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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Linda Morgan Maini, 2008

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Object ID: WV0406.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Linda Morgan Maini’s service in the Red Cross during the Vietnam War.

Summary:

Maini discusses her childhood in Cleveland, her reasons for enrolling at DePauw University, her college experience, the mood of the country following President John Kennedy’s inaugural address and his later assassination, and the liberal and conservative movements in the early sixties. She recalls her struggle to decide on a career; enlisting in the Peace Corps; and her corps training in Puerto Rico, including the physical training, learning to farm and do domestic work, evaluation by a psychiatrist, and her reasons for leaving the program.

Maini gives her reasons for enlisting in the Red Cross and her parents’ reaction. Much of the interview focuses on her first tour in Vietnam, including: the plane ride over; C-rations; response of troops to seeing American females; working in the recreation center on base; being evacuated because of fighting between Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Theiu; setting up programs on outlying bases; maintaining the line between friendship and romance with soldiers; laterite clay; Red Cross uniforms; R&R in Bangkok and Tokyo. Topics related to her time at Lai Khe include: serving as unit director; living quarters; friendship with the Black Lions; adopting a soldier’s dogs. Topics from her duty in Di An include: General James Hollingsworth; General William E. DePuy; base facilities; and soldiers’ dedication.

Maini discusses returning home to a family party and the shock of cold weather, her transfer to Valley Forge Army Hospital, working with orthopedic patients there; and Brian Thomas “B.T.” Collins. She talks about the anti-war movement and the poor treatment of returning veterans, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the women’s movement. Maini also discusses her return to Vietnam. Topics from her tour at the 12th Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi include: the lack of challenging hospital work; facilities; helping in the hospital; maintaining the recreation room; and meeting her husband.

Post-Vietnam topics include: following her husband’s assignments; her daughter’s service in the U.S. Navy; the Kent State shootings; living and teaching English in Korea; balancing work and parenting; moving to Lexington, Virginia; and working for the George C. Marshall Foundation.

Creator: Linda Kay Morgan Maini

Biographical Info:

Linda Morgan Maini (b. 1943) of Cleveland, Ohio, served in Vietnam as a member of the Red Cross from 1965 to 1969.

Collection: Linda K. Morgan Maini Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Therese Strohmer:

Okay. All right, this is take six. [laughter] This is Therese Strohmer, and today is March 8, 2008. We're in Lexington, Virginia, on a beautiful day. This is an oral history interview for the Woman Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Linda, go ahead and state your full name.

Linda Maini:

I'm Linda Morgan Maini.

TS:

All right, excellent. Okay, Linda, we start with: tell me, if you don't mind, where and when you were born.

LM:

[chuckles] Way back when. I was born in Buffalo, New York, on the nineteenth of July, 1943.

TS:

In Buffalo, New York? Oh, okay. What did your parents do while you were growing up?

LM:

Geez, well, my mother was a nurse by profession, but she didn't work full time by any stretch of the imagination, although she did work in the school system in Cleveland while I was growing up as a school nurse off and on. But she was mostly a stay-at-home-mom. And my dad was an engineer by trade and he pretty much put himself through college, but it was during the Depression years.

TS:

Right.

LM:

Mom and Dad got married in 1939, so. But my father actually was very successful and he wound up his career—I can't even remember the name of the company that he worked for—but he was the vice president and then president of a subsidiary of that company that did—I'm trying to think of exactly what they did. The name—the word has eluded me.

TS:

[laughs] That's okay. Maybe you can—if you remember we can come back to that.

LM:

Fabrication. That's right.

TS:

Oh, okay.

LM:

It was a—he worked in metal fabrication. They were a metal fabricating firm. So that's what the two of them did while I was growing up. I moved from—we moved—the family moved from Buffalo to Cleveland when I was in kindergarten, so I really grew up in Cleveland, and Cleveland is where I normally say my hometown is.

TS:

Okay. And do you have any brothers and sister?

LM:

I've got a younger brother, David. He's four years younger than I am, and he is a petroleum engineer and works and lives just outside Houston.

TS:

Okay, so one brother?

LM:

One brother. One brother. He's got two boys, so one brother, two nephews.

TS:

Very good. And do you have any fond memories from growing up in Cleveland?

LM:

Oh, yes. Where do you start with your memories of childhood? I mean, you know. One thing that I have started doing the last about five years is six of us, six of us girls who got—who were very friendly, actually some of us going back to grade school, and then junior high and high school together, have started going to—and having reunions. And we've been doing that for the last five years. We come from all over the place.

So yes, I've got great memories of growing up. I had great friends. It was—I grew up in the fifties. I graduated from college—from high school in 1961, so I grew up in the years of relative innocence after World War II, and besides Korea, we were pretty much at peace. It was all the “father knows best” kind of growing up. You grow up, you go to school, you go to school dances and play in the summertime. It was all very innocent compared to the way things are today. You could go out as a kid and be gone from sun—up till sunset. Your parents weren't worried about you. You were in a safe environment. So it's kind of a different world than what my granddaughters are growing up in now. But yes, great memories. Cleveland was a good place to grow up, lot of good friends, lot of stuff to do.

TS:

You remember anything about, like, your neighborhood that you were in?

LM:

Yes. When we moved to Cleveland we lived on a street called Pembroke. And it was kind of a long street, and of course as a kid I thought it was the longest street in the world. And to go down to the end of the street and play in the, it was a essentially a vacant lot that had a tree in it, but it seemed like you were in a forest. You'd climb in the tree and play in the little creek that ran through there. There were lots of kids on the street. My best friend lived catty-corner across the street. I remember that her father fell off the ladder when we were both seven, I think, and he died. Yes, he was killed by the—and that was a traumatic kind of a thing. I can see that it was traumatic in my memory because that's something I remember to—and to note it to you.

But other than that, it was just, it was a very secure upbringing. I mean we were about a mile away from school. And we kids walked every day from—and this was six-year-olds, seven-year-olds. I can't imagine my five-year-old granddaughter, who is going to be starting school, doing the same kind of thing. As I said, it was a really different time. And in third-right after third grade, we moved up across a busy street, but fairly close to the Pembroke Street, to a street called Radcliff, which was a much smaller street than Pembroke was. Lot of kids on that street. That was a time when we would go out after school if you didn't have homework, or on Saturday, or in the summertime, and play kick the can and play running bases and do all the things that kids do. And, you know, you came in at dark or whenever you could get away with coming in, depending on how strict your parents were. Had a great time. As I grew up and was in high school, I dated the boy next door, who was in college. And I think I went to the—I know I went to the senior prom with John.

TS:

Where did you go to high school?

LM:

Cleveland Heights High.

TS:

Cleveland Heights?

LM:

Cleveland Heights High School. I went—and I went to junior high at Monticello [Middle School] which was the closest school to me. I mean Monticello was just two or three blocks up the way. That was junior high. We probably had six or seven hundred kids at Monticello. My high school was big. We had three thousand, and it was just tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade there. But it was a great school to go to. There were five junior highs that fed into Heights, so there was a big population of kids. We kids that came from Monticello tend to stick together, and these are the girls that I told you I go off on trips with now or have reunions once a year. Heights was just a normal high school.

It was interesting, though, because Cleveland Heights was a very Jewish suburb, and so most of the kids at school, in high school were Jewish. Not so at Monticello. So that was a good experience for me, because I didn't know much about the Jewish faith and Jewish families and that kind of thing. We used to have a joke in high school that said, “On a Jewish holidays, the goyim could all meet in the phone booth,” because there were very few, very few of us. But as I say, it was very good exposure. It taught me a lot about—well, it kind of broadened my horizons to other religion besides the Christian religion.

TS:

That's interesting. My mother had a similar experience that I'm remembering. Now when you were in high school, did you have a favorite subject that you enjoyed?

LM:

You know, I don't know that I really had a favorite subject. I had subjects I didn't like. I mean, chemistry, forget that—hated—yes, I really didn't like chemistry, and I really didn't do well in chemistry. Biology was okay. I was not really good with the hard sciences. I was more a social scientist, so history, English, language—although I wasn't very adept at language—but I took French through high school. I remember one of our English teachers, Ms. Furhulks[?] was her name. She was very, very strict. And everyone lived in a little bit of fear of Ms. Furhulks, but she was a great teacher because she really made you learn things. I, to this day, remember how to diagram sentences and do all that kind of stuff because she was a strict teacher. I also remember the guys who were the softy teachers, too. And they were good, but they were good in a different way.

TS:

Now did you have to work at all while you were in high school?

LM:

No, I did not have to work, although I did. I didn't work after school, but I worked in the summertime. My best friend and I started working I think when we were fourteen, maybe even younger than that because it was before the age when we could've gotten paid. And we worked at a day camp sponsored by the county or one of the public entities that was held at the various elementary schools around Cleveland Heights, and Barb and I both worked at the Oxford School Day Camp. It's where both of us had gone to elementary school. So I worked there from the time I was old enough to go to work, or before I was old enough to go to work, up until the summer after I graduated from college. So that's what I always did during the summer. It was just a matter of, yes, going back to Oxford for day camp.

TS:

So I think you said you graduated in '61?

LM:

[Nineteen] sixty-one, yes.

TS:

Okay. And then what did you do after you graduated high school?

LM:

Went directly to college.

TS:

And where did you attend?

LM:

I went to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

TS:

And how was that experience?

LM:

It was great. DePauw was a wonderful school. It was smaller than my high school. But I went there primarily because when we were going around visiting colleges—we didn't visit too many of them—I just had such a nice, warm feeling for the campus of DePauw. The students were so friendly to a high school kid that was visiting. I decided that's where I wanted to go. It was a nice little school. It was a liberal arts school, which was what I was looking for.

TS:

Did you have an idea of what it was you wanted to do?

LM:

No. No idea. I will say at the time that I was growing up, there weren't nearly as many avenues for occupation and profession open to women as there are now. And it was generally thought of you'd be a nurse or you'd be a—you'd teach school. So I went there thinking I would go into elementary education, and I started out with those courses, but I was just not interested in it. So I ended up majoring in political science because it's what interested me the most. I had a major in political science and a minor in history. But not with any thought of what I was going to do with it, it's just those were the courses that interested me.

TS:

Now do you remember—do you have any memorable experiences in college that maybe didn't necessarily have to do with class, or it could have?

LM:

Memorable experiences. I mean, yes. I remember going to—we used to go on blanket parties down at the park at the end of the street. And really what blanket parties were was you would go down there on a nice day and you'd take your books and you'd study. At that time, colleges were in loco parentis ["in place of a parent"] pretty much. So you couldn't go out at night, and you had to be in the dorm at a certain time or in your sorority house at a certain time, and if you were going to leave campus, you had to have an excuse, and you had to give where you were going to go.

I mean, I was—our rival college was a men's college about thirty miles away, Wabash [College]. And I dated—for a while I dated some guys at Wabash, and we'd go down and do weekends at Wabash. But you could only do that if you were—if the dorm mother or the house mother knew where you were going to go stay and that kind of thing. But it was fun to do, I'll tell you that. A lot of fun to do. I remember one thing—well, I remember a lot of things—but one thing I remember is I was dating a guy named Steve Shnake[?], at the time, and he was a Wabash guy. I didn't date him a lot though, but he and I—I really liked dating him because he had a blue Thunderbird. It was I think a '56. That was a really classic car. And he stood me up one night—one day, we were going to go to the football game. He never showed up, never called, never anything. So that soured me on Wabash completely after that. [chuckles]

But no, I had great memories from DePauw. DePauw was a really good school. Made lots of good friends, although I'm not good with keeping in touch with people. But I was just—as I was going through my stuff, I saw a picture there of one of my roommates from school of her wedding, when I went up to Minnesota to be in her wedding after we graduated. But—

TS:

So—oh, go ahead.

LM:

But a good experience. Good experience, great school.

TS:

Yes. I was going to say, it sounds like you really did enjoy it.

LM:

Oh, I really did. I really did, yes. And I did well at school, not that I was so academically proficient. I probably had a B grade average. But I joined a sorority, as did most people at that time. DePauw was—it was and still is a highly Greek campus, and you lived in sorority houses after your freshman year. And I made Mortar Board [honor society] and I was association—the treasurer of the association of women students. Which we had two student governments, one for women and one for men, you know, that kind of thing. And I was president of my sorority. So, you know, I was able to kind of blossom in college, so that was good.

TS:

That was great. Now did you have an idea of what you were going to do then, as you were going through college? Still none? Okay.

LM:

No, not a clue really, which is—was difficult after graduating. I mean June came and it went, and then it was time to go back to Cleveland and do what? Hence, I went back to Oxford Day Camp and worked for the summer, you know.

And that—but at that point in time, this was 1965, so President Kennedy [JFK] had been elected and been assassinated has had the assassinations after him, Martin Luther King and Bobby [Robert Kennedy, RFK]—although I may have the year group wrong there. President Kennedy, John Kennedy certainly had been assassinated by that time. But he inspired a whole generation of young people to do something for your country. You know the line from his inaugural, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” And I think most people in my generation left school with a thought that a 9:00 to 5:00 job was not what you wanted. Certainly, that was what I thought. And you wanted to do something to give of yourself, and you wanted to do something that was bigger than yourself, and something for your country would be very good. So that was kind of the mood coming out of, coming out of college.

And that was just at the time that the unrest on college campuses was really beginning to develop. It really did not occur while we were in college. For instance, I mean, it was a time when I would never have thought of wearing pants to school. We all wear skirts and we dressed up and all that kind of stuff. So you were transitioning from the fifties period into the late sixties and the seventies, and it was just kind of a—it was a difficult time. It was a difficult time. A lot of people in my generation did the Woodstock thing and they did the peace protests and they did the, you know, “Anything is good as long as it feels good and doesn't hurt somebody else,” kind of thing. So there was a real, I think, breakdown in our generation. Some people went the more conservative route, which is the way I went and my husband went, my eventual husband went. And there were others of my friends that were more activist-oriented when they got out of school toward the late sixties.

TS:

Do you remember when JFK was assassinated and was that something—

LM:

Oh, absolutely.

TS:

Do you want to talk about that?

LM:

Sure. You can probably ask anyone who's of my age and they would remember what they were doing and when at the time President Kennedy was assassinated. Yes, I was in the stairwell of Asbury Hall going to a class in some—or coming from a class, and somebody was coming from the dorms where they had access to the media and said, “President Kennedy—The president has been shot!” And the reaction was, “The president of what?”

You know, it was because it was so foreign to our comprehension that anything like that could've happened. So of course, I went back to the sorority house and sat down, turned on the TV, and was glued to it then from there through the next three or four days, through all the burial and all that kind of thing. That was a very traumatic experience for people in my generation. So I would have voted for President Kennedy had I been able to. I was still too young to vote at that point in time.

TS:

Voting age was still twenty-one then?

LM:

Yes.

TS:

So what did you do after you graduated, then?

LM:

Well I went home to Cleveland, and thought, “What the hell am I going to do?” I can't be a day camp counselor because that's only for eight weeks during the summertime. So I—actually, I went and registered with an employment firm and they got me interviews at a bank and a few other places that were just totally not interesting to me, just really not interesting. And then I was approached, and I really don't recall how this came about, but there was a group called the American [Women's] Voluntary Services[?] that had projects in different parts of the world. They interviewed me and asked me if I would go and work in Vietnam as a volunteer worker for American—I think it was AVS, American Voluntary Services—and work doing, I don't even recall what they wanted me to do, but in Vietnam. And I thought about that and I thought about that, and I thought, “No, that's not what I want to do.”

And then I had the bright idea that maybe the Peace Corps was the thing for me. So you had to take a test to get into the Peace Corps. I went to downtown Cleveland and took the test that you were supposed to have, and I was accepted to go into the Peace Corps to do community service in Panama. And part of the training was to go to one of the Peace Corps training camps in the interior of Puerto Rico, which I did. I packed myself up and I went off, and met some really neat people there. Peace Corps training was a really impression—it made a great impression on me. I was down there for a couple of months.

TS:

Did you go to Puerto Rico or did you go to Panama?

LM:

I went Puerto Rico for training because I never went to Panama because I quit.

TS:

Oh okay. I was getting ahead of you. I'm sorry.

LM:

That's right. With every Peace Corps training group—I don't remember how many were in my group, maybe forty, maybe not quite that many. We lived in tents, and we did physical training, and we did repelling, and we did drown-proofing, and we did things that really were meant to challenge you into, physically, into places where you didn't think you could take yourself—rope climbing, all that kind of stuff. Plus learning Spanish, plus learning stuff that might help in rural community development, like raising pigs and raising chickens and learning how to sew, all those kinds of things. But they also—and we went off on hikes, overnight hikes in the woods where you had to make your own place and lay down and, you know, make your—make your own shoes, all that kind of stuff. But they also did have a psychiatrist or psychologist with every training group, because they wanted to make sure the young people were emotionally and mentally stable and prepared to go.

And I'm a person who likes—who does not quit at things once you start. And the more I analyzed my reasons for going off to be in the Peace Corps, the more I questioned whether I really wanted to do this. And I didn't want to get myself into a place down in Panama for two years and be miserable and want to come home, because I knew I wouldn't come home; I would stick it through. And one of the big reasons there that I had in the back of my head was that the guy I had been dating in college before we graduated, Phil, had gone into the Peace Corps and he was already down in Bolivia. And I had—and he was in Puerto Rico for a little bit of time at the same time I was and we had met for a weekend and that kind of thing. So I thought to myself, “You are doing this for the wrong reason. Phil is too big a part of this. And him being in Bolivia and you wanting to go to Puerto Rico and the Peace Corps,” and I just thought it wasn't the right thing for me. I said, “I want to go and help people, but this is not—this is not right.”

So I left and came home. That must have been in November of 1965, so I'd been out of school for almost six months. And then I heard an advertisement on the radio, and it was for the American Red Cross national staff, for people to go to Vietnam or Korea. And I made myself an appointment and went down and met the recruiter, who was just coming through Cleveland to do that. And she told me about this program they had in Vietnam, and I said, “Yes, that's it. That's what I want to do.” The war was just gearing up at that point in time, and I thought, “I will go, and I will go off, but I want to go off and help Americans. I want to help the military soldiers over there.” So that's how I wound up with the Red Cross.

TS:

Well how was that, what they were offering for you to do in Vietnam, different from the American Voluntary Services?

LM:

Well the Voluntary Services was to go and work with the people, the Vietnamese people.

TS:

Okay.

LM:

And you know, to do probably a lot of the same kind of things that they do in the Peace Corps. But it—and it just was—that wasn't what I wanted to do, but to go and help Americans and to help my country, President Kennedy again, was what it seemed like I really wanted to do. And this wasn't a 9:00 to 5:00 job, and this was half a world away. It wasn't working in a bank, it wasn't doing anything like that. So I said yes, that's for me. And in January of '66, I went to my training session for two weeks in Washington, Red Cross Headquarters. There were two other ladies, girls, in my class, Dee Walton and Jan Morehead. And the three of us did Red Cross training for two weeks, and got our shots, and got our dog tags, and got our uniforms and all that stuff, and then we were shipped off to Vietnam. That started my saga in Vietnam.

TS:

And what year was this then?

LM:

Nineteen sixty-six. Early sixty-six.

TS:

Nineteen sixty-six, okay. What—so you—there was no one who you knew that was in the Red Cross before or anything like that?

LM:

My mother had been a volunteer Red Cross driver in World War II.

TS:

Oh, okay, so there was a little connection.

LM:

Little connection.

TS:

Okay. And how did your family—what did they think about your plans?

LM:

I've often looked back on that and thought that my parents were wonderful, you know, now that I've got daughters and granddaughters, because they supported me completely and they just have been scared [whispers]. Don't want to put all that on the tape. [chuckles] But they must have been very worried for me, you know, because at that point in time the war was really beginning to gear up. And it was in the news constantly, and there were a lot of deaths in the Vietnam War, and like what we've seen in the Iraq situation, both the Middle East wars, there were many, many casualties. Fifty-seven thousand-some people, men and women, died in Vietnam. But they were very supportive. Very, very, you know, what I wanted to do and they wanted to support me, so they wished me the best and gave me a new camera and gave me a kiss and said, “Write!”

TS:

And was your brother also—

LM:

No my brother was four years younger, so he was still in school.

TS:

Okay.

LM:

He was in college, had just started college.

TS:

Did he ever talk about that with you, your going over to Vietnam?

LM:

If he did, I don't remember.

TS:

Oh, that's okay.

LM:

I mean we talked certainly after I came home, but if he—we didn't have a whole lot of discussions about that at that point in time, because when I made the decision to go was in '66, so David—David I guess was in his first year at Marietta [College], so he wasn't even at home.

TS:

Okay. Can you describe your experience going to Vietnam after your training?

LM:

Yes. It was kind of scary. But all of us were—well, we went on the plane, military contract plane, so we flew out of Travis Air Force Base out in San Francisco. First flew out in San Francisco and spent a night or two there, which was interesting because it was Haight-Ashbury and it was—it was a very different environment. But then went to the air force base—and I had never been exposed to the military before. My father had ulcers during World War II, so he was not—he was not military. There was nobody in my family except my uncle Bob who had been in the service. And [we] got on this big old plane for our twenty-some hour journey overseas, just us three girls, and everybody else on the plane were men. And I recall—I recall this because ran into this guy again on my second tour—meeting and talking to some guys on the plane that we—over a twenty-hour period, we got on and off the plane a few times; I think we flew up to a base in Alaska, might be Elmendorf, and then over to Guam, and then on to Vietnam. So it was a—it wasn't a harrowing experience, but it was kind of a nerve-racking experience, because none of us knew what we were getting into. There were probably only a few guys on the plane who had been to Vietnam before. Whereas when I went back the second time, a lot of people had been and were on their second tour. And I do have a vivid memory of when we finally got to Saigon and we landed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, is that the aircraft did a 360/180 spiral down, I mean we got right over Tan Son Nhut and spiraled right down. And they told us it was because they didn't want to expose the aircraft to any hazardous conditions, enemy fire, or that kind of thing.

TS:

That would be kind of scary.

LM:

You know, and you get off the plane and the first thing you think is, “Geez, it's hot! It's really hot over here.” And we did the little in-country orientation right there in Saigon, and then the three of us were sent off to various units at that point.

TS:

So which unit were you—

LM:

I was with—there were, at that point in 1966, early '66, the Red Cross SRAO [Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas] program had been in Vietnam only for four months. I went to Da Nang. I think at that point there were only twenty-five Red Cross women in country, period. And this was before army nurses or military nurses came over there. So there were not women in country. There was no USO [United Service Organizations], there was no Special Services. The Red Cross was the first program in to do recreation work and work in hospitals, and communications also. So being a “round-eye” in Vietnam was a very, very—round-eyes were scarce, let's put it that way, female round-eyes. And I flew upcountry to Da Nang, which was in the I Corps region of Vietnam. The military divided Vietnam into four corps, the I Corps, Second, Third and Fourth Corps. And I Corps was the farthest north. And Da Nang was the second biggest city in South Vietnam. So I went on up there and spent about four months at the Red Cross unit in Da Nang.

TS:

And how—what kind of things did you do when you first started? Do you remember—do you like remember your first day or anything like that?

LM:

No.

TS:

It all kind of blurs together?

LM:

Yes, the whole experience blurs together. If I had a better memory, I probably would remember more individual kinds of things, but it all kind of lumps together as one.

TS:

I'm like that.

LM:

What I can tell you about Da Nang is that we lived in—we Red Cross girls lived in a villa which was a, you know, a cinderblock kind of a home in the town of Da Nang. We had a guard in our compound, a Vietnamese guard. That makes it sound like it was a big compound, but there was a gate that you drove into and then there was this villa. I think we had two or three bedrooms upstairs, and there was a kitchen and a sitting area downstairs and that kind of thing. And we took our meals at an officer's club that was just down the street from where we were. That's where we really ate unless we ate C-rations, which we used to be able to get our hands on.

TS:

What did you think about C-rations?

LM:

They were fine. That's because they didn't have to be staples for us, so they were fine. Eating the peaches, the peaches were good. The hot dogs and beans, they were good. What else do I really remember? I remember riding back and forth—well, we had overhead fans in the villa. I loved the overhead fans. Hence, I have overhead fans in my house. They're great to sleep under. As hot as it was over there, it wasn't so bad with those overhead fans on.

And we would—we had drivers that would come pick us up in a three quarter ton truck, and we'd sit in the back. There were five of us, and we'd sit in the back of the truck and ride around the air base. At the time, it was all Marine Corps—Marine Corps and [U.S.] Navy and [U.S.] Air Force up in Da Nang. There were no [U.S.] Army in the area at that point in time except for special forces who were out in A-camps up in the field. And we would, as I said, we would ride in the back of these trucks, and because we were such a very sparse commodity and we had a light blue uniform that we wore, we really stood out from the soldiers. They would—you'd go past guys and it wouldn't register right at first what they were seeing, and all of a sudden they were like “[gasp] Did you see that? It was a round-eye!” So we'd wave our arms off. You know wave our arms off at the troops.

TS:

As you were driving by?

LM:

As we were driving by. And we always had to go around the end of the airstrip. There were F-4 Phantoms that were at the airstrip at the time. I remember thinking to myself, “I would give an arm and a leg to be able to fly a Phantom,” but of course women couldn't do that. Always have loved Phantoms. Love military aircraft. Hence, my younger daughter is a navy pilot, so she's flying now. What mom couldn't do.

And we had a rec[reation] center there that was a was a Quonset hut, a metal Quonset hut, so it got hotter than hell during the day. But that was a place—the SRAO program, the girls operated rec centers and clubmobile runs. Where clubmobile was go out to the field, and the rec center was a fixed, stationary place. We had tape recorders there. I remember soliciting some tapes, music tapes, from a radio station back in Cleveland. I wrote to them and they sent me some tapes so we could play music for the guys. And we had checkers and paperback books and a ping pong table and a place where they could sit down and sleep, or, I mean, sleep in a chair, or write letters and that kind of thing. So we worked out of there, and we put our programs together from there.

We were evacuated out of where we lived a couple of times while I was in Da Nang because there was, at that point, there was civil strife among the Vietnamese. It was when their president [Prime Minister Nguyen Cao] Ky and the incoming president [Nguyen Van] Thieu were having some strife. So we had—one night there was a pretty good fire fight that went on between the Ky's marines and Thieu's regular army. And I can recall taking mattresses off of the bed and putting them up over top of us and our guard, really on big guard, because you could hear the bullets going past the house. And right after that we were evacuated and we lived out at the rec center for a while, which was out past the base, so it was in a much more secure position, vis-a-vis the civil strife that was going on at that point in time. And we rigged up showers, so we had a shower outside, which was really cool when the guys came over in helicopters [laughter] because there was no top on those showers. And we, you know, slept on air mattresses on the floor in the rec center, and that lasted for a while.

TS:

So what did you think about all that, the hostility part?

LM:

It was part of the way things were.

TS:

Really?

LM:

Yes, I think all of us just kind of accepted this is the way things are, and the Vietnamese were going to settle this. Because they—the Vietnamese went through a number of different people running the country in the early stages of that war, so we accepted that. And it passed, and Thieu became then the leader, premier. So that strife all settled down. Of course, there was a lot of—the real war that was going on was with the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] and the Viet Cong, the VC.

We were evacuated again, and I, to be honest with you, I can't really remember the reason. It may still have been that civil strife. And the second time we were evacuated, we were evacuated over to a place called East Da Nang, which was close, very close, to the South China Sea. As a matter of fact, it was a naval hospital, a relatively new naval hospital. It was state of the art for the time. And we lived over there for about a week before we moved back to our hooch [small dwelling] in town.

And that was—that whole site was the site for the TV show, China Beach, which is, you know—so that when China Beach came out, it was like, “Oh yeah, I've been there.” I don't think they really—in fact, I know they didn't really film it over there, but China Beach was the same kind of thing.

And we girls would go out and do programming into outlying base camps by twos. We would put together recreation programs, and they were silly little things. They were a vehicle to allow us to go and visit with the troops and do something more than just sit and talk, which we did a lot of anyway. But to remind them of home and to take their mind off the situation, their living conditions, and the war, and remind them of home. So we really tried to be sisters, which was a little bit hard to do sometimes. I mean, you know, when you were outnumbered a hundred and seventy-five thousand to one, you had to really kind of walk a fine line, because certainly you didn't want to—you wanted to be like a sister. You wanted to be friends with these guys. And this was not a sexual kind of thing, it was not a flirtatious kind of thing. It was, “I'm here to do my job, and I'm here to make you feel better, and I'll do whatever I can to help you.” That kind of thing. So we made up these silly little games that would be like, jeopardy, or that's—quizzes and those kinds of things.

TS:

Right.

LM:

So we'd get guys together and they'd sit around and we'd ask them questions and joke with them and talk. Or we'd serve them chow or give them Kool-Aid or that kind of thing. And we usually always travelled, when we went outside the city, we always travelled by aircraft, by helicopter. It was too—not safe enough to be on the road and go outside just the confines of the Da Nang area.

TS:

How was it to travel on a helicopter?

LM:

It was great! It was great. It was fun. It was an adventure. I mean, you know, we were young, it was an adventure. What else can I say about it? And it was dirty. Boy, I remember trying to comb your hair sometimes and you'd get laterite in your hair, which was like red clay. There were laterite pits in Vietnam and they were usually used a lot to make runways for aircraft, and then they'd put metal—I don't know what the right term is. There would be like, almost like corrugated metal that they'd lay over the laterite. But that laterite got all over. I mean, it was just—it was everywhere in the air and you could hardly pull your comb through your hair when you'd get that in your hair. It was—my hair looked red for a while.

TS:

What did you think about, you know, the part about being feminine. And here you are, such a small group of, you know, “round-eyes”—

LM:

Right, right.

TS:

Were you conscious of that at all?

LM:

Yes and no. Yes, you were always conscious of being—of being a female over there. And we wore—we wore skirts. We didn't wear uniforms—I mean, fatigues or anything like that. We wore our Red Cross uniforms, so we were—and at that point, at that time the skirts were short. We had very strict rules on where the skirts should be, but they began to hike up. I realized that looking at some pictures in a book I have there. But so we were always conscious of trying to look good while dressing in your uniform properly.

The only time that I would say that we were more interested in being feminine was when we were really supposed to be, and that was when we were—not when we were working during the day, but going to maybe a party at the officers club, or going to dinner at the NCO [non-commissioned officers] club, or going to serve chow or something like that. And then you'd dress up in your civilian clothes, and so it would be a little bit more girly, a little bit more girly thing.

But even that was not always fun, because you were always on duty, you were always outnumbered. And you were expected to go to these kinds of things. And I'm not a person, never was a person who was real comfortable around guys. That's one thing it taught me in Vietnam, I had to be. I had to get over that being nervous and shy around guys, which I did. But it was one thing when you were doing it during the day, because it was really your job. It was another thing when you were doing it in the evening time in a more “social” type situation, even thought that social is really in quotes. So that was a little more different for me to do, but I did it.

TS:

Well that's an interesting way to put it, too. Did you—was there anything that was particularly difficult for you, either physically or emotionally?

LM:

No. I don't—I don't really think so. I mean, it's amazing how humans adapt to different situations. So the living conditions, yes, it's not like being at home, or not like being in college. You couldn't pick up the phone; there were no cell phones, there were no computers, nothing like that. But you adapt, and it's okay, it's the way it is. And so, no, I didn't—I don't recall anything being particularly challenging. No. It was interesting. It was rewarding work. It really made you feel good to see a smile on the guys' faces, that kind of thing. So, yes, it was hard sometimes, not—there were no PXs [post exchange], so you either had to take your feminine products from home or have them send you a care package with that kind of stuff. And we would order things out of the Sears catalog sometimes.

But it was a very relaxed kind of an attitude, insomuch as the military had a lot of rules and regulations, but they also broke them like crazy, and so did we. I mean, your best friend could be a sergeant major, because a sergeant major could scrounge anything. Anything you wanted he could pretty much get. And when you wanted to go somewhere, you'd go down to the air field and see if you could hop a C-130 [Hercules], and, you know, maybe get an R&R [rest and recuperation] down in Saigon for a weekend. Or when you did have a real R&R, I can recall doing this, hopping a C-130, just going down to base op[erations]s and wait until you could get on a plane and ride down there to Saigon, and hang out at base ops and see if you could get on Bangkok. Maybe you could go on a diplomatic flight or maybe the general was going somewhere and you could go that. You just don't do those kinds of things these days. You just don't, but you could do that then.

TS:

Did you do any of that?

LM:

Yes, yes.

TS:

Can you describe any of the, maybe some of those experiences?

LM:

Well—and I hope I'm not mixing up my two tours of duty here, which I very well could be.

TS:

That's okay.

LM:

I could be. But I remember going down to Saigon and staying in a hotel for a couple of nights and going out and actually going to restaurants, which I did even a couple of times in downtown Da Nang. We didn't do that often, we girls didn't, but we did occasionally go to a [phone rings] a real restaurant.

This may be my husband so let me—

[recording paused]

[End CD 1—Begin CD 2]

TS:

Okay, we're just starting up again.

LM:

Yes, and I think as I mentioned, I hopped a plane and got myself down to Saigon, and this time I was really on R&R and I wanted to go to Bangkok, so I just hung around Tan Son Nhut Air Base, over at base ops, which, you know, if you were a female, you could get away with a whole lot of stuff at that point in time. So I got a plane over to Bangkok and spent a week over in Bangkok, which was a really good experience.

TS:

What'd you do there?

LM:

Went on some tours, walked around, did some shopping, slept in a nice bed, had some good food, you know, had a drink or two, [chuckles] the kinds of stuff that you can't do when you're out in a war zone. And I think—yes, and I went on a—I went on a second R&R, too, and I went to Tokyo, which is again, very interesting. And that was—that was really some, some good shopping, and stayed in a nice hotel, and took advantage of being able to call home and talk to mom and dad, and that kind of thing. So, yes—so the military was good about giving the opportunity to get out of country for a little while. Of course, going back [chuckles] into country was a little bit more difficult.

TS:

Yes.

LM:

You know, once you've had a taste of being in the civilian life again.

TS:

Yes, that's true. Was there anything in particular about Tokyo that you enjoyed?

LM:

No.

TS:

Besides the creature comforts.

LM:

Yes, it was the creature comforts things, all creature comforts kind of thing. It was just like going on vacation anytime, it takes you to a new spot and you enjoy it. But we didn't usually go off on these R&Rs with a friend because there were not too many of us, so that was a downside of it. You were pretty much alone, or as much alone as you wanted to be.

TS:

Yes, that's true.

LM:

And I say—I'll just keep rolling here, if it's okay.

TS:

Yes, no it's fine.

LM:

I stayed in Da Nang for four months; this was kind of my introduction to being in the Red Cross and being in Vietnam. And the war kept ramping up. And from Da Nang and working with the Marine Corps primarily, I was transferred to Lai Khe, which was down in Third Corps, and Lai Khe was the brigade headquarters for the 1st Infantry Division [“Big Red One”], so it was 3rd Brigade. And in Lai Khe, we lived—again, there were only three of us, and I was unit director at that point. I got promoted after I left Da Nang. But unit director for three girls was not—we were all together, let's put it that way. But we lived—again, we lived in a villa. We had—I remember one thing that impressed me when I came into that villa was that we had mosquito netting there. So there were more bugs and things like that down in III Corps and I do recall scorpions and geckos and that kind of stuff.

And we had a rec center in Lai Khe. It was a small one, and it was a permanent structure. It was part of the French buildings that were in Vietnam from the French occupation. And we again went out on clubmobile runs, mostly by helicopter but we did some on the road in vehicles, and visited—let me see if I get this straight. [pause] We lived and spent most of our time—or we ate with the headquarters company of the 2nd [Battalion] of the 28th [Infantry] Black Lions. So we got to be real friendly with those guys. We'd go over and have dinner and such as it was. And sometimes they would have a movie at night, outside. We'd sit outside and watch movies. Occasionally they would even have ice cream. Which was usually mostly melted, but it was a real treat to have ice cream.

TS:

I bet.

LM:

And we got very—we three got very friendly with the guys in the headquarters company, and the long range reconnaissance patrol platoon leader was there. Yes, and you know, you got to know about the guys and their lives back home, and their girlfriends, and their kids if they were married, and where they lived. It was—and it was—we weren't certainly all with officers, because we hung out a lot with the enlisted guys. And it just depended on where you were and where we had our facilities, our support facilities.

We had outdoor latrines in Lai Khe and in my next assignment, which was in Di An, which division headquarters were there. We visited—from Lai Khe, we went to a lot of the places up in the Iron Triangle and up near the Cambodian border—rubber plantations. At one point, we were up—two of us were up visiting one of the units out in the field, and one of the guys there had two little dogs and he was going to rotate home, so he gave those dogs to us and they became our unit dogs. So we took them back—I think, we didn't take—we were in a vehicle at that point in time, we didn't take them back on the helicopter. Well, we had Horatio, who was a little white dog—we called Horatio “Hori”—and the little black one, whose name was Sammie. So we had Hori and Sammie with us.

And I think the only time I ever saw a snake in Vietnam was when we had gone out to the field, but again it was in one of the rubber plantations, and we were walking across the porch of a villa on this rice plantation and there was a small coral snake that was on that porch. Not good kinds of snakes, but small anyways, small.

TS:

Right. Red and black and—

LM:

Yes, right. That's the only time I ever ran into a snake. As I said, we had some scorpions and geckos and bugs and all that stuff. And from Lai Khe, I was trans—I spent about four months in Lai Khe and then I was transferred to division headquarters where I was the—as the unit director in Di An, which was the headquarters of the 1st [Infantry] Division.

One of the guys that we were really friendly with was the enlisted aide to General [James] Hollingsworth, who was—General Hollingsworth was the assistant division commander of the Big Red One. He used to delight—he was a real rough and tumble guy, and he used to delight in getting people up into his helicopter and try to make them get sick and throw up in the steel pot and that kind of stuff. So Dealy[?] would always tell us stories about “General Holli” and what he would do. And Hollingsworth was very much a man of the troops and he would go out and award, you know, bronze stars and that kind of thing right there on the battlefield.

TS:

Sounds very cool.

LM:

Yes. And General [William E.] DePuy, who was a very innovative general—I mean he was a little guy, he was a Napoleon-type complex, you know, but he was brilliant. He was a very, very smart man, and he ended I think his career as a four star at TRADOC, head of the army's training and doctrine command. He was able to put together—I mean there was a DePuy bunker that he innovated and it was a bunker that had over-crossing fire lines and that kind of thing. And occasionally we Red Cross girls had a Sunday night dinner in the general's mess and that kind of thing. So we had some perks by being girls there.

We lived—in Di An, we lived in a tent. And we had just, you know, one bunk on the side of another, so there was absolutely no privacy there. But we had a footlocker and a dresser. And we had a tent for our offices, too, but then we also had a rec center and we did the mobile programming, going out into the field, as we did every place. That's what the Red Cross girls did.

TS:

You had said how you had gotten to know the guys. So as you were in a place like Lai Khe—

LM:

Lai Khe, yes.

TS:

—for the four months, were the same guys there, or were they rotating through?

LM:

There were a lot of the same guys that were there because that was a base camp area for the 3rd Brigade. Now, a lot of the units were there and then they went out to the field and they'd be out in the field for months at a time, and we'd visit them out there. But headquarters units usually stayed, or at least of portion of the headquarters units usually stayed. So those guys you'd get to know. And they would—or guys that would come into the rec center when they were in base camp area, and you'd get to know those guys, kind of thing. In going through those pictures, I saw some pictures of Linda's farewell party, and I thought, “My god, there you are,” taken of a shot from up from my feet, you know, sticking my feet up like that. [laughter]

But that—it was—my whole experience that first year in Vietnam was a very indelible one, even for someone who has a bad memory like I do. It was a very—because it was an impressionable time in a young woman's life. I was what, twenty-two, twenty-three years old at that point, and I was off in a war, and it was dangerous, and there were privations, and I was way far away from home. But it was a real good growth period and it—you know, you saw a lot of really the best of young and older American men. They were out there to do a job, and contrary to what a lot of the popular culture was about Vietnam, which I saw when I got back home, most of the guys were pretty dedicated to what they were doing, but they were especially dedicated to one another. That's what the American fighting man is all about. You know, “I'm there. I might not like being where I am, I might not like doing what I'm doing, but I'm going to take care of my buddy and he's going to take care of me,” and that was pervasive.

TS:

So that came through really strongly?

LM:

Oh absolutely. Absolutely, yes.

TS:

Did you see any—since there were so few women, did you see—was there any kind of sexual discrimination or anything? I know it wasn't really called that at that time. Is there anything of that nature?

LM:

No there really wasn't because we were in such an unusual situation. There was—because there was—we were there to do a job, men were there to do a job. You usually think about discrimination as being they're not letting you advance, well, there were two different, complete different tracks and there was only just so much that a Red Cross girl could do anyway. I mean I could be a unit director, which I was. But that was only among the women. So no, no sexual discrimination.

TS:

Or harassment?

LM:

Or harassment, no. I think if there—no, no harassment that I can recall. If there had been it was so removed from what was the norm that it wasn't a problem. That wasn't a problem at all. And it never was at any of my time in the Red Cross, either that first tour in Vietnam, when I was back at the hospital in Valley Forge, or my second tour in Vietnam. I wouldn't have seen that at all.

TS:

So let's talk a little bit about when you went back to the real world.

LM:

I came back home. Of course, that was huge. You get back home and got to Travis Air Force Base and spent the night out there before you flew back across country. And it was like, “Wow.” Real soft toilet paper, and, you know, a real bed, and you could make yourself up and you wouldn't be sweating and hot and dripping in five minutes, and that kind of thing. Came back to my home, my parents were at the airport. This was my home in Cleveland. And my parents were, of course, there at that airport to meet me. I got home and there was a big banner stretched across the house, “Welcome home, Linda.” And my mom and dad had a big party for me, and some of my aunts and uncles from Buffalo had drove to Cleveland for it. And it was just, it was very special. And it just made me really appreciate my parents. I think the biggest thing I remember upon coming home was, “My god, I'm freezing!” because I'd gotten used to living in the tropics, and here I was in Cleveland—

TS:

What month was it?

LM:

I'm trying to remember. The month I came home from that first tour would've been the end of February, early March, so it was cold in Cleveland. Yes, this kind of thing, and snow and nasty. And then—but—although the SRAO, the division of the Red Cross I was in, only operated in Korea and Vietnam. When I came back, I transferred to services from the Red Cross, and my next assignment was at Valley Forge Army Hospital, right outside Philadelphia, to do recreation work, service at military hospitals. SMH the Red Cross called it. So I was at home for a while and then packed up my stuff and took my father's VW Bug [Volkswagen Beetle], that's what I took, and I drove it to Valley Forge and moved into the BOQ [base officer quarters] there, which was really a sub-standard BOQ. Met the Red Cross girls that were there, and went to work at Valley Forge, working—I worked primarily the orthopedic wards, but I did some work on the paraplegic wards, which was hard. It was very hard to see young men on a gurney because they couldn't move anything. Working the orthopedic wards was easy, because the orthopedic patients were—they had lost limbs or they were disabled in one way or another, but they weren't sick and they weren't injured, and most of them had a very good, a very good outlook on life, even those that had lost limbs.

I was looking through my stuff. I saw a picture of a guy named [Brian Thomas] “B.T.” Collins. And B.T. had been a green beret in Vietnam, and he was in—well, he lost both of his legs and one of his arms, so he had a hook for a hand, and he was a double amputee. And [I] got to know B.T. very well. He was just a really upbeat, outgoing guy. He left—he wanted to stay in the army and talk to young men who were in his similar situation, but the army wouldn't let him stay. So he ended up getting out and I left after—he left Valley Forge and I lost track of him until later on, after I had been married, and we moved way later on, when we moved to California, and my husband was stationed at Fort Ord. And we were out in Monterey and I worked in the political arena then. At that point, B.T. was one of the aides or the chief of staff, but he worked directly for the governor. And B.T. and I saw each other, and it was very—it was a lot of fun. This was a guy who had met the worst of things and had made the best of things, and he was now working and doing really good stuff in California. I can recall there was a big scare in California about Malathion [insecticide]. You may or may not have heard of Malathion. And this was after B.T. and I had gotten back together again, or met one another and kind of had a reunion. It came out in the paper in the Monterey area that B.T. Collins had said, “What are you worried about some Malathion for?” Malathion spray, so he took a cup and drank it. That was the kind of guy B.T. was. And he was fine. It didn't maim him for life, he didn't die or anything of the sort. Now he did—B.T. did pass away after I had seen him, but some years later I learned that. But that was kind of interesting that I ran into this guy again.

TS:

Yes.

LM:

Yes. And working at Valley Forge was a real good experience. I mean, it was a huge hospital, had a TB [tuberculosis] ward. TB you think as something being all together taken away, but there was still TB at that point in time. And lived in Phoenixville, which is actually where Valley Forge was, but I got to see Philadelphia. So that was a much more normal kind of a job, much more of a 9:00 to 5:00 kind of job. It wasn't really 9:00 to 5:00, but it was more normal kind of job. You know, we worked nights. We had a recreation area in the hospital that was just ours for the Red Cross. And we worked the wards and we worked the rec center and we did programs for the guys at night. And we ate most of our meals, or a lot of our meals at the hospital, as opposed to—we lived in the BOQ for a while, but then a couple of us got an apartment up town.

TS:

So this should be '67, '68?

LM:

Yes.

TS:

So there's a few things happening in the country at this time.

LM:

Oh yes, yes.

TS:

What did you think about the cultural—

LM:

To be completely honest, I didn't think much of all the peaceniks, didn't think much of them at all because of where I'd been, what I'd seen, what I knew our young men were going through.

TS:

So then you had a negative—

LM:

I had a negative reaction to all of that. And it was just foreign to me, actually. They dressed different, they wore their hair different. They were my generation but their outlook on life was completely different than what mine was, completely different. And I do recall upon—I guess this was before I went back to Vietnam the second time [pause] maybe that or maybe it was the first time—but I remember being in [Washington] D.C. and wearing my Red Cross uniform—which of course was a Red Cross uniform, but it was kind of military looking—and feeling sheepish wearing it out on the street because there was so much negative reaction. And, you know, that was—at that point in time, that was when soldiers were getting spit at and called baby killers, and it was not like it is now. And thank goodness people appreciate what our military does now and they appreciate—whether you like the war or not, that didn't make a difference, you at least appreciated the young men—or people do now—that young men and women are going off to serve their country and do what's asked of them, that kind of thing. It was not like that.

When I came back from Vietnam the first time, there was a very high awareness of what was going on with the war. It was in the news all the time. When I came back the second time, which was at the end of 1969, the whole cognizance of the war had gone down a big step. I mean people were not paying a lot of attention to what was happening in the war. The country was in upheaval. But it was just surprising to me, it wasn't necessarily positive or negative, it was surprising to me that there was so much less awareness of what was happening in Vietnam at the time.

TS:

That is very interesting.

LM:

Yes, I—

TS:

So with this negative feeling that you had about the peaceniks, did you feel like you had to have a confrontation with anybody ever, or did you just inside, you just thought it was—

LM:

Yes, it was just inside that I thought—no, I never had any confrontation with anybody. I'm not that kind of person. I wouldn't have. But it was, “Okay, I guess I understand where you're coming from, but I really don't agree with you.” And I think there are better ways to do things, and there are better things to do with your life, because so many of them were really heavy into drugs. And that's not a productive way to live your life. And fortunately that passed, but there was a—it was a “me” generation, and I think—actually, I think our country has suffered from that ever since. It's not like that now, but our country changed a lot in the late sixties and seventies. The demeanor of the country changed a lot. And that was my generation. That was my generation.

TS:

Well then, your brother's also getting to the age where he could possibly be drafted, isn't he?

LM:

Yes, he was but I think they stopped the draft before David was of the age, before he got out of college. So he—

TS:

So he was still in college?

LM:

He was still in college, yes, so he never—he was never in the situation where he was asked to go into the military and/or the war. So as I said there was no—the only person who was near the military in my family was me, yes, was me. And I obviously stayed near it all my life, since I met Paul in my second tour and married him. And then here I worked for the [George C.] Marshall Foundation, and a lot of my work was involved with the military.

TS:

Well, before we go back to Vietnam again, I want to talk a little bit more about some of the cultural aspects of it. So were you in Valley Forge when Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK were assassinated? Because that would've been '68, I think you'd—

LM:

Yes, I was. I was. That's right. Because I couldn't remember exactly the years they were—yeah, I was at Valley Forge at that time. Yeah, it was a huge shock. It was a huge shock. [pause] Product of the times, I think. Who can explain it? Who can explain why people do something as evil as what happened to Bobby Kennedy and to Martin Luther King and to John Kennedy. What do you say?

TS:

But some of that created some violence in the country, too, in reaction to that.

LM:

Oh, huge violence.

TS:

Valley Forge, I don't know that there was anything like that, but was there?

LM:

No. I mean, Valley Forge, they say—it was right outside the small town of Phoenixville, but Valley Forge was almost a city into itself. It was a hospital that was one of the army's general hospitals, which is their biggest hospital. And it was a World War II-era hospital that they closed down and then reopened during the Vietnam War. Once you kind of got onto the grounds of the hospital you were almost in a little city. So yes, it was cocoon type—

TS:

What about—the women's movement was kicking up a little then, too. Did you have any—was there anything going on in your life that was associated with that?

LM:

Not really, not really because I never felt held back by anything. I never, you know, I never believed that I was discriminated against. I did what I wanted to. I knew there were certain paths that were closed to me. I probably felt more of that well after I left the Red Cross and after I had gotten married, and then really did start to—start to work, you know. So I probably felt a little more of being held back because I was a female than I ever did when I was younger when the women's movement was at its height. Consequently, because I never felt held back, I was never very much in sync with the women's movement, because personally it didn't touch me.

TS:

That's interesting. It was later on—

LM:

Yes, later on. I mean, sometimes you get into a situation—and I've got two daughters and now two granddaughters, and I'm happy as hell that they've got the kinds of opportunities that they've got. I've often felt that I, and people in my generation, or in my circle in my generation, fell right in between being what our moms were, which was the stay-at-home-mom and, you know, you wore your skirts and you had your white gloves and your hats, and you wore white before—after Memorial Day and you wore black after Labor Day, and that know of stuff. It was that world where women weren't really expected to do things, and the world of my daughters, where you could do most anything. And so you were kind of caught in between, because I had gone to college and I wanted to be contributing, but I wanted to be a mother and I wanted to do all those things and all the volunteer stuff that my mother had done. So consequently you kind of get caught right in the middle. And there's not time to do everything, you know? There's not the hours to do it all.

TS:

That's true. Well what—so on that, let's go back to Vietnam where—you had a different experience going back?

LM:

Different experience, yes.

TS:

Okay. And what did—let's talk about the year for the transcriber, really. What year did you go back?

LM:

I went back in 1960—toward the end of '68.

TS:

That's right, '68.

LM:

The end of '68, maybe September. That sounds about right to me. And as I said, I was in a different service with the Red Cross. I was in service at military hospitals. So I went back and I went to the 12th Evacuation Hospital, which was located in Cu Chi, and that was at the headquarters of the 25th division, infantry division, in the Third Corps of Vietnam, down in the Saigon area between Saigon and Cambodia. And that was—that was—it was not nearly as exciting as my first tour had been because we were in one place, you know, and we worked in the hospital. Of course, you were around guys that were pretty severely injured all the time. And they came in and they were there in the hospital for a few days and you did what you could for them, and then they moved on, and then another injured guy would come in and they'd move on. And some of the guys died. And so the first tour was a little bit more exciting, a little more challenging, a little more adventuresome than the second tour was.

And I just reread—I was kind of the recreation director for the Red Cross, but in this part of the Red Cross, the person who was in the social work end of the hospital service was the boss lady. So I was reading an evaluation that Bonnie Fisher[?], who was our boss lady, had done of me. And it said in there—she noted, as well as I noted in my part of it, that I was looking for something that was a little more challenging, that I was looking for something that had—that allowed me to do a little bit more than I was really was able to do in hospital work.

But having said all that, it was rewarding work, too, just a little bit different rewarding than on the first tour. Because again, as I said, guys—it was an acute care type hospital, so guys were in there, they got stabilized, and they were either stabilized enough to go back to their unit, or in many instances they were stabilized enough that they had to go further to the hospital in Saigon or on over to Camp Zama in Japan for evacuation, eventually, back to the States, with serious injuries.

Having said that, we lived in—we lived with the nurses by that time. By the second tour, the Army Nurse Corps was in there so there were a lot more women in Vietnam than there were then when I had been there the first time. And we lived in a hooch, and I had my own little room. I could close the door, which was pretty cool. And your cot and you had your foot locker, but there was a little dresser there. And it was a wooden hut, it was a wooden. It was what they call a tropical hut, so wooden slats up about this high and you had screening up to the roof. We had showers out back and you know, the latrine—

TS:

They had a roof over them?

LM:

Yes, had a roof over this time. [laughter] So there were a few more creature comforts there. I can recall—and in addition to just working with patients in the ward, when the staff would get overwhelmed with casualties coming in, mass casualties, we would go down and help in the OR [operation room] and the ER [emergency room]. You know, cut clothes off of troops when they came in out of the field or start an IV if you needed—help the nurse start an IV and that kind of thing. We really did whatever was necessary.

And with the fellas—and we maintained a little rec center in the hospital. And we'd write letters for them, or we'd read them books or read them their letters from home, help them drink their water, kind of whatever. Whatever was needed, that's what you did. And you did it, again, to try to remind these guys that there are people from home that care about you. That there is a home there, that there are even really girls that are back home, and that kind of thing. So yes.

And it was at that point that—it was during that tour that I met my—who was to become my husband. He was an aviator. He flew helicopters for the 25th Aviation Battalion. We had a little officers club, or—I guess it was an officer's club, must have been—at the hospital that was kind of like, if you are familiar with the show M*A*S*H, it was really just like M*A*S*H, the bar in M*A*S*H. And we would go down there, girls after you get off duty, and I can recall being down there one night and I was really tired one evening and, you know, the seams were splitting out of my uniform. [laughter]

And I was sitting at the bar and this guy came up and said, “Can I buy you a drink?”

And I looked at him and I said, “No.” He tells that story all the time.

So he said, “Okay.”

And he came back a few nights later and I let him buy me a beer. And from then on, you know, it progressed. Once we got fairly serious about being together, I used to go down or call the emergency room at the hospital three or four times a day just to make sure that Paul hadn't come in, you know, that hadn't had an accident while he was out on a gunship run or on a slick mission or whatever. So it was—that was—there was little bit more than just me that I was worried about on that tour of duty. But we were able to—and he wanted me to go home, that little stinker. By that time I knew I had him hooked. And I said, “No. My tour might be up, but I'm going to extend,” which I did, and I knew the Red Cross would let me, because they were in the middle of a big turnover. And so I just called Saigon and I said, “Listen, you know, I'm willing to stay here for a couple of more months until we get the new girls in and they get their feet situated on the ground and they're get situated in the job and all that.”

And then Paul knew he was lost at that point in time, so we went off on an R&R together. I went first and we went to Hong Kong, and I was there for a couple of days and then he came. And he came, we were staying at the Hong Kong Hilton—I was staying at the Hong Kong Hilton. He ended up staying with me, which I didn't tell my parents about, of course. But he got there and I met him in the lobby. We sat down, we had a drink, and he asked me to marry him right there. He had decided on the plane on the way over that he was going to ask him to marry him. So I said, “Great, let's go to my room and call Mom and Dad,” which we did. [laughter] I locked him in right away. Locked him in right away. They thought he was Hawaiian, I said, “He's Paul Maini,” because it's an Italian last name. And my father told me later, he said her thought I was marrying a Hawaiian because of the name.

TS:

The last name.

LM:

Yes. So we had an R&R together and then went back to Vietnam, separately, of course, because we were on different R& R schedules. I went back before he did. And shortly after that, I did rotate home. Right before Thanksgiving I came on home. And he came right after Christmas, and then we got married at the end of January. So it was all bang, bang. I got home and we—mother and I planned the wedding right off.

TS:

So you were married 1970?

LM:

1970, yes, early 1970. Been married ever since.

TS:

Terrific. Well, I didn't ask you why you went back to Vietnam the second time. Was that a volunteer or was it a rotation?

LM:

It was a rotation. I mean, people in the Red Cross go on orders just like the military do, and I got orders to go back. I could've said no, but I didn't. I mean, I could've said no, but I'm too much duty and responsibility oriented. So I said, “Okay, want me to go back, I'll go back,” which is what I did, and it's a good thing I did.

TS:

Yes, no kidding.

LM:

Good thing I did.

TS:

That's true.

LM:

I wouldn't have my kids today!

TS:

That's right. That's right. Well, is there anything about your Vietnam experience with the Red Cross that you would like to add that we haven't talked about?

LM:

No, just that it was a very significant time in my life. I often tell young people, since we live here in a college town, that—and I did this with my daughters, too—to really enjoy that time when you—from when you graduate college until you get married, or do something different with your life, because it's a time when you've got so much freedom. You can do what you want. You're not responsible to anybody other than yourself. And it's a scary time because you've been in this little cocoon of college where, especially during my time, they were like your parents. College was you were all sheltered and you had this little, “Let's have fun, and let's study and who cares what happens,” and then all of a sudden it's like, “Okay, now what do I do? I've got to make my way in the world.” But it's also the most fun time in your life, you know, where you can get out and do things and experiment, and if you want to go and do crazy stuff like I did, you can do that. So yes, I will always treasure my Red Cross experience. I wish I remembered it better. I think when you talk with Holley [Watts, WV0407] you're going to find that she's got, that she has stayed much more in tune with the Red Cross experience. She's written a book [Who Knew? Reflections on Vietnam] and all this kind of stuff. So you probably hear a lot more specifics from Holley than you've gotten from me.

TS:

Well, I think that you remember just fine. [laughter] I don't think you're [unclear].

LM:

Well, going through all this stuff has helped.

TS:

Well, I would need help too. I also want to ask you about—because we've been going for a while—

LM:

Yes, we have. Sorry to hold you up, because when I get going, I get going.

TS:

Oh, you're not holding me up. Oh, my goodness no. That's perfectly fine. But you said you have a daughter that's in the navy?

LM:

Yes.

TS:

And she's a pilot?

LM:

Yes.

TS:

So how do you feel about her service right now, during this era that we're in?

LM:

I feel very proud of her. She went to the University of Virginia. She was an English major, but she went on—her last three years on a Navy ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps] scholarship. I think she really did it because her dad was in the service and made a career of the service. Because this was my younger daughter, and I never would've guessed that she was going to go into the service, but she did. And then she selected aviation and she became a helicopter pilot, and she was on her second cruise deployment when 9/11 [September 11, 2001] occurred. And then her deployment was the Persian Gulf. And her carrier group was just getting ready to come back; they had actually started on their journey to come home. And after 9/11, then they turned the carrier around immediately. So she was on the USS Philippine Sea, which was a cruiser, at the time, and that was—the Phil Sea launched the first missiles into Afghanistan in the war of—what do they call it? Not Iraqi Freedom, but it was—Well, anyway, it was the war in Afghanistan.

So she was there, yes, and we worried the hell about her, a hell of a lot about her. It was one thing for me to do it, and one thing for Paul to do it, but for your baby? Uh. That's when I thought myself, “How did my parents do this? How did they do it?” Because we had communications with Tracy fairly regularly because of computers, you know? She had email on and off ship. And while she couldn't tell us very much because it was classified, we would be in touch with her so you'd know that she was safe. So yes, it was hard to have her go off.

But I'm very proud of her doing what she's doing. She now flies fixed-wing [aircraft] for the navy. She flies C-9s. And she got out of the active navy after nine years, but she's now making the navy reserves a full-time for her. So she's flying a lot with the navy. And I'm really proud of her, because I believe very strongly in public service. My husband and I have both been in public service all of our lives, neither one of us have ever worked for a for-profit. And my older daughter is a teacher, so she is definitely in public service; she's a middle school teacher. So I'm really proud of both kids because they're giving back to their community and that's what we think it's all about.

TS:

It's true. Well, very good. Would you like to talk about what you did after you got out, when you left the Red Cross? Or maybe stayed with the Red Cross, I don't know, actually.

LM:

Sure. No, I resigned when I came back home the second time, so I'd been with the Red Cross for four years. And we got married in 1970 and we went—our first assignment was Fort Knox [Kentucky], so—and of course, being a military wife at that point in time, there was not an opportunity to really go to work and do anything. Paul, although he was an infantry officer, went to Fort Knox. He was going to a career course and we were there for a couple of years and then we—he had the opportunity to go to graduate school on the army and get his master's [degree], which he did. And he selected Florida State [University], so we moved to Tallahassee, and he went—Paul went to grad school there and worked in the ROTC department there. And there was—at that point there was not a lot of happy campuses with ROTC on them. The ROTC building had been, I guess, attacked before we moved to Florida. But being in Tallahassee was a good time and it was a wonderful small town then. It's big time now because Florida State football has gotten so, you know, gotten so big. But it wasn't when we were there. I mean Bowden came—Bobby Bowden came when we were down there, so he just began to build it up by the time we left. But we had our first child down there so, you know, that—no I take that back. Shannon was born in Kentucky. She was born in Fort Knox. And our second, Tracy, was born down at Florida State. We were there for five years, and we went to Korea, and we lived in Korea for a couple of years, which was—

TS:

Would you mind if I backed up for just a second?

LM:

Yes.

TS:

So he was in the ROTC then when Kent State happened in '70?

LM:

[sighs] Gosh, yes. Yes.

TS:

So where—

LM:

He was—we were—when Kent State happened, we were at Fort Knox. But then after that, we moved down and he went—he just did graduate school.

TS:

Oh, I forgot about Fort Knox.

LM:

Yes. After we left Fort Knox, then we went to Florida State, but he was in graduate school for two years. At that point, he was just in graduate school and he studied history, got his master's in history. Yes, exactly. He's a great historian. He tells—I mean he's a really good historian.

TS:

I'm sorry I missed him.

LM:

Yes, I'm sorry you did, too. And then he went to work in the ROTC department as cadre.

TS:

Okay, I see.

LM:

So he was there for another three years as cadre. We were there five years altogether.

TS:

Okay. So then you went to Korea, sorry.

LM:

So then we went to Korea, yes. He worked in Seoul, at Yongsan, at the base in Seoul. And lived—for eighteen of our twenty-four months over there, we lived on the Korean economy, which was a very interesting experience. I got an opportunity to—Korean people are very, very—they're nice people, just nice people. I worked teaching conversational English at a number of Korean companies, which was really fun to do. I enjoyed doing that. Koreans have a great sense of humor. They have a very American sense of humor and they all wanted to learn, you know, idioms and slang and all that kind of stuff. So I did that.

TS:

And so then—

LM:

And after Korea we came back to the states and Paul went to—he went to the next level of schooling. It wasn't the advanced course. Yes, it was the advanced course I guess. Next level of schooling, but not with the army, we would've been out in Kansas for that. He went to Newport, Rhode Island, and went to the Naval War College up there. And that was near his home, he's from Massachusetts, which was why he wanted to go there. Which was, yeah—no, that was a really good experience. I mean Newport is a wonderful town. We've lived in some neat places. You know, it was a so—we were there for a year, and it was a great town and we were by the sea and great restaurants. And we were with the navy, which we hadn't been with before, and I had a gained a real appreciation of the hardships that navy families go through. Army families do, too, but it's a little different experience for navy families.

TS:

Prepared you for your daughter.

LM:

Yes, it did. Prepared me for Tracy, for what kind of life that she was living. We were there for a year, and then Paul was transferred to Fort Ord out in Monterey County, California. And that's when I—and we moved out to Fort Ord and we lived in Salinas, and I got a job there. I finally got to work in my field, so to speak. I went to work for two of the county supervisors out in Monterey County. I looked for a job and looked for a job and couldn't get one. And finally this woman supervisor hired me because one of the things I told her in the interview was that, you know, “I've just been a mom. I've done all the volunteer work, I've been the scout leader, I've done the Red Cross, I've done this, I've done that,” and, of course, she really related to that, because she had children at home, too, and she realized that—she knew you didn't have to have a paid job to get experience. So I went to work for Barbara, and worked for her for a while, and she had two aides because she was chairman of the county board of supervisors at the time. I was her second aide. And interestingly, we talked about Bobby Kennedy. Susan, her primary aide, was my colleague, had—was with—had worked for Bobby Kennedy in California and was there at the time that he was assassinated. So we had, you know, we had a lot of talks about that.

And then after that, I worked for another one of the county supervisors when Barbara was no longer the chairwoman, and she wasn't—the county wouldn't pay for a second aide for her, so I went to work for a different county supervisor. So I was able then to begin to work into the field I had studied for, the field that really interested me. And that was full-time work for me.

It was a little hard because it's hard to put—find—find away to have your children taken care of. Shannon was fourth and fifth grade—that's my older daughter—at that time, and Tracy was first and second grade. And so I had to have somebody to watch the kids after they came home from school. But that all worked out. I was able to do it and we still did the girl scouts and all the things you do when you're a mom to take care of your babies, that kind of thing.

And we were there for just under two years and my husband, who went to VMI, found that there was an opening on the ROTC staff at VMI [Virginia Military Institute] and he'd always wanted to come back here. So he said—and this is the first time he made a decision without me. He just decided that he was going to take this job. [I] was not terribly fond of it because I liked living in California. My parents by that time had moved from Cleveland and they were living in southern California. So my family was—part of my family was there.

But we moved here. Paul moved before I did because I was finishing up some work. And he was—he came out here and got established and we found a house and all that. Anyway, we finally got situated here in 1982. And it was culture shock for me, because this is a small southern town, which I'd never lived in a southern town. I'd lived in Tallahassee, but that was not quite the same as here. This is really a southern town. And my mother always reminded me, she said, “You know what you told me? You told me, 'He might take me to a little southern town, but he's not going to keep me there.'” Well, of course, here I am, twenty-five years later. But it was hard for me to get oriented in this town because it was very southern, because it was very small. And I'd grown up in a big city and I've been all over the world and all that kind of stuff. And Christ, this town only has one radio station, and a weekly newspaper. It was like, “Huh? What's with this?” But I felt like after three years, I was finally really oriented in this town.

And I couldn't get a job at first. I looked and looked and finally gave up looking and then I got a position, a part time position at the George Marshall Foundation. And that parlayed into a full time position and I was there for twenty years, and retired as the vice president of the foundation.

TS:

Oh, wow, excellent.

LM:

Which was a very interesting job. I very much enjoyed my work at the Marshall Foundation and what I had done. But I became very active in town and served on boards and the kids grew up here and they loved it here. We had an opportunity at one point in time to move to Annapolis [Maryland]. Paul's last assignment in the service was to teach history at the naval academy.

TS:

It'd be heaven.

LM:

Yes! It was great. Unfortunately, we were not able to sell the house that we were in, so the kids and I stayed here and Paul commuted. So he'd come home on weekends or we'd go up there for the weekend, and we just got to the point where we finally sold the house and Paul thought that he was going to get housing in his second year to live on the grounds of the academy. But he was army after all, and they are navy after all, down there, so he didn't get the housing he thought he was going to get. Well, one thing led to another and he went over twenty years in the service, and a job here at the alumni association at VMI opened up, and he said, “I'm getting out. I'm taking the job,” which was fine with me, you know, because the kids loved living here. They really didn't want to move to Annapolis. And after the hiatus of about eighteen months we were finally able to build the house that we're in now. We bounced around for a couple of—because the house sold and we didn't go to Annapolis, so we lived on the campus of VMI for a little while and then we found a rental farm out in the county and we rented that for a year and a half while we built this house, and we've been here—Very satisfied with Lexington, I mean obviously.

TS:

I have to say, it's a beautiful home.

LM:

Well, thank you. We've—this is—

TS:

Get that on tape, because it's gorgeous.

LM:

This is only the second house we've owned—no, it's the third. I take that back, it's the third house that we've owned. But I love this house. I love living here, I like Lexington. It would be very hard to leave this little southern town now. I've adapted to it beautifully. I ran for public office a couple of times. Didn't get elected, but it was a good experience.

TS:

Really? Excellent. Well, very good.

LM:

So, well there you have it. Here I am.

TS:

That's a great story. Is there anything we've missed?

LM:

Oh, there are probably lots of things we missed.

TS:

Well, we can't get it all on the tape.

LM:

And that's an overview of what I've done, but other than having my children and having them grow up and become productive citizens, I would say probably the most interesting period of my life was when I worked for the Red Cross.

TS:

I could see that. Well, thank you very much for sharing your stories.

LM:

You're welcome. I'm sorry I was so long winded I've kept you here so late. Your poor doggie is out waiting.

TS:

No, it's quite all right. I'm going to go ahead and stop it here.

[End of Interview]