In June 1969, Lynda Van Devanter, a sheltered, patriotic nurse fresh out of school, arrived in Vietnam for a year's tour of...


HOME BEFORE MORNING: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam

In June 1969, Lynda Van Devanter, a sheltered, patriotic nurse fresh out of school, arrived in Vietnam for a year's tour of duty. It quite simply changed her into a different person. Some of her experiences will be known to readers (from newspaper and magazine articles, as well as sections of Al Santoli's Everything We Had); but this is the entire, heartbreaking story--through the decade or so it took her to begin coming to grips with the experience. Van Devanter came from a family in which it was right for a daughter to become a nurse and then marry. Life through nursing school (at a small Catholic hospital) and army training (with a faithful best friend) was mostly a lark. The threat of danger in Vietnam was remote (""They always keep nurses in safe areas,"" had been the recruiter's line). . . until, in Vietnam, reality hit fast: Van Devanter's plane was fired on when it landed in Saigon; and after three days of adjustment, she was assigned to the 71st Evacuation Hospital, ""a MASH-type facility"" near the embattled Cambodian border. There, the casualties (""Dead bodies in Glad bags were lined up. . . . A blond infantry lieutenant begged me to give him enough morphine to kill him. . . .""), the personal danger, the fatigue, the heat, rain, and mud, the harassment of officers enforcing petty regulations, and above all the meaningless of American involvement rapidly put an end to Van Devanter's blind patriotism, her innocence, and her youth. After the interminable year, she returned to a family and friends who didn't understand what had happened to her, and to years of nightmares and disorientation which ruined a marriage, caused drug and alcohol problems, and are only now beginning to abate. Eventually, Van Devanter joined forces with other veterans to establish counseling and support groups for the other oft-ignored female Vietnam vets; but she still looks for meaning in her experience. ""Vietnam robbed thousands of us of a future. . . . Maybe it was because of the constant presence of death. Maybe it was the knowledge, in war, that tomorrow wasn't going to be any better than today."" Along with men profiled in Goldman and Miller's Charlie Company, Van Devanter brings us face to face with the toll that undeclared war took on its combatants.

Pub Date: April 4, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Beaufort

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983