“I was an OR nurse my entire tour. The guys put me up on a pedestal and I liked that."
Sandie Wilson pauses, searching for the words to describe the wounded soldier-nurse relationship. Then she says, "You would always protect me, because if you didn't, no one would be there to help you when you were hurt."
Of her tour in Vietnam, Sandie Wilson says she worked harder than she ever has before or since. During the first 24 hours she spent at the 8th Field Hospital in Nha Trang, 22 of them were spent on her feet in the operating room, where she experienced her first and only rocket attack.
Aside from that, she says, "Nha Trang wasn't a bad place. We were two blocks from the beach and could hitchhike to town.'' On her one day off every two weeks, Wilson was able to exercise that option. She ate with the locals and felt, she says, like a tourist.
During her first two weeks on duty, the husband of an old friend from Michigan showed up unannounced at the 8th Field Hospital.
"I never even knew he was in Vietnam until he came into the OR and died,'' Wilson says with practiced detachment. She never contacted the man's wife because, in part, "I certainly didn't know what to say." Wilson says the widow moved out of state, and they have never contacted each other.
After five months in Nha Trang, Wilson was transferred to Xuan Loc where she cared for the troops of Blackhorse Regiment, the 11th Armored Cavalry, for four months. She finished her tour with three months at the 36th Evac in Vung Tau.
Sandie Wilson was born in the Detroit suburb of Eastpoint, the third of four children. Along with her two older brothers and younger sister, Wilson attended local public schools. After graduating from high school, she went to the Louisville Nursing School at Kentucky Baptist Hospital.
Following graduation in 1964, Wilson says she "played nurse'' until 1965 when her brother, a U.S. Army Engineer officer, told her she would love the Army. While working at the University of Michigan Hospital, Wilson joined.
"I went to school part time at Wayne State University and worked as a nurse. In 1967, I went to Ft. Sam Houston where I spent a year mostly training, and then to Vietnam.''
Returning home in June 1969, Wilson went back to Wayne State. She then re-enlisted in the Army with the idea that the military would pay for her schooling. After graduating in 1971, she was sent to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky--again as an OR nurse.
In December 1974, Capt. Sandie Wilson left the service for good. Sort of.
In mid-1976, she joined the U.S. Army Reserve. In 1991, after 15 years of faithful service, she received a letter informing her that her services were no longer required.
During Operation Desert Shield in 1990 -- the buildup phase of Operation Desert Storm -- Lt. Col. Wilson trained junior officers at the 323rd General Hospital. Too many volunteers scuttled the chances of Wilson's charges to go to Saudi Arabia in the fall and winter of 1990.
READ MORE: http://www.vva.org/archive/TheVeteran/2001_11/sandie.htm