Women veterans overlooked

"We came home by ourselves."
Karen Schimpf
Vietnam Nurse

As an Army nurse during the Vietnam War Karen Schimpf tended to soldiers whose bodies were blasted on the battlefield.

She arrived in Saigon as "an immortal 22-year-old" she said. But that wasn't the way she left.

When Schimpf came home the war was unpopular and those who participated in it were not celebrated heroes.

Women's contributions went unnoticed, she said yesterday when my partner Kelly West and I talked to her at her home in Tonasket, Washington.

"We came home by ourselves," Schimpf said.

Being overlooked, she said, still stings a little.

But the smallest victims of the Vietnam War, the orphaned children, still linger in her mind more than any other part of her war experience.

Schimpf showed us a photo of her holding a motherless child in Vietnam. She kept in touch with the girl who was adopted by Americans.

The girl Schimpf held as a nurse in Vietnam is now a woman living in Omaha where she is a mother of two girls. A photo of the little smiling girls sitting on Santa's lap is tacked to Schimpf's kitchen wall.

Schimpf helped nurture that little girl who now helps others in her job as a social worker. Schimpf continues to work as a nurse in rural Washington state.

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