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Women's Role in Vietnam War Honored

April 26, 1989|NOEL K. WILSON | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In an emotional ceremony Tuesday, speakers praised the "unsung heroines" of the Vietnam War, the combat nurses and other female veterans, during a ceremony recognizing the recent addition of the women's panel to the still-unfinished California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento's Capitol Park.

"In Vietnam, (the nurses) were not only responsible for saving lives," Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-South San Francisco) said, "they also substituted as mothers, as wives, as sisters and as friends to the soldiers wounded and left to their care."

At a reception under cloudy skies, Speier was joined by Vietnam veterans, memorial designer Rolf Kriken, sculptor Rodger Brodin and actress Nancy Giles, who plays the role of a Vietnam War nurse in the TV series, "China Beach." The newly placed panel of the memorial depicts a combat nurse, in recognition of women's contributions during the Vietnam War.

The women's panel was put in place Monday, and the memorial is scheduled to be completed by Veterans Day.

The panel depicts a female nurse standing next to a soldier on a stretcher, whose left arm is missing from just above the elbow and who, despite gauze covering his head and eyes, is lifting his head toward her. The nurse, with knit brow, is looking off to the side, while her left hand hovers over the soldier's chest and the right holds a stethoscope. However, on Tuesday, her hand held flowers instead, and a U.S. flag and dog tags had been left on the soldier's chest.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday April 29, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 3 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
In a story Wednesday on the women's panel of the California Vietnam War Memorial, the sculptor should have been identified as Rolf Kriken, and actress Nancy Giles ("China Beach") should have been described as playing the part of a private.

The California Vietnam Memorial is composed of four free-standing walls arranged in an arc around the central sculpture figure of a combat soldier. On the outside of the walls, the names of the soldiers killed in the war are listed. On the inside are bronze sculptures and reliefs of Vietnam War scenes taken directly from photographs.

The women's panel is the only part of the memorial not taken from photographs because no photographs of women from the war could be found. Instead, several women veterans worked with sculptor Brodin, describing their experiences to compose an accurate impression of the Vietnam nurse.

The same women also posed for Brodin. The face on the sculpture is that of veteran Rose Sandecky, and the fatigues were copied from those of Linda McClenahan, who served in Vietnam from 1969-1970 in the Army's 1st Signal Brigade and is now chairwoman of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee.

"Women have served this country from the American Revolution to the present day," McClenahan said Tuesday, "but virtually that service has been forgotten."

She said that although she did not serve as a nurse in Vietnam, she was proud of the women's panel in the memorial. She explained that just as the "grunt, the combat soldier" has become the symbol for all military men, so the nurse has become the symbol for all women who served in Vietnam.

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