The year is 1968. Lt. Dee, a skilled Army surgical nurse volunteers to serve in the Vietnam War. After a grueling twenty-four hour flight in full military uniform, including nylons and heels, Dee steps off the plane into an intense tropical heat that immediately assaults her body. Her mind and senses are likewise bombarded with the smells and noises of a war zone. Within minutes, Dee and the other nurses witness a convoy of coffins bound for a homeward flight. No sooner have they changed into fatigues, then they are asked to assign cause of death in a morgue. (The doctors are need in surgery).
These two challenging feats are followed by the encounter with a stunning Air Force Captain named Skip (because she skips from base to base on evacuation missions).
Follow Dee by chopper to a remote nursing outpost surrounded by jungle. There she encounters the brutal reality of war beginning with a conveyor belt of wounded soldiers.
Her affair with Air Force Captain Skip contravenes military law and both women find themselves risking potential dishonorable discharges for love. The reader will notice the research that has been carried out to present a realistic story of nurses who served in Vietnam and medical and political issues facing them as veterans.
This novel honors their incredible courage and medical skills.
Page. 1 (Excerpt)
It was early afternoon when the wheels of the huge U.S cargo plane connected with the tarmac. Through the swirling red dust and blazing sun, eyes gazed wonderingly at their first sighting of Vietnam. Several thuds later, the plane taxied past army barracks and plane hangars. Large patches of red mud covered the roofs and sandbags protected buildings against enemy fire. Inside the plane, the heat was overwhelming. Everyone waited desperately for the doors to open.
Lieutenant Dee stood and waited for the staircase to be secured. She tried to adjust her breathing to the intense heat. She faintly heard the new recruit, Scarlazzi, talking about beaches, babes, boobs and booze.
Dee knew that any mixing of babes and boobs for her in Vietnam would lead directly to a court martial for immoral conduct. Dee had picked up many skills during her nursing training; not only was she a highly acclaimed nurse, but she had also honed her skill at picking out the women in her class who would welcome discreet relationships, and a bit of naughty fun.
Dee realized that the pilot had asked her to descend. With each step, unfamiliar sights, deafening sounds and pungent smells assaulted her senses. Her nylons stuck to her skin and she measured each step, with one hand holding her army skirt from blowing up and exposing her thighs.
The base was a beehive of non-stop motion – trucks, jeeps, ambulances, buses and fire trucks were busily loading and unloading. Waiting for transportation, Dee let her eyes take in all the new surroundings. High wire fences surrounded the entire perimeter of the base.
Lieutenant Sue Montgomery spoke with a soft southern drawl.
“What a nauseating smell!”
“They burn the shit from the latrines!” Scarlazzi added. He apparently had little respect for Sue, an officer, or perhaps just not for a black female officer.
Sue stared at him. “Scarlazzi, the word to use is excrement.”
Scarlazzi glared back. “You learn that big word at some Negro college, Lieutenant?”
The grinning lad’s intention was both to insult and to get a laugh.
Sue turned to her fellow nurses.
“He’s all mine when he comes in with his balls blown off!”
The men laughed and Scarlazzi grimaced.
Lieutenant Julie Wong interjected.
“It’s mostly the smell of burning kerosene and jet fuel.” She pointed to an adjacent runway. “Those planes screeching to a halt are F-14 fighters, and those heavy planes are B-52 bombers.”
“Where’s this knowledge coming from?” Sue teased, “Dating a pilot?”
“I wish!” Julie sighed. “My little brother builds model planes.”
This conversation was interrupted by the bellowing voice of Scarlazzi.
“Here comes the Welcome Wagon! Lots of cold beer!”
The nurses exchanged weary glances. Scarlazzi had been a royal pain for most of the twenty-hour flight. He had been loud and hyperactive. Everyone had been forced to listen to his stories of gang fights in the Bronx where his bravery and fighting skills had made him a man to be feared. Naturally, he claimed that he would take care of his mates in Nam.
Dee had contrasted Scarlazzi’s background to her own growing up on an Amish farm in Pennsylvania. Her brother Isaiah was nineteen years old, the same age as Scarlazzi. He had been exempted from the draft as a 2-C Registrant, deferred because of his agricultural occupation. He was the only son in a family of five daughters. Dee, on the other hand, defied her pacifist Amish family. She felt compelled to serve as a nurse in Vietnam. At twenty-one years of age, she felt her youth and skills would serve her country well.
As the convoy of jeeps approached, Scarlazzi made whooping noises. Dee squinted through the shimmering hot haze while sweat trickled down her face and neck. As an automatic response, all the nurses adjusted collars and cuffs on their Class A Officer’s uniform. They wanted to have their green tunics and tight skirts looking somewhat respectable after the long flight.
Julie had a run in her nylons while Lt. Sue stuck her aching foot back into her high heels. The nurses’ uniforms served to remind them and others around them that they were ladies, and officers. Training for Vietnam had instilled in the nurses the expectation that they would be calm and emotionless when dealing with wounded soldiers.
“Bring on those jeeps!” Scarlazzi gave a ‘thumbs up’ sign.
The first jeep stopped for the nurses. The drivers saluted the officers.
“Welcome to Saigon, Lieutenants. Glad to see new blood.”
The three nurses sat in the lead jeep as it made its way towards a series of white bricked and green corrugated metal buildings. The noise, smell and heat forced Dee to close her eyes. She upbraided herself for her lack of composure, and reassured herself with positive thoughts. ’You are a first class nurse. You have a mission to heal. You are a commissioned officer. You’ll do a great job!’
In the distance, through shimmering heat, a series of flatbed trucks were heading in their direction. The escorting jeep stopped and the driver somberly asked the women to step out. The reason for this soon became apparent as about fifty silver coffins rolled by. Everyone stood to attention and saluted. They watched as the convoy headed towards the same C-130 cargo plane that had just brought them to Vietnam.
Scarlazzi spoke, “My dad and grandpa served in two wars. Not a scratch. I figure it’s a genetic thing!”
The nurses’ driver started the jeep again. In explanation, he said.
“Those caskets will be hidden in the belly of the C-130 plane before the wounded arrive. The plane will be refitted. Poles will be placed down its centre and brackets attached to hold litters. But I suppose, as nurses, you know these things.”
The First Encounter of Love (excerpt)
As Dee approached she got a closer look at the woman. She was a Native American with large dark eyes, and short black hair. Her gaze penetrated like an x-ray and Dee felt that somehow the woman could read her deepest thoughts.
“Captain, I want you to meet Lieutenant Dee, who just happens to be the first woman that I’m going to dance with tonight. Gotta go!”
The Major grinned and walked away
“Lieutenant!” It sounded like a command and Dee turned and saluted.
The Captain returned the salute with a smirk. “I like that kind of respect from an army type, but honestly Lieutenant, haven’t you noticed we’re in a war zone. Now, quickly attend to those litters. Make sure IVs are in place, and, remember, no staring, or pitying.”
Dee breathed heavily. Did the Captain think she was stupid?
“Air Force bitch!” Dee muttered to herself.
Bombardment and Suffering (Dee is on the border of Cambodia) excerpt.
Dee woke with a jolt as all hell seemed to be breaking loose!! Sirens were blaring and loud shouts were coming from every direction! Machine guns rattled against non-stop incoming fire! Bullets whizzed right by the hooch. The room was lit up as bright as day. Dee rolled off her cot and dropped to the floor in a second flat. Her alarm clock blinked 1:22 a.m. Shells were exploding all around. Dee crawled to the window and peeked out to see belching smoke and flames billowing out of a huge oil drum.
“Get away from window!” a voice ordered in the darkness.
A pair of hands grabbed Dee’s waist and dragged her back down to the floor.
Dee lay flat, looking at this woman who’d appeared out of nowhere. The fires outside illuminated the outline of her serious face.
“I’m Jessie. Grab your flak and pot!”
What a way to meet your hooch mate! It was the nurse she’d seen sleeping on the couch earlier.
“I’m Dee – just arrived!”
Dee fumbled with the vest and Jessie shoved the helmet on Dee’s head. In the distance, the heavy bombardment thundered like hell.
Jessie slithered towards the door.
“Follow me, Dee. Do exactly what I do. With that kind of firepower, we can expect incoming wounded. All medical hands will be needed.”
Outside the hooch, the sky was ablaze with tracer flares. High in the hills, large balls of fire erupted. The thundering shook the earth. All around them, artillery and machine guns roared into action.
Dee took steady gulps of air and tried to calm her racing heart and mind. She told herself, ‘This is what you came for, girl. You can do it! Pennsylvania Power!’
Suddenly an uninvited, paralyzing thought came into Dee’s head: ‘There are soldiers out there who will never see dawn as it breaks.’
Paula Key: Lt. Dee: Army Nurse, Vietnam is one of my three lesbian ebooks. They can be found on Amazon (in your country) Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple ibooks, Clipart (India).