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Tallgrass Creek Nurses Group Shares Stories of Compassion in the Chaos of War

February 28, 2014

OVERLAND PARK, KS (March 1, 2014) - Sixteen retired nurses who live at Tallgrass Creek in Overland Park meet monthly to share stories about their beloved profession and listen to guest speakers talk about health care. The group, which is called Retired Nurses Reminiscing, has become a venue for honoring each member's lifelong compassion and service to others.
"We all share a common bond," said the group's coordinator Ann Brazil, an Army nurse during the Vietnam War who was stationed in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, where she served at the 85th Evacuation Hospital. "Though our experiences are different, we've all seen a side of life that has shaped us into the people we are today."
Brazil today speaks fondly of her nursing career, and of her fellow nurses.
Because of changes in the Army's recruiting requirements, the 5,000 nurses who served in Vietnam throughout the entire war were younger and had less nursing experience than nurses in previous conflicts. "I'm proud to have been one of them," said Brazil who, along with husband Jerry, moved to Tallgrass Creek in 2010.
Brazil's career began at the University of Oregon School of Nursing where she was recruited into the Army Student Nurse Cadet Corps at the beginning of her junior year. After graduating with a nursing degree, she attended basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Tex. Her first assignment was in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where she met and married Jerry.
In August of 1966, she was deployed to Vietnam. She was 22, married just three months, and had been a registered nurse for only 14 months. She well remembers her first impression of the war-torn, chaotic country.
"I got off the plane at Ton Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon and was hit with a blast of 120-degree heat," she said. "I had just put my gear in temporary quarters when I was in my first mortar attack. I remember thinking, 'This just isn't happening to me.'"
Within days, she was flown out to the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon where she cared for several wards of malaria patients and other infectious and minor surgical cases. The hospitals were Quonset huts with dirt floors, tin roofs, and no attached toilet facilities. The patients were in cots and the heat was stifling.
"There is no more appreciative patient than the American G.I. They are so grateful for the presence of American nurses," Brazil said. "I learned to watch men cry and not feel embarrassed. I was grateful that I could be there to comfort them.
"I was honored to interact with and care for such incredibly brave and fine, young men," she said.
Brazil continued to practice nursing when she returned home, completing her master's degree in health care administration while on active duty. She enjoyed assignments in San Antonio, Tex., and Germany before retiring as a Lt. Col. in 1998 and worked an additional 11 years in civilian jobs before retiring her nursing license in 2008. Her entire nursing career spanned 43 years. 
Brazil will always view her nursing experience in Vietnam as particularly rewarding. "A fellow Army nurse once told me that nurses bring compassion to the chaos of war," she said. "I found that to be true."