Lorna Griess served as a military nurse for thirty years, two in the Navy and the remainder in the Army. She retired as a colonel in 1990.
Her memoir—2D Surgical Hospital: An Khe to Chu Lai South Vietnam (Xlibris, 108 pp. $22.99, hardcover; $15.99, paper; $3.99, Kindle)—covers 1966-67 when she was twenty-eight years old and primarily tended to wounded soldiers in recovery rooms and intensive care units, working twelve hours a day, six days a week.
“In RR/ICU, every patient was acute, needing instant and constant care,” Greiss writes.
Greiss’s recollection of the time focuses on her duties and surroundings. She does not describe in detail the individual Americans the treated. She talks of a “push,” or mass casualty, and other medical events in general terms. For example:
“Gunshot wounds were always surprises. They took eclectic paths through the body, sometimes diverted by bones and sometimes clean. Medical people had to turn the patient over to find the full damage. Some of the slower rounds made little entry holes but large exit wounds. Chest and abdominal wounds from gunshot or blast injuries sometimes took hours to find and fix all the damage.”
Greiss does describe the impact that her duties had on her psyche. “If I dwell on it now, some of the sights, sounds, and smells are still very real,” she writes. “They were perceived at the height of emotion and are etched forever in my mind. Tears are filling my eyes and cascading down my cheeks as I write this. That was forty-eight years ago, and it is as fresh as yesterday in my mind.”
The book contains thirty-two full-page photographs Griess took. Mainly they show buildings from the locales where she lived, worked, and traveled.
Based on Griess’ closing comments, I believe she wrote 2D Surgical Hospital to help relieve her own war-related emotional problems. She proudly served her nation and paid a price. She has lung cancer attributed to exposure to Agent Orange and mentions PTSD as follows:
“Those of us who made the Army a career had peer support and did much better than those who got out and went back home looking for the same world they left. Many are still seeking treatment today.”
Griess continues to work on behalf of veterans from the Vietnam War as well as returnees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The author’s website is 2dsurgicalhospital.com