This Army nurse's epic fight for a memorial for women Vietnam veterans

When the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial was dedicated 35 years ago, many Americans felt both pride and sorrow remembering the loss of so many young lives, but it also made one Vietnam Army nurse, Diane Carlson Evans, beg the question, “Where are the women?”

“We’ve always kept women invisible,” Carlson Evans said in an interview with Makers.

She started the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation and lobbied for nine years to build the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, the first national monument dedicated to women in the military.

But it wasn’t easy convincing those at the table that women needed to be represented too. Carlson Evans recalled an article published in a Virginia newspaper that said, “Adding a statue of a women at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial would be like adding a tacky lawn ornament.”

Through fierce opposition and years of work that included lobbying, congressional hearings, and fundraising, the statue by Glenna Goodacre was dedicated Nov. 11, 1993.

Vietnam Womens Memorial

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Carlson Evans describes the monument as, ” … an injured soldier being cradled by a female nurse, a standing woman looking to the sky as if for a medical evacuation helicopter or even perhaps divine help from God, and an anguished kneeling woman who is holding an empty helmet.”

“An unexpected result of the women’s memorial,” Carlson Evans told U.S. Army News, “…is that it is a place of peace and healing for the men who were treated by the nurses.” For future generations of women, “It will be there for kids to see and to know that women can be brave and courageous, too.”

vietnam womens memorial

Female Vietnam Veterans hug on Veteran’s Day, year unknown. Some 11,000 women served in Vietnam.

When asked about women in the military today, Carlson Evans says they “…have expanded their roles because of the women of the Vietnam era. The women of my generation, expanded their roles because of the work of the women in the Korean War and World War II. We stand on the shoulders of each generation and benefit from that.”

Today, Carlson Evans still advocates for veterans, particularly for mental health, mainly due to her own battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. She now serves multiple organizations that perform research into the psychological effects of war.

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