Most people may not know the names of the eight women etched into the black granite panels that make up the Vietnam Memorial Wall on the Mall in Washington, D.C. All of those names belong to nurses who died while serving in Vietnam.
Of the eight, only one was killed as a direct result of enemy fire. Her name was Lt. Sharon Ann Lane.
Lane was born in Zanesville, Ohio, but her family moved to Canton, Ohio where she graduated from high school. After nursing school, she went into the Army and did her basic training for Army nursing at Brooke Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, and then was stationed at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado before going to Vietnam.
She arrived in Vietnam on April 26, 1969, and was stationed with the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai. While there she worked mostly on Ward 4 caring for wounded GIs. According to Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the work on Ward 4 was very challenging, but Lane also often volunteered to help care for the most severely wounded soldiers in the post surgical intensive care unit.
Those who were wounded in action in Vietnam, who were cared for by these Army nurses at in-country Evacuation Hospitals like that in Chu Lai, or by the Navy nurses on the USS Sanctuary, or USS Repose Hospital ships, know how hard these nurses worked. They know, too, the truly caring dedication they gave to their patients.
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Army and Marine Corps grunts had spent days, weeks, even months in country, going out on patrols, or search and destroy missions in the jungle covered mountains up in the I Corps area of South Vietnam, or in the Central Highlands, or slogging through rice paddies and the jungle vegetation of the Mekong Delta area. They had marched, ate, and slept in the mud caused by days of monsoon rain. They had come face to face with the enemy and fought for their lives and the lives of their brothers, and had been wounded and evacuated to hospitals like the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai, or Charlie Med in Quang Tri, or on one of the Navy Hospital ships.
For them, to wake up and see the faces of those nurses, to hear the tenderness and encouragement in their voices, was like seeing and hearing angels. Not to mention the feel and smell of clean sheets.
Those nurses not only eased the pain of the injuries a little, and began the care necessary for successful recoveries, they brought back to us a little bit of “The World” we had left behind when we entered the that violent war torn place. Their medical skill, their dedication to the wounded was instrumental in making it possible for higher rates of our wounded in Vietnam to survive the often devastating injuries that bullets, shrapnel from rockets, mortars and artillery fire, as well as booby traps can cause to the human body.
Nurses like Lt. Lane were, in every sense of the word, angels to those who needed them the most.
On June 8, 1969 the 312th Evacuation Hospital was hit by a heavy barrage of 122 mm rocket shells. One of the rounds landed between Wards 4A and 4B. That round killed three Americans and wounded 27. One of those killed was Lt. Sharon Ann Lane. She was struck in the chest by shrapnel and was killed instantly. She was 25 years old.
Lane was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with “V” device, and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with a palm device. Her name appears on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 23w, Row 112.
Also In her honor, posthumously, Lane was named “Outstanding Nurse of the Year” for 1969 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Recovery Room at Fitzsimons Hospital in Aurora, Colorado where she had worked before going to Vietnam was also re-named in her honor. There is a bronze statue of her at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio. On its base are etched the names of 110 local servicemen who also died in Vietnam. And, quite significantly, in 2002 the Sharon Ann Lane Foundation dedicated a new health clinic named after her in Chu Lai, Vietnam.
With great respect and honor, the Veterans Site wishes to add its deepest thanks for the life, service and sacrifice of Lt. Sharon Ann Lane. We promise her family that we will never forget what her life and the lives of her fellow nurses, doctors, and medics at the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai meant to those wounded soldiers she and they cared so deeply for there.
Rest In Peace, Sharon Ann Lane. You are not forgotten.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.