By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Local veteran featured in documentary

McMinnville veteran Carol Brown, who served as a nurse in Vietnam, is among vets featured in a new Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary. 

The 90-minute Oregon Experience episode, called “The Vietnam War Oregon Remembers,” will premiere at 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2, on OPB stations. It also can be viewed on the OPB website, www.opb.org/Vietnam, along with other stories about the war, with accompoanying photos and videos.

The OPB documentary coincides with Ken Burns’ new “The Vietnam War” series, an 18-part program now airing on public broadcasting stations

“The Vietnam War Oregon Remembers” features Col. Brown and 29 other vets from every branch of the military. It also features stories from anti-war protesters, relatives of soldiers, war refugees and Oregon politicians, including Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield. 

When Brown was in nursing school in the mid-1960s, she heard three military nurses speak. Their experiences, especially those of an Army nurse who’d just returned from Vietnam, sounded exciting to a young woman who had never been far from her hometown in Pennsylvania.

She was also inspired by the late President John F. Kennedy’s directive, “Ask what you can do for your country.” So she joined the Army as soon as she graduated in 1968.

“I knew I would learn so much,” she told the News-Register in 2013. “They said you get 10 years experience in one year of nursing in Vietnam. And going into the military was liberating for me.”

Brown was stationed at the 24th Evac Hospital in Vietnam, a unit that specialized in treating head injuries. She cared for patients from every branch of the U.S. military, and from other countries, as well — even from North Vietnam, the enemy. 

When she was off duty, she dated Col.Larry Brown, a dashing helicopter pilot with the 1st Squad, 9th Cavalry.

He was on his second tour flying low over the jungle, scouting for the enemy. In 23 months of that duty, he was shot down nine times.

They had met during training at Fort Knox before both were sent overseas.

When they decided to marry, they had to first seek permission from their respective commanders. An Army priest performed the late-November 1970 wedding in the quonset hut that housed the hospital chapel.

She wore a short white dress and short veil. He wore his black cavalry hat.

Then they left for a honeymoon in Saigon — that was their official story, anyway.

Actually, they flew 600 miles north to the DMZ, where Larry was based, a completely unauthorized detour. His friends gave them another reception and initiated her into the cavalry in a raucous ceremony.

They eventually made it to Saigon for their 35th anniversary. She wore a traditional Vietnamese gown and he wore his cavalry hat when they renewed their vows.

The Browns planned to make the military their careers. After Vietnam, they were stationed together in Germany, where she worked at the 97th General Hospital.

At the time, though, the military didn’t allow women with children to serve. So she had to leave the service when their first of three children was born. 

Later, both she and her husband joined the Oregon Army National Guard. She was prepared to go to Iraq for Operation Desert Storm in 1991, but her unit was not called up.

In 1998, she was chosen to attend the Army War College in Pennsylvania. She spent a year in its strategy, international studies and peace programs.

 

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