grade point was also important in order to be accepted in the Army P.T. School. In other words, your grades had to be high As/Bs when you graduated from college. It was very competitive to get into the Army Physical Therapy program and out of quite a few applications only 20 of us were accepted.

Kathleen Scott:

So, during the Korean Conflict you went over to Fort Sam Houston?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Right, that is where the Army Physical Therapy School was located. We graduated in - 1953 and I did my Physical Therapy internship at Brooke Army Medical Center that at - the time was also located at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. It was an interesting experience. I don't know whether or not I should mention it here, but it was a time when - the Army did not like the idea ofus dating while we were going to P.T. School. They felt - they were spending too much money on our education and they thought that dating guys would interfere with our education and being able to graduate. And so they really kept an eye on us constantly. It was difficult to date in those days. We had to do it in a kind of secretive way, [for example] we would meet our date outside the post, somewhere in the city of San Antonio. We all did it surreptitiously and it was all very funny in a sense.

Kathleen Scott:

Go ahead.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I guess that perhaps that was the way they knew everybody was going to graduate. When we finally graduated, Class of '53, I thought my Army career was very interesting at times, even fascinating, but also there were very many trying times. It really had its "ups and downs" just like everything else in life. Life is not perfect and I did have many stressful situations in the Army. In fact, most ofmy colleagues and I thought of getting out sometimes and we would say, "I can't take it anymore," but then we finally stuck with it and it was, all and all, a very interesting rewarding career. By this time, I was now 25 years old.

Kathleen Scott:

Young actually, I think that is pretty young -So, from Brooke Army Medical Center, you went on to ...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

To Fitzsimmons Army General Hospital, Denver, Colorado. This was the center for chest surgery at that time ofthe Anny. Any type of chest condition that might require chest surgery ended up there. When we were in P.T. School, General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower came to visit us at the school, he met each and every one ofus, the 20 ofus. He really spent some time with us. And you know some years later, there he was again in Fitzsimmons, Denver, Colorado. He came to visit one ofthe patients -he was a Colonel who was with the General in D-Day. It was Saturday and I was the P.T. on duty for the weekend and was treating the Colonel when General Eisenhower, now President Eisenhower came to our Physical Therapy Clinic to visit with the Colonel. So, we met again and do you know that he remembered meeting me when he came to visit us at the P.T. School in Fort Sam Houston. He looked at me and said, "Oh I know you. I remember meeting you, you are from Puerto Rico and you were one ofthe physical therapy students at Fort Sam Houston." It was amazing to me that after some years after my graduation from P.T. School, I was going to meet this very incredible man again! !! He was in Denver because his wife's mother lived there. President Eisenhower used to cook a stew that he loved to cook every time he would come to visit his mother-in-law. So he said to me, "I am going to send you a pot of my stew, so that you taste it and see how you like it." So I said, "Oh, Sir, thank you so much, that will be just fine, just great." A day or two later here came this secret agent with President Eisenhower's stew in a pot. But what happened? The word went all over the Physical Therapy Clinic that President Eisenhower had actually cooked that stew and sent it in the pot. I wanted badly to keep the pot after everybody tasted the stew but the ChiefP.T. immediately took possession of the pot saying to me, .. .. "No, you are not the Chief of this Clinic, I am keeping this pot. You can taste the stew .. but his pot is now my pot." I just said, "But this is not fair, the stew and the pot were sent .. to me." But, I did not win. She kept the pot.

Kathleen Scott:

Oh, it was your present! (laughs) ..

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I really would have loved to have kept that pot -just the thought that he remembered - me so well and greeted me warmly. I just wondered, what happened to the pot? By the way, President Eisenhower did have a good, long conversation with the Colonel that I was treating.

Kathleen Scott:

Well, I think it belonged to you. That is a great story. Tell me now about the patients that you were treating while you worked at Fitzsimmons. Were they coming back from Korea?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

A lot of them came from Korea, a lot of them came also from everywhere else because this was the specialized center for lung problems. Nowadays chest surgery has changed a lot, but at that time they did a lot of thoracoplasties, thoracotomies, etc. which then were the surgical approaches for these types of problems. Today, all of these approaches have changed completely.

Kathleen Scott:

And then you went to Letterman, correct?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

No, no -after Fitzsimmon, I got out of the Army then, for two years.

Kathleen Scott:

Oh, I didn't know that. Why?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Because I thought I needed to get out. So, I did and I went to work at the VA Hospital, Hines, Illinois. By the way, that is the place where I met Myrna Brouillard. She was also a P.T. there and she was the person to whom I sent my Vietnam letters. After a year .. .. or so ofbeing at Hines, Illinois, I returned to Puerto Rico and I became one ofthe .. Directors for the Bureau of Crippled Children, rehabilitation programs. The Crippled - Children Bureau was a part of the Department of Health of Puerto Rico. In the midst of doing this job, I got a nice letter from the Department of Defense, telling me that the - Korean War had increased the need for Physical Therapists in the Army and in a very - nice way they were asking me -better say, telling me that they needed me to return back to active duty. And of course, I complied. By the way, I did stay in the Reserves after I got out of the Army, after I served my duty at Fitzsimmons.

Kathleen Scott:

They asked a lot of people to return to active duty then...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes, so I went back into the Army again, and my first duty station was Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Scun Houston, [San Antonio], Texas. You see, when I left Fitzsimmons, I went to Rodriguez Army Hospital in Puerto Rico to work until I received my discharge papers. Now, I was returning back to Brooke Army Medical Center after I was recalled back to active duty. I worked there in their Burn Unit section. As Fitzsimmons was known for chest surgery, Brooke Army Medical Center was known for their Burn Unit. Very serious burn cases were sent there. After a year or two there, I transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where most of our patients were from the Green Beret Units and the 820d Airborne Division. I was there in the P.T. gym treating them when we all heard through the intercom ofthe hospital that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. It was only a few minutes later that we heard he had died. You know, I was treating one of these soldiers. I was having a difficult time trying to get him out of his wheel chair. When he heard the news ofthe President's death, he actually got , - - out ofthe wheelchair and walked to the hallway where we all were standing in sort of a stupor. Some of us were crying including him. After a year or two at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I was transferred to Fort Myer, Arlington, VA. I was to establish a Physical Therapy Clinic at the Andrew Rader Army - Clinic at Fort Myer. This clinic was a part ofthe Walter Reed Army Medical Center - complex. To establish a Physical Therapy Clinic in the Andrew Rader Clinic was a difficult task.

Kathleen Scott:

Before we go on with the Vietnam portion, tell me about the establishment of the Andrew Rader Physical Therapy Clinic, and was this the first time anybody there started to take Physical Therapy seriously, maybe?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

As I stated above, it was a difficult task to establish a Physical Therapy Clinic at the Andrew Rader Army Clinic. Well, let me tell you and you try to imagine the scenario that I was going to deal with. There was a woman Army sergeant, who had been there for several years before I came, giving daily noon-time massages to the Generals from the Pentagon and Generals stationed at Fort Myer, of course, they all looked forward to their noon-time massages and for me to establish a Physical Therapy Clinic, I had to somehow, someway, break this "pattern" that was going on for so long. In other words, I had to tell the Generals, what I was there for first, and then told them that we no longer would be able to give them massages at noontime. Now can you imagine dealing with four and three star generals who were very much pampered by this Army sergeant and her "wonderful massages," as one of them put it. From the CO ofthe Andrew Rader Army Clinic and also from the CO of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and his staff, all agreed that a Physical Therapy Clinic was needed there. The clinic was needed there to especially treat the "Old Guard" Army division and Army personnel stationed at Fort Myer and also at the Pentagon. As you might know the "Old Guard" is the Army - Division that deals with the presidential funerals and marches in inaugural parades, etc. So, my third step was to try to convince all these generals that we really needed to - establish a Physical Therapy Clinic there versus just having them come for a massage at - noontime. They all finally realized the importance of this project and what I was trying - to do. With the help and support from the Chief, Physical Therapy Clinic at Walter Reed, the clinic was finally established. The Generals were very appreciative of the clinic since some of them came to the clinic for physical therapy treatments. In fact, one of the Generals was so grateful for the treatment that he received in the new Physical Therapy Clinic that he sent a bouquet of roses to the Clinic with a card saying, "Thank you, keep up your good work, it's great." This General was also very instrumental in getting the Army approval for me to go to graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill. The General was then the Army Chief of Staff. So that after a year and a half or so at Fort Myer, I went off to graduate school. I want to add here, that after I established the Physical Therapy Clinic at the Andrew Rader Army Clinic, Red Cross volunteers came to help me in daily tasks ofthe Clinic, such as helping me at the front desk, answering the telephone, making the patients feel comfortable, and getting some of them ready to start their physical therapy treatments. One of the most outstanding Red Cross volunteers that I had for the year and a half that I was there was Catherine Morrisey, and to this day, I am extremely grateful to her for all that she did to keep our Clinic running. Thank God for all of the other volunteers there. They were all really great!

Kathleen Scott:

So, then you were sent to UNC, Chapel Hill and then to Letterman, right?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

After graduate school, I was then assigned to Letterman Army Medical Center in San - Francisco, California to be in charge of the clinical affiliations of all the physical therapy - students from Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Francisco State University and Lorna Linda University. All these universities rotated - their physical therapy students for clinical affiliations at Letterman Army Medical Center. - To be in charge of their Physical Therapy clinical affiliations at Letterman was very different and very good professional experience for me. After Letterman, I was sent for a tour of duty to TripIer Army Medical Center, Oahu, Hawaii. I was the Assistant Chief of the P.T. Clinic there.

Kathleen Scott:

OKAY. So, after your one year in Hawaii, you get your letter, and do you remember which year that would have been? Because Army Medical build up in Vietnam was almost complete. That year, it was 1970.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Ithinkitwas 1970. Yes, it had to be 1970.

Kathleen Scott:

And had you had any desire to go overseas?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I did say I would volunteer if there was a need to go to Vietnam. But I did not expect it to be so soon. One of the reasons that I received orders to go there, was that a physical therapist working at the Army Hospital in Saigon (what is now Ho Chi Minh), needed to return back to the States, and I was needed to replace her. But instead of replacing her, I was sent to the 95th Evac Hospital, near DA NANG, and just below the famous "Monkey - Mountain," that at times was a combat zone area and where our soldiers kept some radio operations. As it is already known and discussed, I was to establish the first Physical - Therapy Clinic in an Evac Hospital. And so, I did. - Quite a few of our wounded soldiers who were seen first at the 95th Evac were then sent - to the 90th Army Replacement Center in Long Binh. Then, they were transported either - to the Army Hospital in Long Binh or to the 3rd Field Army Hospital in Saigon. Rita Minogue, the Army P.T. that I was replacing, worked in this area. Sometimes anti- aircraft problems were so frequent, that the transfer of patients to the 90th Replacement Center in Long Binh from the 95th Evac was almost impossible. By the way, the 95th Evac Hospital was not just established in Vietnam. The 95th Evac Hospital has always been there with our soldiers behind the combat zone areas or in front ofthem since World War II, always ready to serve them.

Kathleen Scott:

You were proud to be with it.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

So, I was very proud to be with it and I was also very proud to say that I was the first Physical Therapist to be assigned to it. Now, like I said, there were other PTs who had been in Vietnam before but not in that kind of capacity or scenario.

Kathleen Scott:

Well, tell me about the day you arrived. Do you remember?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

The first thing I have to tell you is that we were asked to go to Vietnam just around Christmas. Itwas the 24th of December. We first ended up in the Philippine Islands at 4:00 in the morning, when we arrived there, there was a whole group of two or three American families with their kids, singing Christmas carols to us and giving us some goodies such as homemade cookies. They were American military personnel that were - - stationed in the Philippines. And at that time ofthe morning, here they were singing Christmas carols to us and serving us cookies and beverages. All their goodies went - along with us in our way to Vietnam. - So, we got into the C-130, "BIG TANKER" as I called it. It was a huge, huge Army airplane or an Air Force plane with all the seats on their sides and Army equipment in the - middle ofit. It had a ramp in the back for us to get in and so did their equipment that was - going with us. As we were getting in the "Big Tanker," we kept effusively waving to those wonderful families and their young kids, who came so early in the morning to greet - us and give us some Christmas cheers. We were so grateful to them for their thoughtfulness and kindness. May God bless them always! So, we were all in the "Tanker" plane, finally. I was the only woman soldier in the plane out of75 or so soldiers that were in the plane. One of them sitting right next to me was so concerned and looked very worried. He had just gotten married and he said to me, "You know, this is my wedding band" and he wanted some reassurance from me when he said, "Do you think I am going to come back to my sweetheart alive, you think?" Imagine we were heading to Vietnam and I just -that was the first time I started getting that "Oh, my God" feeling. And he repeated again, "Do you think I am going to come back alive, wouldn't you think?" I said, "Of course, you're going to come back alive. Certainly!" He said, "Well, I just want to come back home alive so badly. I just got married, you see and I want my marriage to be a very happy adventure for the rest of my life." Would you believe it, I had a picture of this young soldier in the airplane and I kept wondering all the time I was at the 95th Evac, whether or not he could be one of our wounded or dead soldiers that were being brought to us from the combat zone areas. Someoftheseareaswerenearorveryclosetoour 95thEvacHospital. Sincewewerethe first ones to receive the wounded and dead soldiers, we would have seen him first if that would have happened. Also, because of our position in the war, we provided more complicated medical care, surgeries than any other hospital in the area. There were some small hospitals surrounding us like in the 65th Division. But, they were more or less - clinics for immediate care, perhaps, than hospitals. They really were small clinics. So, I kept this young soldier in my mind and every time a "Dust Off' landed in our compound - with wounded and dead soldiers, I kept looking for him to see if he was one of the casualties. But, I never saw him, so I was hoping with all my heart that as time went by, he had gone back home alive to his newlywed wife and his family. When we first arrived in Vietnam we were brought to the 90th Replacement Center, in Long Binh near Saigon, where every soldier went through the processing center before going to our final destination. Well, when I got there, there was a small barrack for nurses, but since I was the only female processing at that time -Christmas time and it was the 25th of December -they had me stay and share a barrack with quite a few soldiers. My cubicle was the very last one in the barracks, with curtains around it and an MP in front of it. The rest of the barrack was bunker and beds (one bed on top of the other) lined up in the sides of the barrack, and that's where the men slept in their shorts. We all went up a hill for a Christmas service. The service was conducted by a Catholic Priest who has made a little altar out of stones he has found around the hill and there was me and a whole bunch of GI ready to celebrate Christmas in a top of a hill in Vietnam. - - As we were sharing the Mass with the Catholic Priest -I still remember so vividly, one of the GIs decided to sing and he sounded just gorgeous! I prayed, "My God, my Dear - Lord (as he started to sing Silent Night that was followed by other Christmas songs) help - us get out of this country alive." Of course, we all start singing with him, including the Priest. We all hugged each other at the end of the Mass. Some of us were in tears. - We went back to the barrack where we all were staying. The CO of the 90th Replacement - Center in Long Binh, a Colonel, decided that I needed to have an MP constantly next to my bunk as a guard "to keep me safe and sound." There was no MP around and not that - many guys to take his place, and so the Colonel decided that he would be the MP. So he came in "ready for duty," and there he was all dressed up with his rifle over his shoulder and really looking like the Commanding Officer that he was. Of course, every time he passed by to do his duty as an MP, the poor GIs in their bunker needed to get up and stand in attention. I am sure they were a little annoyed at that especially since they had to stand at attention in their shorts. It got to be funny when I needed to go to the bathroom since he needed to follow me -it was just a very uncomfortable but very funny situation all around, indeed. We finally went our way to our final destination and finally I made it to the 95th Evac Hospital. A hooch was assigned to me. Being as I was the only AMSC there, and having all the Nurses (ANC's) spread out everywhere, there was at the beginning a problem in assigning me a hooch. I kept wondering what the nurses were thinking about where I would stay. But everything came out fine and we all became good friends. That hooch was my home to come to for a little bit over a year. The reason for my longer stay was .. .. because I also -and I have to say, I had the privilege, to me it was a privilege, that .. during my tour of duty in Vietnam, I was asked to go to Cambodia to see the President of Cambodia, Lon Nol. The reason for that is that while I was stationed at TripIer Army - Medical Center, Hawaii, he was treated there for a severe stroke, by Dr. Dick Matterson .. who was then the Chief of Physical Medicine there and he had written to General Bernstein our CO in Vietnam of all Medical Services, to send me there so that I could - follow up with his treatment program. Dr. Matterson and I had worked hard at TripIer in planning a rehabilitation program for President Lon No!. So, Dr. Matterson wanted me to be the physical therapist to go to Cambodia and follow through with the treatment program we have started for him at TripIer. I have to tell you, at the beginning ofthis trip to Cambodia, the trip was all very secretive. The CO of the 95th Evac told me, "You are going to be out of Vietnam. I hope you have some civilian clothes since you must go in civilian clothes to where you are going." But neither he nor anybody else would tell me where I was going because it was top secret, mind you, it really was top secret. Early in the morning the next day, I went to a landing strip near our hospital to wait for my transportation to Saigon where General Bernstein was going to brief me about my secret mission. There was also another person waiting for transportation to Saigon. She was Colonel Katherine E. Manchester, who was the Chief of all Dietitians in the Army. We had met while we both were stationed together somewhere along the way. Anyway, she has retired but the Army asked her to be the consultant in Vietnam for food and nutrition for the soldiers. She got into a small, very small plane and I got into a helicopter. As she was getting in her plane she said to me, "I know where you are going but I can't tell you where it is. But don't worry it is all going to be OK." The helicopter who took me to Saigon had a gunner, with the door on his side wide open, he was ready to shoot anyone who came closed to the helicopter. The young man, the gunner kept wondering and asking me if I was a journalist. Well, we - landed safely in Saigon. An Army Captain was waiting for me when I arrived. He took - me directly to General Bernstein's offices. General Bernstein was waiting for me. He put me at ease, by being so relaxed and being such a wonderful man, such a very fine - officer. General Bernstein briefed me about my mission to Cambodia to see President - Lon Nol and he told me that my trip there was a secret mission as a security measure. He handed me the medical records of President Lon Nol, and told me I had about one hour to review and take all the information I needed out of them. He added, "You know President Lon Nol already knows what has been done at TripIer to help improve his health. So, my airplane will be taking you to Cambodia to see him." I was taken to a room, doors were closed as I read all I could read that could help me and see how far he has gone in his rehab program since I left TripIer Army Medical Center to come to Vietnam. While I was reviewing all these records, an MP stood at attention, guarding the doors of the room. As I was returning the records to General Bernstein, he told me that President Lon Nol had already been informed about my forthcoming visit. The General's plane landed in Cambodia in the afternoon. When I landed, a limousine was waiting for me and took me directly to the hotel in PHNOM PENN (Capital of Cambodia). The hotel was old but very nicely kept and the room assigned to me was a very lovely room with beautiful antique furniture and baskets of fruits everywhere and even a little of wine - - came with the basket offruit. General Lon Nol had also assigned to me seven secret -service agents from his Army. They all slept outside my room in folding chairs used in - places like a beach.

Kathleen Scott:

Like a hammock?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Not a hammock, no, they are

Kathleen Scott:

Lounge chairs?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes, lounge chairs, with an aluminum type of frame. When I opened the door, they were - all there greeting me with a smile. I tried to speak to them in French since they right away told me they did not know or speak English. So, between a little bit of French and Sign Language, we got along fine. They showed me where I was to go to have breakfast. So, I went down to have breakfast and there were two American men in civilian clothes also having breakfast there, too. I did not bother to ask who they were and I didn't know why they did not introduce themselves. But, I noticed they were always there when I went for breakfast. The third day I finally went to them and I asked, "Do you also stay here?" And then one of them said, "Major Sanchez, we are secret agents and we have been assigned to stay with you while you are in Cambodia. This is Lieutenant Colonel so and so. I am Major so and so ... I don't remember the names at this time. Our duty right now is to protect you. Everything you need, please, tell us, but you need to be quiet about it." And I found out later that there was a lot of communist infiltration in the Lon Nol government and they were afraid that somebody would kill me if they found out the purpose of my visit to Cambodia. Being Communists, they would have liked to see General Lon Nol dead rather than seeing that his health was improving. Our American - - government, represented by the American Ambassador to Cambodia, did not know who these communists that infiltrated the Cambodia government were. This Communist - infiltration was like a terrorist infiltration that could do a lot of harm yet nobody knew - who they were or whether or not they were in fact infiltrating the Lon Nol government. So it was better to stay quiet so that I could do my job and not be exposed to being any - type of target or to being killed. Of course, I was not aware of all these problems. But, - the Lieutenant Colonel explained all ofthat and he said, "So this is why we don't approach you. We will sit here while you have your breakfast. We will be staying in the - hotel as long as you are here." Well, the problem also was that no Americans except for me were allowed in the Palace. Americans were not allowed in the compound area ofthe Palace, either. At that time, I was the only American to be able to enter the palace and its surrounding areas. The Ambassador of the United States in Cambodia got also involved with my visit there. One day, the Colonel came to me and said, "You know, at 2 o'clock in the morning today, we are going to pick you up in the Ambassador's car, we will go to the US Embassy. The Ambassador will be waiting there for you, he needs to talk to you." I said, "Why?" The Colonel answered, "We don't know why." So I went to the Embassy. The Ambassador was waiting for me together with some of his aides. They showed me this big picture of the Cabinet of President Lon No!. As the Ambassador was trying to get me to recognize members of the Lon Nol Cabinet in this big picture, I realized that to me they all looked alike. I could not distinguish their features well enough to identify separately each individual of the Cabinet that was in his bedroom while I was treating .. .. him. .. One ofhis Cabinet members was an MD who had the position similar to our Secretary of .. Health, Education and Welfare. He was the liaison between me and the President. He was a very fine doctor, a wonderful man, and he spoke very good English. He was a .. graduate of a school of medicine in England. He was always there when 1 needed him. - He was the only member ofthe Cabinet that 1 could identify in the Ambassador's big picture. So, the Ambassador asked me to please in my next visit to the Palace to try to pay more attention to the people who were with the President as 1 was treating him. What a job he was giving me! 1 was supposed to treat the President and at the same time keep looking at the people that were around him so that 1 could remember their faces. The Ambassador emphasized to me how important it was for the US government that 1 could recognize these people. So, when 1 went back to the Palace, while treating the President 1did my best in trying to remember the faces of the people. 1remembered the Ambassador telling me how important it was for him to know who they were. He almost sounded desperate when he also told me, "You've got to help us." 1remembered that 1told him, "Excuse me, please, wait a minute. 1 was sent here to treat the President of Cambodia, nobody ever told me that 1 also was going to be a spy." The Ambassador was just very tense and concerned as he told me that 1was the only one who could get this information in as much as 1 was the only American allowed in the Palace. So, he continued and repeating himself again, he said, "This information you could give us, is extremely important for our government." So, 1finally said, "1 will do my best to help you." .. - The people in Lon N01' s Cabinet were very intense in seeing what I was doing. I was .. thinking, "This is all going to be a very difficult task." My fIrst concern and the reason - why I am here is to help the President/the General Lon Nol improve his health as it is feasible. But you know, you see, I'm very religious in my ways. I think now and I - thought then, that God was there with me because somehow or other I was able to just - keep looking and I kept also doing the treatment program with the President and at the same time I kept looking for those faces in his Cabinet, especially those that they showed - to me in the picture at the US Embassy. I returned to the Embassy, the Ambassador and - his aides were eagerly waiting for me. I said, "Okay, let me see the picture again." Oh, yes I kept pin-pointing all the faces of the Cabinet members I have seen; this one, this one, that one, that one, and on and on. I was amazed at how many people I was able to identify. They all stood up, the Ambassador very excited said, "Oh, my God! Communist infIltration is very real now. We have got to start packing and get out of here fast." Then I said, "Wait a minute, you are not leaving me behind. Are you?" He said, "Of course, NOT." Everybody in the Embassy got so excited and tense that they all started getting boxes out of shelves, all trying to get started to leave Cambodia. So, the Ambassador told me that the process of leaving was going to take more than just a week. In the meantime, I went back to Vietnam, took care of business there and came back to Cambodia to see the President, two weeks or so later. At that time, he was ready to start ambulation with the help ofa cane. I must say here, that every time I came back to see the President, I always left a home program of exercise instructions with his doctor and his aides and also showed them how to do them, etc. So, at this time that I came back, his progress was such that I told the doctor (the Secretary of Health) that I needed somehow to get a cane and he said, "Oh sure, we will find you a cane. We'll find it somehow." When I returned (this was third or fourth visit there), the doctor directed me to one of the large rooms in the Palace. President Lon Nol came with me in a wheelchair. As we -came into this room, it was a room full of canes, all ofthem hanging from the ceiling, from one end of the room to the other. The canes came from every nation of the world - including one from the United States. The President has asked his aides to hang all the canes from the ceiling of the room, so that I could easily pick the one that I thought was - the best for him. I began to wonder how could my visits to Cambodia and this project - have been so top secret when all the nation of the world knew, in such a very short period of time, that President Lon Nol needed a cane. The doctor greeted us, with a big smile and said: "Now, here are all the canes, you can choose now." I was so shocked when I saw them, that I just said, "How? What!" He, then, merely said, "Well, we just said to everybody we could think of that our President needed a cane and all of a sudden they were coming from France, from the Philippines, from the United States even from Australia." It was really unbelievable what I was seeing! I have to say also here that even Newsweek magazine had an article about the Presidents illness and how he was improving. That's top secret for you! (Laughs) To continue my story, I said to myself, "Well, dear Lord, you'd better tell me what I am going to do, how could I do this?" An idea came to me and so I asked the President, "Which cane of all these canes, do you like the best?" He said, "Oh they brought them to me one by one." So, I asked again, "Which one do you like best?" He said, "Oh, you know the one I really like the best is the French one." Well, he certainly has chosen a very beautiful, hand carved cane from France. This French cane was not only beautiful but it was mostly a metal cane, which made it a sturdy, lasting cane. I got an aide to help me fit it for him. The President was so excited, so proud of that cane that he couldn't - wait to get out of the wheelchair and start to walk with the use of his cane. After a - discussion with the doctor, I decided to take President Lon Nol to the Palace garden, so that he could start trying to walk on different types of surfaces (for example, soft smooth - surfaces versus cement et cetera). And so we did. Somehow, and still it baffles me. I am still wondering how did the President Lon Nol being brought to the Palace garden spread - so very fast allover Cambodia. But when we brought him to the garden, it seemed like - allofCambodia...the multitude ofpeopleandCambodiansoldierswere standingbehind the gates of the Palace to see and greet their President. Since his illness, they had not seen him for months so for them this was as unexpected surprise and joy. The Cambodian soldiers were holding up their rifles above their heads and with their hands in each of the sides ofthe rifles were waving the rifles up and down and shouting, "AH! AR! ARI" The crowd joined the soldiers and they all started to sing and greet him as well. These people really loved their President very much. In response to such an outward expression of affection by his people, the President got up out of his wheelchair with some help from the doctor and me, stood up straight in front of it, and with his good arm placing his cane above his head, he started waving it in all directions, wanting to be sure he was greeting all that multitude of people waving and chanting to him. This chapter of my tour of duty in Vietnam will never be forgotten. It was an incredible, meaningful day for the Cambodian people and for me, too.

Kathleen Scott:

So, how long did you continue to do this?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

During the year that I was in Vietnam, I came back and forth to Cambodia several times but at this time, I can't remember how many. I really would like to tell you about President Lon Nol. He was one of those people that you met in your life that you'll never - forget. He was a Buddhist. He had an incredible, tremendous faith in a Higher Power and his faith was so deep within him that he knew he was going to get better and go on - with his life as President of Cambodia. And, my golly, Kate, you know, that even though - he had such a severe stroke, he really did very well and he even did some things that most people with the same severe stroke as he had could not possibly do. I really believe that the incredible great character and the faith, the spiritual faith, so deeply embedded in him, accelerated his improvement in his overall health and in his functional abilities. One other thing he did was that he also brought to the Palace a Chinese doctor, who came directly from China to do acupuncture treatments. The Chinese doctor and the President felt that with acupuncture and physical therapy treatments administered together that the President would improve even faster. And so, the next time I came to treat him, the Chinese doctor was waiting for me, so that he could do his acupuncture treatments in conjunction with the therapeutic exercise regime I was using on the President. I was really fascinated with all that was happening. I knew about acupuncture but I had not seen it done so close and even more so combining it with physical therapy treatments. And so, as you can imagine, the experience I had was an incredible experience. The last time I went there, General Bernstein, our CO in Vietnam, came with me. He wanted to see the President's progress and to see in general how things were doing in Cambodia. Upon arrival, they gave us a very beautiful, wonderful dinner at the Palace. The wine was just superb! I asked General Bernstein if he recognized the wine and he said, "1 do but don't even think about buying it." This wine has been in wine cellars ofthe Palace for quite a long time. Well, the experience ofthat dinner was very unique and very - delightful, anyway.

Kathleen Scott:

It is unbelievable. It is really hard to believe that you were in those places at those times. Let's go back to Vietnam and tell me a little bit more. Why don't you tell me about the _ pictures, tell me about the good times, the camaraderie. What about your interaction with - you 95th Evac Hospital unit members and colleagues? ANS; Well, the first thing, I would like to tell you is that we did have good comradeship at the 95th Evac Hospital. Wait a moment now, I would like to ask you a question without being on camera or recorded?

Kathleen Scott:

Ok, 1 also need to check to see ifwe need more tape. It's OKAY NOW. Would you like us to continue with the interview?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes

Kathleen Scott:

Go on...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, let me tell you, one positive outcome of this Black Power Movement in Vietnam. I want to bring this to light because it is connected to what 1am going to tell you now. In the 95th Evac we also treated American civilians...most of whom were members of an American organization called CORDS dedicated to improve the quality of life and farming production in rural southern Vietnam. Farming was the main occupation of the South Vietnamese, at least in the areas around Da Nang, and CORDS, among other things, was trying to help the Vietnamese to learn new innovations in farming to improve their productivity and labor.

Kathleen Scott:

Hang on moment please. I am sorry, need to check the recording...go on now.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, one of the members of CORDS felt deeply in love with a Vietnamese lady. I remembered that he always brought her to the social gatherings that CORDS sometimes - shared with us. He really loved her and unfortunately one day when he went to visit her, - she was in bed with a Vietnamese man. He was so upset that he shot and killed the man with a gun he was carrying with him and then turned the gun around and shot himself in - the head but instead ofkilling himself, he became blind. He also had hurt his arm. He - was brought to the 95th Evac. He was sent to the physical therapy clinic for treatments. I was so glad that some years passed, I had worked as a physical therapist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois, which at that time was the Blind Rehabilitation Center for Veterans in the U. S. There I worked with blind patients and learned the "cane technique" in blind patients rehabilitation. Now, here I was at the 95th Evac hospital in Vietnam trying to see how I could teach this man the same "cane technique" that I learned there. His injured arm healed well, and now I needed to find a cane for him to finish the rehabilitation goals I had set for him. So, I started to spread the world to everybody at the 95th Evac that I needed to find a cane to help our American civilian patient. Well, in came this Black soldier with his "Black Power" cane. He actually had carved a piece of wood and had made it a cane with the - - - handle of it looking like what was already known around the 95th Evac compound as the -"Black Power Hand!" With black inks, he had sketched the fingers of this "Black Power Hand" on the handle of the cane. He came to the Physical Therapy Clinic, came to me and he said, "Do you think this could help?" I noticed that the cane was kind of wider in - one side more than in the other but nevertheless, I said, "Yes, it certainly could help. Do you mind if! give it a try and ifit works, it would be great but with one problem that if it - does work for him, he will need to use the cane permanently and then you'll have to give - it up." Right away, he said, "Oh, that's fine. No, no problem with me!" -So, I gave the hand-carved "Black Power" cane to the white, blind patient and started to teach him the "cane technique" for the blind. As he got the cane, he felt, of course, that - there was something different about it and he said, "Isn't that funny, this cane has a -handle with a hand making a fist." I said, "Well it's a handle, just hold on to it," and I went on teaching him the "cane technique." He got so good at it that he started walking with it everywhere around the 95th Evac Hospital area and felt very good about his newly acquired independence. He really was very grateful. So, finally one day I said to him, "You know I think we need to thank the person who gave me that cane for you to use." Then, he started to rub the handle ofthe cane and he said, "You know something, Major Sanchez, is he a black man?" I answered, "Yes, he is, and he made that cane." He said then, "Oh, my God" and started to giggle and said, "Oh, it is all about that 'Black Power' thing." And I said, "Yeah," and he then said, "I'd love to meet him." Well, would you believe, that they met, they hugged each other, and became the best offriends. They went everywhere together. The black man would take him with his cane everywhere he could go. The black man built for himself another cane. He would come to the Physical Therapy Clinic and would wait for the white man to finish his rehabilitation program and then they would go for a long walk around the compound area of the 95th Evac. They really became very close friends. This was one time that the "Black Power Movement" - - was of great help to a white, blind man and it also brought about a friendship of two men that lasted for a long, long time.

Kathleen Scott:

Brought people together. Hmm!

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

It is a great feeling to be able to help rehabilitate someone and get such beautiful results.

Kathleen Scott:

Well, while we're talking about this issue let me read this to you. This is an excerpt from you letter of January of 1970. I want you to elaborate a little bit on this statement you - wrote because I think that few people recognize that the Black Power Movement was so strong in Vietnam. You wrote in a letter, "I'm glad. I'm carrying a knife around here. It's a good exercise to carry a weapon. After all, with this 'Black Power Movement' going on around here, this is a very serious problem. Who knows ifI'll have to use it?" What happened to make you so aware of this movement. .. could you comment a little bit more...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes, I think we were in Vietnam at the time that black people were trying to show people that they were human beings and that they really deserved better treatment, if that is the way one could say it, and it was a time that Vietnam was just a perfect place where they could just be themselves and show this "Black Power." Better than saying a perfect place, Vietnam was an opportunity for a reform. It was an opportunity for them to come out into the news and said, "Here we are to show you what we mean by 'Black Power.' - - These young, black soldiers were determined to show the world that they were just as - good as white people but they did it in a very negative way in Vietnam. They really went the wrong way to show that they were also part of society. But they went the wrong way - in Vietnam to show that. Everything they did with this so called "Black Power" in Vietnam was, in fact, against the very society they wanted to be a part of. As soldiers, many times they went against all the ethics ofmilitary law and order and military - discipline, including refusing to properly wear their military uniform. They also greeted - each other with a series of hand shakes and verbal rituals, unique only to them. - When one of the Commanding Generals came to visit us, they did not even have the courtesy to treat the General with respect. Due to the circumstances we were in, the - General chose to ignore them. Together with all this "Black Power Movement" problems, we continued to receive 65-75 wounded and dead soldiers a day. They were brought in, in all types of helicopters. One of our nurses described the arrival of these helicopters, "like locusts coming down the hill." Therefore, we could not be worried about this "Black Power Movement," trying to show who they were when there were extremely more important things to do and attend to and the General recognizing this, did a tremendous job in ignoring their asocial, unscrupulous, disorderly actions, and behavior. I think that was the era of the birth ofthe "Black Power Movement." It was also the time when Martin Luther King, Jr. was being recognized as a civil rights leader. I also would like to say that the Command Sergeant Major ofthe 95th Evac Hospital, at the time that I was there, Command Sergeant Major Charles Harris, a very fine great soldier was instrumental in dealing with the "Black Power Movement" and in promoting better relationships between the black and white soldiers.

Kathleen Scott:

Did you witness any celebrity visits?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Oh, yes!

Kathleen Scott:

Tell me about those. --

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, fIrst I would like to say that I was one of those soldiers that loved, I mean I enjoyed thoroughly the Bob Hope show. At the time that we were processing at the 90th Replacement Center in Long Binh, Vietnam, waiting for our permanent assignments, he - gave us a beautiful, wonderful, great show. Phyllis Diller, the known comedian and other - actresses and actors that I cannot remember their names now, were part of the show. I just loved the show! One ofthe Army Units gave Phyllis Diller an honorary title of a Colonel. Of course Bob Hope himself was a great showman. We all loved him. The show was really a very nice uplift of spirit for all of us.

Kathleen Scott:

Obviously, you really enjoyed the Bob Hope show.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

One that I will never forget, it was that great! When I fInally reached my fInal destination at the 95th Evac Hospital, Da Nang, Vietnam, a Filipino orchestra from the Philippine Islands used to come and entertain us at the 95th Evac. They came to our so called "OffIcers Club," and we would dance the night away. The Filipino orchestra would bring with them, very lovely looking ladies. The ladies that were there, the nurses and I, kept wondering, "Why don't they bring also good looking men for us ladies to enjoy?" One of our 95th Evac guys who was hearing us discussing this matter, turned around and asked us, "Don't you think we are good looking? How many men you want to see? Look at me! Why don't you date me?" On return, we would say, "Well, how about us? All these ladies on the stage are pretty, Ok, but don't you think we are pretty, too?" (and we laughed) - Anyway, would you believe that right after our "Social Hour," there came a "Dust Off." -This meant that the wounded and the dead soldiers were being brought to the 95th Evac Hospital by Army helicopters from the Combat Zone areas to the "Triage" area ofthe - hospital. The Filipino orchestra was directed by our military personnel to run out for -shelter. After "Dust Off" operations, there was always a possibility of a North Vietnamese air strike in the area. This "Dust Off' that just arrived in our compound, - came out to be one of the most tragic, horrendous ones ofthe war since my arrival at the - 95th Evac. Just to give you an idea of some of the scenes that 1 saw at the Triage area after this "Dust Off" had delivered to us all the wounded and dead soldiers...here was a young soldier, lying on a stretcher near the Red Zone area of the Triage room, his stomach split opened, obviously he has lost a tremendous amount of blood and yet with all of that and everything else that was happening to him, he still was conscious. A very young Lieutenant Nurse, who came to Vietnam right out of basic training, was a member of the Triage team. She went directly to this very seriously wounded young man and when he saw her (I was there when this was happening), he said to her, "Oh my God, 1 am in heaven. Are you my angel?" And she answered, "I am Lieutenant so and so (forgot her name)" and then she held his hand and kissed it and then she held, almost hugging, his head and at that moment almost with excitement he said, "Oh, God, 1 am doing OKAY, dear Lord" and he died in her arms. She began to cry, and cried and cried. One ofthe wonderful ChiefNurses in charge ofthe Triage, Captain Beth Tate, came to the Lieutenant trying to comfort her. Beth was a very extraordinary nurse and extraordinarily heroic. The Lieutenant and Captain Tate ended up comforting each other while these horrendous moments were happening. I felt so bad for the Lieutenant and - - Captain Tate, but especially so, for the Lieutenant who was sent here to these very horrible scenarios ofhuman tragedy, so young and still with little experience as an Army Nurse. Nevertheless, there she was working very hard in Triage, putting out all her - energy, physical stamina, her very best, saving lives and comforting the dying, trying to -ease up their pains the best she could. The nurses in our 95th Evac Hospital and the doctors were the most incredible human beings anyone could see and meet in a combat/war situation like this one. It was just awesome what they did trying to save lives day after days and nights after nights. When the Triage area was extremely busy, I would go there to try to help where I could and provide support to the nurses so that they could be more free to help those soldiers that could have a chance for survival, prepare them for surgery or do other emergency nursing procedures needed to save them. The nurses also taught me how to give shots of morphine to the dying soldiers that were in extreme pain. With a group of paramedics assigned to me, we would have the task to sort out bodies of dead soldiers that could come in plastic black bags and put them together, with heads, limbs of the same skin colors. Most of these dead bodies would come without name tags -as their limbs or heads were blown out so did their name tags. We only had one pathologist in our area. Could you imagine, the incredible task he had to try to identify these bodies. I felt that at least we were helping him by putting skin colors together. I'm sorry... (Start to cry)

Kathleen Scott:

Please, please No. Please, don't be sorry

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I'm sorry (crying)

Kathleen Scott:

No, it's OKAY.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

No,I'llgetoverthis. Igetoverthis...I'llgetoverit. I'msorryifyou,please,just tum - off the videos the recording.

Kathleen Scott:

I can tum it off. Would you like me too?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes, please, because I don't like to be seen or heard like this. (Break in Audio)

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

(Recording resumed) I can see now that I need to have to hold back so I don't cry. -I want to tell you another example of some of the incredible things these doctors and nurses did in the 95th Evac. We had a Japanese-American neurosurgeon, Dr. Tanabe. He and Captain Beth Tate, one of our chief nurses at the Triage Unit and me watching all of it, got a South Vietnamese soldier with his brain out of his head and his eyes plunged backwards. Dr. Tanabe quietly and very calmly kneeling in the sands of "China Beach" (the 95th Evac area was next to the sea) and holding with his hands the brains and head of this Vietnamese soldier, he said to Beth, "Beth, go and get me some 3 inch bandages and any type of solution you could bring me to clean this soldiers brain and face." She came back fast with the requested items. Then he told her, "Let'sjust start cleaning out this man." Between the two of them, they were able to bring his eyes back to their normal positions .. .. and then with the help of Beth, Dr. Tanabe, with such incredible ability and dexterity .. after cleaning the sand and even small piece of shells offthe brain ofthe soldier, he shoved the brain right back into his head and said to Beth, "Let's do it fast, and take him - to surgery right away." They did, and unbelievable as it may seem, the Vietnamese - soldier survived. Then, it was my turn to rehabilitate him. He did very well with his -rehabilitation program. He was able to walk with a cane. He was discharged from our hospital and sent to a Vietnamese hospital to continue his recovery. Later on, he was a - great help to me when I went to that Vietnamese Military Hospital to evaluate and treat -patients there. He was my translator and helped me to translate exercise programs from English to Vietnamese so that the patients could follow up with the exercise programs, - with his help when I was not there. This is what I call a very successful story of war and glory, commitment and caring. Dr. Tanabe got very ill but nevertheless he continued to do surgery until one day he just could not make it anymore. Somebody told me that he almost fainted in the surgical room area. The orthopedic surgeons (we had two of them) came to his rescue and helped him finished the surgeries. It is very hard for me to describe here, the incredible work, the "miracles" that our doctors did at the 95th Evac Hospital, saving and sustaining lives. It was really beyond belief what they did! I am sure it happens in every battlefield, it happens in every war that we go beyond what we think is our potential and do our very best to save lives. It is almost like we have a super human power, a superhuman spirit to do whatever it takes and without hesitation to save and sustain lives. One of our Army Generals, I think it was General [Douglas} MacArthur, put it this way: - - "In the battlefield and all, the human being goes beyond the human spirit and you - do your very best because the very best of you is there when the need arises." - These words, describe in general our medical team of the 95th Evac Hospital, including nurses, doctors, corpsmen and me. All of us did the utmost to save and improve lives. - For that we should forever be proud of what we did.

Kathleen Scott:

Did they treat you with equal respect as a physical therapist?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Oh, yes very much so. First of all, I am very proud to say that all the PTs in our Army - Medical Specialist Corps (AMSC) were very well trained for the job at hand, so we - deserved respect. Under any circumstances presented to us we did well, what needed to be done. As for me, since I was the first physical therapist of our corps to be assigned to an evac hospital near combat zone areas. The experience of establishing a physical therapy clinic in an evac hospital was an incredible, unforgettable, unique experience that I will never forget. I appreciate very much not only the respect of my position in the 95th Evac Hospital but also all the help I received in establishing the clinic especially from our wonderful Marines and the Vietnamese. I must say that when the physical therapy clinic was finally established, it came out to be a very nice clinic. The Quonset hut where our "PX" use to be, became the P.T. Clinic of the 95th Evac Hospital, Da Nang, Vietnam.

Kathleen Scott:

I'm going to read this to you. This is from a letter you wrote in January of 1970. I want to jog your memory. You said, "First of all, being the first one assigned here there's no place for a P.T. clinic. As things are right now there's not a way to do so. I wish you could have seen what I used for an office. My whirlpool is in a latrine and somebody forgot to clean it some months ago to top it all off. They also have lost the key to the ~ .. .. door. So the door has been locked and nobody knew for how long!" So, it sounds like .. .. you had made your own operation?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Oh my God, yes. I started that way and since there was no key to open the door to this area where I was trying to work and where my "office" was, I used a knife to open it. I .. carried the knife with me in one of my pockets all the time. Now, I need to insert some of my religious beliefs here .. .I really believe that you need, in the circumstances that I - was in, to believe that there is a power beyond us human beings, that you need to ask that - Power whatever you want to call it, for me it is God, to please come down and help you, -because you get to a point where you wonder ifyou are going to make it. I kept praying and saying, "My God, this is an impossible situation. I wish I would know what is going - to happened next. I can't do it! Please dear Lord, help me." In my mind, I could see all the dire needs to get the physical therapy treatment programs started. In short, I could see the dire need to open a physical therapy clinic, other than what I was already doing: seeing patients in the wards or in the cubicles where they had been placed after being seen in "Triage." For a while it was an incredible "push" and "shove," one might say, to try to establish the P.T. Clinic. But finally, with God's help, this whole ordeal became a very successful story and the Physical Therapy Clinic was finally established. Thanks to God and the help I received from the people at the 95th Evac and from elsewhere.

Kathleen Scott:

So tell me, in your opinion, what was the most popular or most common injury that you treated?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

The most popular -I don't think neither do I want to call it popular. I don't think is possible to call it that way. ...

Kathleen Scott:

Yes, most frequent, I guess...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

The most frequent, yes, because of course, none of them were not "popular." We had a .. lot ofbrain injuries, we had tremendous amount of amputations, limbs gone, horrible infections, the amputees were of all kinds: below the knee, a lot of them above the knee, - bilateral amputations, both legs and arms gone. A good example ofthese amputations is - our now Senator Max Cleland from the state of Georgia, who lost both of his lower extremities and one ofhis upper extremities in Vietnam. - We also had quite a lot of injuries other than amputations and brain injuries. We also had - spinal cord injuries, and many other types orthopedic cases such as fractures and dislocations and also very many soft tissues injuries as well. We also had quite a few neurological and neurosurgical patients as well, other than the spinal cord injuries and brain injuries. To better explain to you what we did at the 95th Evac Hospital with all these wounded soldiers, with different types of injuries, I would like to tell you a story that happened to me during the inauguration ofthe Vietnam Women's Memorial, here in Washington, D.C. All of us who have been in Vietnam and were there for the inauguration were divided in Units, representing each of the Units that we had served in Vietnam. We marched on Constitution Avenue to the Memorial. I was really so very happy to see some ofthe nurses that I had worked with at the 95th Evac in Vietnam. Marching with my "old buddies" and co-workers of the 95th Evac along the path of Constitution Avenue to the Vietnam Women's Memorial was just a great, wonderful, very meaningful experience for me. Do you remember when I told you about this very lovely, lieutenant nurse, who worked at the Triage Area of the 95th Evac, and when a very ... ... ... seriously injured soldier saw her, he said: "Oh God, 1 am with an Angel, etc." Well, this lieutenant nurse was now marching with me side by side in this parade. She is now ... ... happily married with grown-up children. For all of us it really felt so good marching together to the inauguration ofthis beautiful Vietnam Women's Memorial. As we kept on marching, here came this guy in crutches. He wanted to march with us, his sister was - with him and she also came along marching with us, too. They were allowed to march - with us all the way to the Memorial. As we were marching, he turned to me and he said, "I don't think you could remember me, but listen Major Sanchez or is it Colonel Sanchez, - you must remember me. You see, 1 almost lost my foot in Vietnam but as you can see, 1 - still have it. 1 am now using crutches because this is a long march but 1 can walk without crutches, too. 1 am so grateful to you first and the orthopedic surgeons and the nurses in Vietnam that saved my horrible looking foot and ankle. Remember how they held my leg while you cleaned it? Remember? It was a very awful experience for me, it was such a painful experience, but here 1 am. 1 didn't lose my leg or foot. Part of my foot and ankle is artificial now, 1 cannot move it that well but it is still functional for me." I said, "I understand" and then he said, "I needed to march with you because you and the nurses, 1 am seeing now here all of you saved my life." Then his sister told us something that touched my heart. She said to us, "I want all of you to know this, my mother, ever since my brother came back from the Vietnam War, everyday of her life since then, exactly at noontime, she prays for all of you wishing you and hoping that you have a happy life." Can you imagine that? 1 guess, one could never know how much, one could have influenced in such a positive way somebody's life. It is hard to believe, unless you have .. - a chance, like we did, to meet them again. As I was going through this experience, all of - a sudden, as we were passing by Constitution Avenue, here is another guy sitting in a - wheelchair at the edge of a sidewalk and when he saw me he started calling me out loud, "Major Sanchez! Major Sanchez! Please come here, come on here." I went. He was a - bilateral lower extremities amputee. As I approached him, he said, "I won, I came! I live - in California and I came hoping that I would see you for heaven's sake." He continued to say, "You see me -you remember me right?" Of course, I needed and I wanted to say, - "Yes, I do." He then said, "You remember how it was? I was so infected. It was - horrible. I smelled awful, didn't 1." I then said, "Well, yeah, but WOW! Look at you, looking so good." Then he continued to say, "And I have now my prostheses and I also have a van given to me by the VA and they also have trained me in how to walk with my prostheses but you know, I sometimes prefer to sit in my wheelchair even though I can walk with my prosthesis with the use of crutches and sometimes I can walk with my prostheses without using the crutches if! am not too tired. But at times, like today or when I get too tired, I like to use my wheelchair. Considering my injuries, I owe all this progress of my life to you. You saved my life. Oh my God.. .I cannot believe it is you." There he was sitting in this wheelchair, watching us, like everybody else was doing along the edges of Constitution Avenue, so many years after the war. It is very hard, Kate, to try to explain in words how one really felt in moments like these. What a wonderful feeling it is, to have seen these wounded veterans in the worst possible circumstances in Vietnam and then see them now, many years later, how well they are doing within their own individual circumstances! God bless them! Well, this is the end of my story. So there...

Kathleen Scott:

Before really talking to you, I didn't realize how important psychology was to physical therapy. Tell me how you handled the emotion. How did you cope? What did you tell the soldiers to just make them keep working on their rehabilitation? Was there a secret for that?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I think that the secret for that is what you do in all health care settings, in any place that you go and treat people, no matter where that place could be. My own secret, as you - might say, my own experience and philosophy is to remember always that you are - treating a human being, an individual who happened to have an ailment or injury, who needs your help as a physical therapist and that individual is different and may react - differently from another person that you are also treating with the same condition. This other individual may react differently under the same circumstances. The uniqueness of a human being as an individual is of utmost importance for the physical therapist to recognize, ifyou want your rehabilitation program to succeed. With that in mind, you need to show them first that you really care about them and their well-being. That you really want them to feel the hope and faith of knowing that there is a better life coming. You need to show empathy, understanding of their concern and anxieties. You show them all of that in the way you treat them, in the way you talk to them, in your approach in their treatment program. You need to talk to them about what they are hoping for and in the case ofthe wounded soldier in Vietnam, as an example, you might want to talk to them, depending upon their circumstances about what they would like to do in the future ...or, what their plans might be when they go back home to their loved ones. To me, this kind of approach gets them more enthusiastic about their rehabilitation treatment program and as a result, it also brings about the utmost success in fulfilling the goals you have set for them in their treatment program. - What I am telling you here, is what I have also told the physical therapist students that I - -have come in contact with throughout the years. It is not just the physical therapy technology that you use in each individual case. It is also that no matter where you are treating them whether in a hospital, in home health care or in the military, in the field -treating a wounded soldier, no matter what the circumstances are, you must also keep in mind that he or she is a human being with the same hopes, concerns and feelings, the - same needs of understanding and love that you also have. In other words, treat the - patient as a whole being and your rehabilitation treatment program will be more successful. I have followed this type of approach to patient care ever since I graduated from physical therapy school and I am convinced that it really works. Part of this approach I owe to my parents who believed very much in "connecting" with people before you did anything else related to them. Even if I am now retired from the military, I am still working as a physical therapist (PT) and my approach to patient care has not changed.

Kathleen Scott:

On a practical level, you wrote lots of letters but what else did you do to keep yourself sane? ANS; The first thing is that we need each other regardless of the situation, as in this case (being in Vietnam), even more so. For instance, I met an Air Force pilot that was extremely lonely and depressed and who could blame him for feeling that way there? Well, we got to talking about the Air Force pilots in the war, about what he did as a pilot of aircrafts in the war. He came out to be one ofthose pilots that brought the wounded and dead soldiers to the 95th Evac. We called his operation doing that: "Dust Off." He and I - became very good friends. We would go together to social activities as they came around .. .. and we were able to go. We danced a lot (I love to dance) and enjoyed ourselves during those occasions very much. Believe me, it was not a matter of sex, it was a matter of enjoying each other's company when we needed it the most and just being good friends. .. And that was a great help for both of us to keep ourselves sane. The other thing to keep our sanity was that CORDS, the American civilian organization, - that was sent to Da Nang, to help the Vietnamese cultivate their land and improve their - farming techniques and abilities, had a lot of parties, parties that they were kind enough to invite us, the military, to join them in the center of the city ofDa Nang. Sometimes, depending upon how things were doing at the 95th Evac and how safe it could be to go to the city ofDa Nang, we were able then to go to their parties. Other times we just could not go, we were confined to the Evac hospital because we were expecting a North Vietnamese attack and as a result were on "Red Alert" or on a heightened concern of a NorthVietnameseattack...whichputuson"YellowAlert." Because ofthesealarms,we had to go to the bunkers. However, when we got to go to these parties, we really had a ball. It was a lot of fun. Then, there was a madam, Vietnamese madam. This lady had a home with lots of trees around it. It was a very lovely home in the middle of nowhere in Da Nang. My God, with all this war going on and all the horrible things that were happening, there she was ... living like a princess in this lovely home. She looked very lovely...she was dressed in a .. .. beautiful, colorful Vietnamese traditional dress ("Ao dai.") These long dresses were really beautiful. Then, dressed in such lovely dresses, she would invite us to social gatherings at her home. She treated us royally. There was lots of good food and music. .. - We kept asking ourselves, "Where did this lady get such great food and dresses, where did she get all her stuff?" Nobody knew, and we were not to ask any questions. We just enjoyed in her house the biggest parties you ever could imagine and every time she had - one, for some reason or other, we were always able to go. Hmm! And so Madam -she - had a name -Madam something or other (laughs), entertained us very well. I should thank her forever for so much fun and for lifting our morale. But, I am not so sure that all of these things need to be told.

Kathleen Scott:

Would you like to shut the video off? I can turn this off...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Please turn it off. (Break in Audio)

Kathleen Scott:

Maybe if you could do a little summary ofthat, what you fIrst explained?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, I hope I don't get into trouble with what I am saying.

Kathleen Scott:

You can't get into trouble, Nancy.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I appreciate it. Well, I also judge you will understand and you will also be kind enough to know, after discussing all these matters with other colleagues of yours, whether or not this should be publicized. But, I mean 1'd like to see it publicized ifit is okay to do so. But, let me tell you what it is. The realistic aspect of life here is that as I was coming from Cambodia, Marine troops were being wounded in Laos. The 95th Evac Hospital was packed with wounded - - Marines, and a lot ofthem were coming from Laos. - While I was in Cambodia, I was very glad, almost ecstatic that I was able to purchase a - small, portable Panasonic radio. I was really so very glad because now I would be able to listen to the "Voice of America" on my little Panasonic radio in my hooch at the 95th - Evac. After I returned to the 95th Evac from Cambodia, the first thing I did, was to turn - my little radio on and listen to the outside world news being brought to us through the "Voice of America" and the first thing I heard was President Richard Nixon, our - Commanding Officer, President of the United States, telling the American people, "You - can rest assured that we do not have any American troops in Laos." I will never forget that. You could imagine how I felt... I was just coming back from that area, there were in our 95th Evac Hospital many critically wounded Marines that were en route to our compound from Laos and here was our Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States, denying their existence and mine too, as I was coming back to the compound, also from that area. For me, it was so disheartening, so frustrating, so discouraging, so very sad to hear President Nixon saying such awful lies to the American people that I got so disgusted that I threw my little radio so hard on the wooden floor of my hooch that it was broken into pieces. So, I also lost my little radio that I felt so happy and so lucky to have been able to get it while I was in Cambodia. So, in short, I was the one who lost because I no longer had my radio!

Kathleen Scott:

I don't blame you. I don't blame you.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

So, what I wondered ever since is why President Nixon gave such a false statement to the American people? I will remember that forever. I really felt that our President, our Commander-in-Chiefwas denying our existence. I still see in my mind those great heroes, those wounded Marines being evacuated to our compound from Laos, while at the same time our President, Commander-in-Chiefthrough the "Voice of America" was telling us and to all the American people that there were no American troops in Laos. It - - was such a disgrace. But you know, I have to add something else here, when you asked the Marines as to whether or not they were fighting in Laos, they denied it. Some ofthe wounded Marines also told me that they have been told not to say that they have been - fighting in Laos. So every time you asked a Marine that question, he would say, "Oh no, I was not fighting in Laos, no we didn't get in there." Then, I would say, "Come on, I - was in that area myself coming back from Cambodia and I also sawall of you being air- - lifted to our compound from Laos." Then, the Marine would say, "Look here, Major Sanchez, you see there is this little lake (actually a river), in here between Vietnam and Laos. How were we to know, whether or not we were fighting in Laos or in Vietnam?" Well, that's the way the Marine put it. Then, he added, "We just kept fighting and ifwe moved over there and were in fact fighting in Laos, we just didn't know it. That river over there, surely got us into a lot of trouble all the time." I later found out that it has been mentioned that the troops had to sign a paper that stated that they were not fighting or ever fought in Laos. Whether or not the paper actually existed, I don't know. What really seemed to have happened is that there was not a "declared war" in Laos and therefore they ended up having to lie about the horrible whole situation there to avoid international criticism.

Kathleen Scott:

This might perhaps be the most difficult question for you and that is do you have a most memorable patient, someone who you remember today and that you think about? You have had a lot of people corning and going through your life with this experience but is there one in particular that you remember and still think of?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

You know, it is very interesting you ask this question. First of all, I have mentioned previously during this interview examples of different Vietnam War veterans that I -personally have met again since the war was over. For example, the two Vietnam War - - Veterans that I met during our marching parade through Constitution Avenue to the Vietnam Women's Memorial, the day ofinauguration in November 11 th 1993. I also remembered just recently that I went to a Piggly Wiggly Supermarket, their meat section in Waynesboro, Georgia, and the man who was about to cut for me the meat that I had ordered, looked at me and then started to wiggle, move up and down, his right hand bringing his fingers also up and down and making a fist with them. While doing all these hand and finger motions, he said to me, "Look here, Major Sanchez, if it wasn't for you and what you did in Vietnam to help me keep my right hand and my fingers, I wouldn't be here cutting this meat for you. I am just forever grateful to you and everybody in the 95th Evac in Vietnam. Without you what would I have done? Thank you very much, I will never forget all ofyou." You could imagine how I felt listening to him. I almost cried. I felt a feeling of deep gratitude to God for helping this man corne through that war alive. I felt a great pride and personal satisfaction and reward that I was able to help him. So, I cannot say I had a memorable patient because there were very many of them that were memorable and special. In the worst possible situation the human spirit comes alive. It is the human spirit that especially showed with the wounded. They were so incredibly poised. There was a beauty and a peace about how they accepted their fate. For me, it was not just one soldier. It was a matter of each and every patient that I treated. I saw many amputees, many brain injuries, many spinal cord injuries and many less traumatic injuries such as soft tissue injuries. I shall always remember the incredible spirit they showed during - such a horrendous time. The experience that I had with all ofthese soldiers will never be forgotten...

Kathleen Scott:

Okay, I've heard of Diane M Lindsey, who restrained - she was the Army Nurse at the - 95th Evac that restrained the crazy patient that pulled the pin out of a grenade. She was, I

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

think, the first African-American woman to earn a very special medal. .. To earn, if she was wounded, the Purple Heart?

Kathleen Scott:

It was not a Purple Heart but it was a very prestigious medal and my question is at any point while you were there did the 95th Evac sustain bombing raids or combat injuries? Did anyone you know that you worked with sustain combat related injuries?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

We did have bombing (rockets) raids -Red Alerts -many times. Those times we all had to go to our assigned bunkers but I do not recall anyone of our personnel of the 95th Evac sustaining combat and rocket raids injuries when I was there. However, there was a 95th Evac nurse that sustained combat related injuries and died as a result of them. Her name is in the Vietnam War Memorial, Washington, D.C. I never met her. I was not there when this happened.

Kathleen Scott:

I have some photos that beg this question, how did it feel to work with the Vietnamese children? We haven't talked about that process. ...

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

I was hoping we would. There was a civilian American Physical Therapist at the Da Nang Rehabilitation Center. She came to work there with the Vietnam Christian Service. One of them was a physical therapist named Thelma Maw and the other one that came after her, was Doris G. Dove. Doris badly needed help because she came to the center in - the most precarious conditions, when the war has escalated and the casualties continued to increase at a very fast rate. Among the casualties there were very many civilian Vietnamese including children. So, another of my duties as a PT at the 95th Evac was to - go and help Doris, and the other Vietnamese PTs that worked at the rehabilitation center, - whenever it was possible, to treat and work in the rehabilitation of these children, whenever I was able to leave the 95th Evac and come to Da Nang. I also helped the Vietnamese community in general at their civilian and military hospitals as well. I was very grateful and very glad that Doris Dove was at the rehabilitation center in Da Nang. She also shared with me and helped me in the treatments and the rehabilitation programs of the Vietnamese in civilian and military hospitals. We shared our physical therapy experiences in treating these types ofpatients in the Vietnamese hospitals. For me, as well as for her, it was a very rewarding experience in our physical therapy careers. As the patient load continued to increase in the physical therapy clinic at the 95th Evac and after three or four months that the clinic has been opened, another Army physical therapist was sent to the 95th Evac to help in the clinic and to also share with me and Doris Dove the work we were doing at the rehabilitation center and the Vietnamese civilian and military hospitals in the city of Da Nang. I would like to say here that our 95th Evac Hospital was close to the area ofDa Nang but we were out in the field, closer to the combat zone areas and just below the so-called "Monkey Mountain," where an Army communication system was present and where enemy penetration was also a problem and concern. Of course, our work at the rehabilitation center and hospitals in Da Nang depended entirely upon whether or not we were able to leave the 95th Evac area at - any given time, for example, incoming "Dust Offs" arriving with the wounded and dead soldiers, "Red Alert" that let us know of incoming enemy attack or any other dangerous - situations that could occur and how busy we were at our P.T. clinic would keep us away -from DaNang. We always needed our "OK clearance" to leave the compound/post from -our Commanding Officer (CO) of the 95th Evac in order for us to come to Da Nang. The experience as an Army physical therapist working together with the civilian American Physical Therapist, Doris Dove, in the rehabilitation center and hospitals in Da Nang was very rewarding indeed. However, sometimes the situations at these Vietnamese hospitals were very hard to take. There were also children in these hospitals. Some of them had their hands, fingers, feet cut offby rats that would have them as their meal for the day. Since not enough beds were available for these children and there were very many of them, some were lying on the floor. A Vietnamese doctor tried to wrap their injured body parts with whatever was available without success. These were all pathetic, tragic scenes that were very hard to forget and see. The ages ofthese poor children could be from just months old, to one, five, six, seven years old, etc. Doris and I, the Vietnamese PTs, all worked together very hard to help all of these children, and the other Vietnamese casualties and did the very best we could do with all of them under the circumstances presented to us. It was such a great help to be able to talk and discuss - - professional matters with a colleague and share such experiences with her and the - Vietnamese PTs. Kate, in my Vietnamese picture album that you have, shows pictures of - me and the other PTs working with all of these patients in Da Nang. At the rehabilitation center, Doris was also doing a very outstanding job, together with - her Vietnamese colleagues in the treatment and rehabilitation programs of the - Vietnamese children and teenagers that were there. My Army P.T. colleague and I were very glad to lend them a hand whenever we could and our CO was very appreciative and - glad that we were doing that also.

Kathleen Scott:

And this is something that I neglected to ask you, in your letters you mentioned two major problems, drug abuse and the black market.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Yes

Kathleen Scott:

Can you talk to me a little bit, give me some examples or situations?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, the thing about it is that we had Vietnamese helping us keep our hooch and the whole area of our compound clean. We called them "Mamasan" and "Papasan." Well, somehow or another and whether or not these "Mamasan" and "Papasan" were involved, when we needed clean linen that was to be going to the soldiers in charge ofreceiving it and then they were to be distributed to the different areas of the hospital and also to our hooches. But instead, this linen ended up and was sold at the so-called "Black Market" in Da Nang. This was horrendous because then, as you could imagine, we did not have any clean linen for the wounded and for all of us in the compound. This serious problem of the Black Market and the disappearance ofthe hospital linen was an ongoing thing. I tell you, Kate, that war did so many horrible things to us ... There were just so many questions that were left without answers. All I knew was that we had many serious problems other than the war casualties. Stealing was one of the main ones among others. Let me give you another example of these very serious problems that we had to deal with. Some of our GIs started to sell to the Vietnamese helicopter motor oil for them to use to - fry some of their food. Kate, you cannot imagine what happened to the Vietnamese that - used this oil to fry their food. Some of them died. Others did not die but became very seriously ill with neurological involvements that paralyzed them. If they did not become - paralyzed, then they showed symptoms of "functional tremors" in their upper extremities - or lower extremities or both. One of our doctors became so suspicious that he started to investigate the reasons for all of these very serious problems. He found out, not only that these GIs were selling helicopter motor oil to the Vietnamese for money, but also they were exchanging or trading the motor oil with them for heroin and/or any other drug that could be available such as marijuana. Since these Vietnamese had nothing to cook with, they welcomed these trade-ins with open arms. This was a horrible, different type of tragedy that also occurred in and around our 95th Evac compound area.

Kathleen Scott:

Please continue, what happened after all those serious problems?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Well, let me tell you another part of this Vietnam War diary. One time I had to go to the 65th Field Hospital, which was not very far from us. They were closing their small hospital and they let me know that there was some equipment that we might be able to use in our physical therapy clinic. So, Colonel Caulfield, one of our company commanders in our area, his NCOIC, who happened to be from Puerto Rico and I decided to go there and see about the equipment and for other official business the Colonel needed to attend to. Wearing our flak jackets and helmets, the Sergeant drove us there in a jeep. We all were hoping we would not - encounter any enemy fire but we did. As we were crossing a bridge, bullet came right across the jeep and in front of it without damaging the jeep or hitting us. The Sergeant - got us out of the bridge very fast and we finally made it to the area of the 65th Field - Hospital. We stopped in a field area right across a beautiful Vietnamese cathedral that three days later was destroyed by the Viet Congo We were to stay overnight somewhere or just stay in the jeep until dawn. Our concern was that we did not know when the enemy would be throwing rockets at us or whatever else they could think of doing. We saw the equipment and picked some of it out to bring back for our PT clinic and Colonel Caulfield was also able to finish his official business. As we were about to leave the area to go back to the 95th Evac, we saw coming towards us, one of our Army units that was obviously coming back from the battlefields. Some of the soldiers were inside the tanks, we could only see their faces and others were walking in front of the tank with only their camouflage pants on and no shirts. Their unit was coming back from a combat zone area, by the beach, walking in the sand toward us. We got off the jeep to greet them. As we approached them, a young, handsome soldier was walking in front of one of the tanks. He looked very tired but smiled and looked at me and said, "Oh, my goodness, you are the first lady I've ever seen for many long weeks." He then asked me, "When do you DROS," (meaning when do I rotate back to the States, pronounced "de-rose"). I told him that I was almost a new arrival and that I had almost a year to go before I "DROS." Then he said with excitement, "I've only three more days to go and I am out of here. .. - Isn't that great? Isn't that wonderful?" And then he said, "I feel sorry for you," and I - .. said, "You feel sorry for me and I feel very happy for you. It is just great that you are going back to your loved ones." I asked him, "Where are you from?" and he said, "From Arizona." Then, I took his picture. You can see him, Kate, in my Vietnam picture album that you have. I ended the conversation with him by wishing him a great, happy trip - going back home. We went back to the jeep and as we were starting our trip back to the - 95thEvac, all ofasuddenweheardthishorrendous, unbelievableexplosion, likeabomb explosion. The Colonel and the Sergeant recognizing what it was, said to me, "Major Sanchez, get down, get down" and they started to run back towards the beach where the soldiers and their tanks were coming from. They thought enemy fIfe was coming toward us. But they came running toward the combat unit and what they saw was avery, very horrible scene. Each and every one of those wonderful, young soldiers and their company commander that we had just greeted were all killed and some of their bodies were broken in pieces. Their bodies and parts of their bodies were spread all over the beach. Someone had placed land mines along their path, killing all of them. I could not believe that this young handsome soldier whom I just greeted had such a horrible death just minutes after I had greeted him. Colonel Caulfield and the Sergeant came back to the jeep crying. I grabbed them both and placed their heads on each of my shoulders. I hugged them. I was also crying as I hugged them. It was just like we had lost our whole family and friends. Against their wishes, I got off the jeep and started to run to the beach to see for myself what really had happened and the sight that I saw was so horrendous that I almost died myself. The Colonel and the Sergeant kept yelling at me, "Don't go - there! You are going to get killed!" But I didn't even care. I just needed and wanted to - see if that young soldier was really dead. I was thinking, "Perhaps, he might have escaped and he is alive." But what I saw, I will never forget for the rest of my life. His head and torso was on one side of the sand area, and the rest of his extremities were scattered allover the sand, just like the rest of his unit. I ran back to the jeep crying so hard that the Colonel and the Sergeant were doing their best trying to console me. While I was crying, I remember myself praying and saying, "Please, God help me, help us." We returned back to the 95th Evac and the three of us were thinking, "This has got to be - the very worst of the rest of our lives, if we do make it out of here alive."

Kathleen Scott:

I know which photo you are talking about.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

It's in there.

Kathleen Scott:

I saw him, I saw him.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Do you see him in the picture like he was talking? That's the soldier I am talking about. In total, 65 of our soldiers were killed by those land mines. Kate, you will never believe who put those land mines in their path. She was a very pregnant little Vietnamese lady and I believe the North Vietnamese got her to do this a horrible thing. After she put the land mine in the soldiers' path, she broke her right femur, as she was running, trying to escape the explosion of the mines. She was brought to the 95th Evac and we put her in the POW Ward (Prisoner of War Ward). I went there to evaluate and treat her. In that ward, we had a Special Forces Sergeant as a guard who spoke Vietnamese fluently. He was very good helping me as a translator and also as a guard. As I approach to treat her, she grabbed my neck and tried very hard to choke me, as if she wanted to kill me. When she tried to choke me, I was trying to evaluate the condition ofher right, lower extremity that sustained the fracture of the femur. As she was trying to choke me, the Special Forces Sergeant speaking to her in Vietnamese, tried to get her to release her grip off of my neck as I also was trying to get her hands off me. The Sergeant finally gave up and with his knuckles he slapped her so hard, that blood came out of her lips. Being as she was pregnant and being immobile because of the fracture, I just had to stop him. I think that knowing what she had done, - killing our GIs the way she did increased his rage. What he said to me was, "Don't you see Major Sanchez, she was really trying to kill you and then think of what she did to our - GIs. She deserves to die, I don't care about her condition." I said, "Yes, it is horrible and it has also hurt me very deeply and still it does. I don't think I'll ever forget what she did. But please, Sergeant please stop it. I know how you feel. Believe me, it hurts me just as much and perhaps even more since I was a witness to what she did. I was in that area, at that time that, that horrible horrendous incident happened!" So Kate, you know what he did then? He went and sat in his chair and started to cry. He just put his rifle straight up in front of him, put his head on top of it and he just cried and cried almost with despair. I could not describe to you, Kate, how I felt in those moments. This had to be one of the most trying times in my life. I just cried with him. I found a Vietnamese guy who was like an aide in the ward. I got him to explain to her why I needed to treat her and that I really needed her help so that she could get better and feel better. It seemed that the Vietnamese guy did a good job translating because she began to quiet down. With his help, she was cooperating with me and was following 59 through with the treatment program. There was quite a change in her attitude and in the expression of her face. She even smiled at me as I was treating her with the help of the Vietnamese guy. I came to the conclusion that she must have been forced by the Viet Cong to do what she did. So, the conclusion we came to, after dealing this Vietnamese lady, was that nobody really knew who the enemy was or where the enemy could be - hiding. Itwas not just the Viet Congo There were also civilian Vietnamese, like this lady, living in and around our areas that were used by the Viet Cong to do us harm. This - could also include Vietnamese teenagers.

Kathleen Scott:

Now, let me ask you how the physical therapy clinic you have established at the 95th Evac Hospital was coming along?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

By this time, our physical therapy clinic was an integral, important part of the 95th Evac Hospital. We now had two Army physical therapy aides and two Army physical therapists including me. Doris Dove, the American Physical Therapist from the rehabilitation center in Da Nang and civilian Vietnamese would also come and serve as interpreters and help in the clinic whenever possible. The patient load of the clinic had markedly increased. We were not only treating our American military and some of our civilian personnel but also Vietnamese military and civilians, including children, waiting to be transferred to the military and civilian hospitals. We treated the Vietnamese children until they were ready to be transferred to the rehabilitation center in Da Nang. So, that our mission and goals at the 95th Evac Hospital became bigger and bigger...

Kathleen Scott:

Nancy, I am now wondering -do you believe you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

The Veteran Administration, now Department of Veterans Affairs, tried to tell me that I .. might have that. I kept insisting that I did not have PTSD. However, I remembered that .. when I came back from Vietnam, I was traveling on Interstate 20 going from Augusta, Georgia to Atlanta and all of a sudden a helicopter passed right above my car. In that - moment, I became sort of rigid, my feet refused to move. I could not press the - accelerator nor press the brake to stop the car. This reaction did not last too long but it scared me enough to seek help. After returning from Vietnam, I was assigned to Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, at Fort Gordon, Georgia. This Army post is situated in Augusta, Georgia. I was to become the Chief of the Physical Therapy Department at the Medical Center. So, I went and sought help in their Psychiatry Department at the Medical Center. The psychiatrist that I saw was very nice, very understanding. His diagnosis after one visit was, "Look, you really do not have any mental problems, you just came back from Vietnam, and what happened to you while driving on 1-20 was a reaction to the stress of what you went through in Vietnam. I promise you that it will all go away. Just give yourself time to settle down. It all will be over soon, but please come back if you feel you need more help." It was not quite a year since I had returned from Vietnam when, as the psychiatrist told me my mental status and levels of stress and worries got berter. But, some ofthe things that happened in Vietnam while I was there, I just won't be able to forget for the rest of my life. They were too horrible to forget them! Some of these horrid experiences come back to me ever so often especially at night when I am trying to sleep and during the day when I am trying to relax. Because of these Vietnam experiences, it is now very difficult for me to see on television or read in the newspaper all that is happening in the war in Iraq. It is extremely hard for me to see, once again, our soldiers getting killed and wounded there.

Kathleen Scott:

Tell me, maybe this might be a good time to do this. I don't know if there is anything we - should cover that I have not covered. I feel like I am wearing you out.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Dh, no. I like it. It is just that there is so much one could say. I am really very glad that - I wrote those letters. They truly were my "Vietnam Diary." I have to thank Myrna - Brouillard, a good friend, a retired physical therapist, now living in Iowa, for keeping and making an album of the Vietnam letters I sent her. The letters have been of great help to me during this interview with you, Kate. In general, the main reason and the mission of my going to Vietnam was successfully accomplished. That was the establishment of the Physical Therapy Clinic at the 95th Evacuation Hospital. Kate, there are still a lot of things and happenings in my Vietnam experiences that I still can tell you, some of them are funny, others very sad and others are to only be kept in my mind and heart forever. But the purpose of this interview I feel, and I hope you feel the same way too, has been accomplished. Do you mind, Kate, if I add a note to this interview?

Kathleen Scott:

No. Go ahead.

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

After I came back from Vietnam, I was sent to Fort Gordon, in the city of Augusta, Georgia. I was to be the Chief of the Physical Therapy Clinic at this Army base hospital. - As the ChiefP.T., I got the duty and the task ofmoving this Physical Therapy Clinic -from the old barracks type of hospital (it was one of those hospitals that was built in the old Army days) and established the new Physical Therapy Clinic at the new Dwight - David Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon. It took almost six years to - build the new Medical Center and to move the new Physical Therapy Clinic to the Medical Center. - Once the new Eisenhower Medical Center and it's new Physical Therapy Clinic were - established and the inauguration, opening ceremonies were over, I felt it was time for me to retire. So, that Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center (DDEAMC) was my last tour of duty. After one more year of organizing and getting the new Physical Therapy Clinic going, I finally retired and made the city ofAugusta, Georgia, my permanent home. End of Transcript Addendum

Aida Nancy Sanchez:

Kate, after the war was over and some thirty years later, I wonder how we got the "guts," the courage, the stamina, the endurance, the spiritual and physical strength to do all that we did in Vietnam to save lives, to give comfort to those who were dying from their wounds, to count the dead and try to identify them. All of these horrendous things plus all the other horrible things that happened while we were there could bring a person to the point of insanity but no, we never gave up. We never lost our faith and the reason, the purpose of our mission. We never lost our vision of what we could do for our brothers and sisters, for our fellowman. I am saying again and again that the strength ofthe human spirit is beyond description. It kept us going in the right direction in the worst possible times. The human spirit kept us alive so that we kept on doing our mission straight forward and without hesitation but with great hope for a better life to come...not only for us but also for all of those we were leaving behind.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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