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Interview with Bernadette Sanner [April 22, 2002]

Robert Wray:

Okay. I'm here, and my name is Robert Wray. I'm making this recording of this interview. And the place is Dyer Nursing Rehabilitation in Griffith -- or, Dyer, Indiana. The date is April 22nd, 2002. The veteran's name is Bernie Sanner, and her birth date is 07/10/46. And her current address is 1234 North Rensselaer Court, Griffith, Indiana 46319. Her highest rank was First Lieutenant, and that was in the Air Force.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

And -- that's about it. We'll start with the interview.

Robert Wray:

Okay. These might seem a little redundant. Where were you born?

Bernadette Sanner:

Hammond, Indiana.

Robert Wray:

Hammond, Indiana? And have you spent most of your life in Indiana, except when you were overseas and in training?

Bernadette Sanner:

I was in Texas for a few years. And other than that, between Vietnam and Texas, I lived in Indiana.

Robert Wray:

Were any of your parents in the service?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

No? Okay. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes.

Robert Wray:

Did they serve in the military at all?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you have any -- when you were -- before you decided to become a nurse, did you have any other hobbies or interests, such as sports or art or --

Bernadette Sanner:

That's a long time ago. I was involved in a lot of civic things. Different organizations and things of that nature.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you -- at that point in your life, you know, when you were in grade -- probably grade school, did you have an interest in caring for the sick and --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. I've always wanted to be a nurse.

Robert Wray:

Okay. What -- what was it that sparked your -- your interest in the --

Bernadette Sanner:

Probably my grandparents. They always, you know, talked about taking care of people. So, that's probably where it started.

Robert Wray:

What did your parents think of you -- of your interest in becoming a nurse?

Bernadette Sanner:

My parents were very positive about me becoming a nurse.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you go to school for nursing before you entered the military?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Where was that at?

Bernadette Sanner:

St. Margaret Hospice School of Nursing.

Robert Wray:

How long did you go there?

Bernadette Sanner:

Three years.

Robert Wray:

Okay. How did that compare with the medical training that you received in the military?

Bernadette Sanner:

We did not receive any medical training in the military.

Robert Wray:

No?

Bernadette Sanner:

We had two weeks training when we were -- when we started in the military, nurses had two weeks of training. And it was really more just to teach you sort of what military was, and it really -- really had nothing to do with nursing.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Do you remember the first time that you heard about the conflict in Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

I think I always heard about it, due to the time in the '60s. So, I guess that was always back in my mind.

Robert Wray:

What were your feelings about it? Were you for it or did you -- were you against it or --

Bernadette Sanner:

I had no, really, feelings for the war, but I know I had to do something to help. My head nurse was a -- she was in the Navy or Army. I'm not sure which. World War II nurse.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

And so, she told me a lot of stories. And one day, while I was at work, she was told that her son was killed there. So, that was the decision that I -- there was no turning back. I was going to Vietnam.

Robert Wray:

Wow. During what two years were you there in Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

I was in Vietnam from '69 to '70.

Robert Wray:

'69 to '70. Okay. So, obviously, you enlisted, and you weren't drafted --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes.

Robert Wray:

-- correct? Okay. Okay. What led you to choose the Air Force, as opposed to the other branches of the military?

Bernadette Sanner:

We -- when we were in nursing school, we were recruited by all the branches of the military. I just felt the most comfortable with the Air Force.

Robert Wray:

Okay. How did your parents feel about you going into the military and eventually going to Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

My father was very happy that I went to the military, since he never could, because he had ear problems, and they wouldn't draft him. My mother was ambivalent. She really wasn't very happy about it.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you have any other friends or nurses -- nurse friends, I guess, I should say, that went -- were also going to Vietnam at the same time you were?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

So, you were going pretty much by yourself?

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Now --

Bernadette Sanner:

I was in Texas for one -- basically, one year before I went to Vietnam. One of the ladies that I met in Texas went to the same place I was stationed three months later, but we didn't know that at the time.

Robert Wray:

When you went to Texas, that's when you were -- you already joined the military?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. I was in a military station in Texas for one year.

Robert Wray:

Okay. So, you left Texas and went straight to Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you find boot camp to be as difficult as the other recruits?

Bernadette Sanner:

There is no boot camp for nurses.

Robert Wray:

There is no boot camp? There's nothing like that?

Bernadette Sanner:

There's nothing like that.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you -- do you have any specific memories of the actual voyage to Vietnam? Your first --

Bernadette Sanner:

It was one of the worst flights I've ever had, because we flew from Washington; from Seattle to Japan. And we flew with -- The people on the plane -- there were a lot of pilots sitting where I was sitting, and they made me very nervous because of the load of the plane with the gas and everything, fuel. They didn't think we'd get off the ground. And so, it was not one of my more memorable flights. And it was very long. You just didn't do anything. Just sat on the plane.

Robert Wray:

Wow. Did you find yourself feeling more excited or fearful of what you might encounter once you got to Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

You know, I tried not to think about any of that, because the flight was so long. And, really, no one talked on the plane if you want -- really, if you looked at them, no one talked.

Robert Wray:

It was pretty quiet?

Bernadette Sanner:

It was very quiet.

Robert Wray:

Once you got to Vietnam, where were you stationed at?

Bernadette Sanner:

Cam Ranh Bay.

Robert Wray:

And did you remain there throughout your whole tour?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes.

Robert Wray:

Okay. When you first got there, what were your initial thoughts about the country of Vietnam during the first days?

Bernadette Sanner:

My first thought about the country of Vietnam was, we were being mortared when I landed. That was my initial orientation into the place.

Robert Wray:

Oh, wow.

Bernadette Sanner:

There was not much more I could think about. And it was July 4th. So, that was the first day.

Robert Wray:

Did -- did you find it hard to adjust to the climate, or were you simply just too busy to notice it? Obviously --

Bernadette Sanner:

You know, the climate's God awful. It's very hot, it's very humid. It's just unbelievable. But you didn't worry about the climate because you were too busy to worry about it. We had very little free time, because we were 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Usually, you had a day off in between somewhere, but that was it.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

And so, you really -- you had a couple of days off. Periodically, they would get us away. Just send us somewhere else just to get away, just cut the stress level down, but you really didn't think about the climate.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. So, when you first got there, you were being mortared. Is that as you were landing or after you landed?

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh. As we landed.

Robert Wray:

So, what was that like?

Bernadette Sanner:

It was a little horrific, because everybody told me that Cam Ranh was the safer of the bases, but we were mortared a lot while I was there.

Robert Wray:

Really?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. In fact, there are two -- three bases there, because we were sort of like on Chicago. Right on the South Side of -- sign -- south China Sea. The Navy had an installation there, the Army had an installation there, and the Air Force had an installation there. So, it was a huge base. You know, three different places. And the hospital -- the Army's hospital was shelled more times than anything. Now, our base was shelled, but they had the actual hospital shelled.

Robert Wray:

Really? So, you think they focused more just on the hospital or -- I mean --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- do you think it was intentional as --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. Just indiscriminate.

Robert Wray:

Did you have any contact with the South Vietnamese people?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. Yes. We cared for some of the soldiers. So, if they were injured -- we took care of the kids. When they'd bring kids in, we'd take care of the kids. But we took care of a lot of the soldiers, you know, who were injured. And we just took care of anybody who came in and needed care.

Robert Wray:

Did you generally find them friendly or did you have some discouraging experiences with them in regards to, you know, their --

Bernadette Sanner:

It was just --

Robert Wray:

-- attitudes towards Americans?

Bernadette Sanner:

I was very extreme, from what I treated. The soldiers were very positive. Some of the females that came in and did like errand work really did not like the females. They didn't want females around. And you figure, there were probably 80 of us on a 10,000 -- there were 10,000 males to 80 females. And so, they didn't know what to do with us, the females. And so, the female Vietnamese really did not want us there. So, they were not very positive.

Robert Wray:

Pretty much -- yeah. From the female side of the South Vietnamese. Did you find that they were appreciative of the US involvement or did you see a lot of evidence of them not -- you know, not wanting us there and not being --

Bernadette Sanner:

You saw a lot of them not wanting you there. Especially, if you went off the base, you know, into the countryside. Because I would go, sometimes when I had a few hours, to the orphanage and give them shots and things for the kids. Because they were afraid that somebody would come and hurt them because they were nice to us. So, there was a lot of fear.

Robert Wray:

Okay. What was your first medical experience once you got to Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

Finding out that you had to take care of -- I think we had 80 patients, one nurse, 12 hours a day. And we did everything. You did the medication changes, you did the order writing, you did the transfer forms. You made the decision who was med-evac'd or not. Doctors came in twice a week to make rounds. So, you were pretty independent.

Robert Wray:

Pretty much left it to your own --

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

-- resources. Obviously, you came into contact with some sort of combat with the mortar -- mortar fight. Did you come into any other type of --

Bernadette Sanner:

Well, any time the base was being overran, we had a guard stationed at each one of our doors. There were four doors on each one of our units. There was always an armed guard at each of our doors. And, of course, we always all -- we always wore flak jackets and helmets. And we had to take care of the guys differently. If we were being mortared, we covered the guys who were mostly -- my unit was orthopaedics and neurosurgery. You had to cover them with mattresses and things, because they had nothing else to protect them.

Robert Wray:

Okay. So, obviously, your base was under constant threat of mortar fighting?

Bernadette Sanner:

Well, you're constantly under threat. You're not constantly being mortared, but you're constantly under threat.

Robert Wray:

Okay. As far as your medical supplies, did you find that you were -- it was adequate, or did you have to ration like medications and so forth?

Bernadette Sanner:

Medications really -- we pretty much were okay with. What you rationed was what you used for when -- what we needed. Like, sometimes we needed specialized beds.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, you had to decide who was the sickest person that needed that particular kind of bed. And a lot of times, we would be putting them together in the middle of the night, trying to figure out how to put things together that you would never have to do anywhere else. But, primarily, that was the thing. Because everything else is very generic. The medications were very generic. Nothing was ordered for any specific person. It was just there, and you kind of figured out who needed what. And the physicians, you know, would tell you, "I want him on IV antibiotics." But the IV antibiotics became your problem because you had to make sure you had what you needed for each person. My unit was the triage unit, so we were getting -- if the triage ER -- the ER base was overran, then I had to take my guys and double them up in a bed. And we did that more times than not, so I can use the other half of the unit for triage. And then, you became the triage nurse. So, then you had to make the decision, who gets the IV first, who does what first. So, you had to just work with what you could.

Robert Wray:

Did -- oh. Can you -- if there was such a thing as a typical day, could you take me through like what basically your day would entail?

Bernadette Sanner:

In the morning, you would make sure -- you know, I don't even know, in retrospect, how they ever ate, because I can't remember anybody ever eating. I was thinking about that a couple weeks ago. You come in, you get your meds, you do your med pass, just like you would do anywhere else, making sure everybody was on your meds, your IVs, your piggy-backs and those kind of things. Then, what you would do next is -- usually, there were criteria. Sometimes if they needed therapy because they were going to be short-term and can go back to their platoon, then you got them going that way. If they were going to be long-term, then you had to work with the med-evac teams to get them into rotation so that you could get them out of country. So, those were all your responsibilities. If they were short-term or say they needed a month, then you would send them to the Philippines. If they needed to be long-term, then you would send them to Japan. Every one had different reasonings for you. So then, your job was then to put them where they belong, to do all the paperwork, so that they can then get them processed, and then get them out of the country.

Robert Wray:

I see. And that's pretty much -- you did that every day?

Bernadette Sanner:

Pretty much. Pretty much every day. There wasn't a day like -- there wasn't a difference between Tuesday and Saturday. All the days were the same. You really couldn't delineate the differences of the days. And, of course, then you would do your med passes. We would do all of our wound care, and wound care was tremendous. There was a tremendous amount of wound care. We had Corpsmen. I think we had two Corpsmen. It was -- it was a nurse and two Corpsmen. And the Corpsmen would do some of the things for you, like they would do suturing and they would do things like that, which nurses were never trained to do. But they would do those things because the physicians never had time to do that. So then, you would assess these people, say when they should be sutured, have sutures removed. You really made those decisions. The physician would come in twice a week, make grand -- what we would call the grand rounds, and tell you what they wanted the person to get to, and then it was your job to get them there.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you have any mentors while you were there at Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

None at all?

Bernadette Sanner:

No. Yeah. It was really kind of strange. When you came into the country, the person before you left and you kind of learned -- I don't want to say by the seat of your pants, but kind of by the seat of your pants.

Robert Wray:

Did you find that, because you're a woman in a predominantly male war, I guess I should say, did you find like you were somewhat isolated from the rest of the -- the American hamlet there, or the Americans that were in Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah, because, really, they didn't know what to do with us.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, we had our own places to live. Yeah. And because you were -- you were an oddity, no matter where you went.

Robert Wray:

What was the morale of the other women that were there?

Bernadette Sanner:

Some of them could make it and some of them couldn't. One of the ladies that was in my group, in my -- the hospital, we had a 1,000 bed hospital. So, every unit had like several nurses attached to it. So, I think there were three of us, and we rotated to cover everything. One of the girls just couldn't do it and she ended up leaving. She was sent home on a medical leave. And a lot of people, when you didn't see them in a day or so, you knew that they just were sent home on a medical leave because they couldn't do it.

Robert Wray:

Did you ever see any like drug use or --

Bernadette Sanner:

There was a lot of drug use.

Robert Wray:

-- massive alcoholism?

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't know that I could tell you if there was alcoholism, because it was -- it would be very difficult to find that, compared to those standards. People could drink there what they couldn't drink here.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

And I -- you would never call them an alcoholic because of just the nature of the beast. But there was a lot of drug use. And periodically, different people would try smuggling in drugs to our soldiers and things, and a couple times it got a little harry.

Robert Wray:

Did you have to watch your medications, and as far as --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. I really didn't -- no. That part of it -- and a lot of times, especially if we were using our building as triage, you couldn't watch your medications. You know, you just couldn't. I mean, you have to look at life and death first before you worry about counting narcotics.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. Did being constantly exposed to the wounded and dying affect your opinion or outlook on the war? Obviously, you've already mentioned that you really weren't there for the cause of the war. You were there just to help out.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Did that change your outlook on the war at all, being --

Bernadette Sanner:

You don't have time to think, to worry about it. And you really didn't get political things like you all did here in the States. Unless somebody would send me an article, I wouldn't have even known it --

Robert Wray:

Oh, really?

Bernadette Sanner:

-- because you were just busy doing what you were doing. And so, those issues were not part of you.

Robert Wray:

Did you, at any time, feel like you would not be able to -- to be an effective nurse once you got there? Like, you know, once -- once you got there and you saw all the wounded and -- did you have like a panic attack or anything like that where you thought, "I'm not going to be cut out to do this," once you saw --

Bernadette Sanner:

I guess, no, because I just didn't know who else would do it. So, it isn't like I was superwoman. It was just like, "You're there. Just deal with it."

Robert Wray:

Did you --

Bernadette Sanner:

But you really close down. You don't think about anything else. You just think about what you have to do.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Did you ever have to treat any Viet-Cong? The POWs from the Viet-Cong --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- or, from the North Vietnamese?

Bernadette Sanner:

And I don't know why, but I have not. Well, again, though, you may have had them and you didn't know that's who they were.

Robert Wray:

Oh, that's true.

Bernadette Sanner:

You know, they could come in and you don't -- you're not going to be able to tell the South Vietnamese from the Viet-Cong. You're not going know --

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

-- if they don't tell you. You could have -- we could have all taken care of them and not known.

Robert Wray:

Wow. Did you ever see any come through that were known to be --

Bernadette Sanner:

I saw them -- yes. But not that I dealt with them, no.

Robert Wray:

Okay. Besides a regular -- well, not regular, but combat wounds, did you treat people from malaria, heart attacks, infections, and all the different types of fevers that occurred?

Bernadette Sanner:

The malarias, I had a handful. My friend who was -- that I told you came after -- a few months after I left from Texas, she was on the -- she was on the medical unit. She was malaria heaven. They would have 106, 107 temps. And so, when she would get really in a bind, because she was having so many seizures and things, we all would help each other, and I'd go and help her, because those guys were really critical really quickly in those temps. But mine was the orthopaedics, so it was a little bit different. I mean, yeah, they had the malarias, but that was the least of their problems. But, yeah, these guys came in specifically for that, and these guys were really critically ill.

Robert Wray:

Would you say that would be next to actual combat wounds and --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. Combat wounds are way far worse.

Robert Wray:

But next to those, would that be the most dangerous thing, besides actually getting injured in combat or killed in combat?

Bernadette Sanner:

The malaria?

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

Probably. I mean, the combat wounds, you can't -- or, the punji stick wounds, you can't even think about what they look like.

Robert Wray:

In comparison to the civilian medicine, was there many differences that the military dealt with the wounded and the sick --

Bernadette Sanner:

Absolutely.

Robert Wray:

-- as far as the triage?

Bernadette Sanner:

Military takes the most critical and puts them last, where our triage is the most critical are treated first.

Robert Wray:

Oh. So they take the most critical and put them last.

Bernadette Sanner:

They want to save who they can save first.

Robert Wray:

Was there much -- is there much -- or, I guess I should say, was there much of a difference in the neuro vital signs sheet from the regular medical charts that are used in hospitals today, that you can remember?

Bernadette Sanner:

Hospital -- the sheets that you use in the military are very generic. I'm trying to think of the neuro sheets, what they look like. It's more generic than -- this -- what we have in the States is much more sophisticated. There, it was much more generic. Your focus really wasn't on charting. It was on doing your -- during -- doing the tasks that need to be done. If you worried about your charting, you go nuts. The hardest part for the charting paper complexity was really in getting people ready to go out of the country. You know, making sure that that nurse doing the med-evacs knew what to do for that person. And you did it all on a little card. And so, you needed to make sure you spent the critical time making sure those things were correct.

Robert Wray:

Okay. During your final months at Cam Ranh Bay, did you get a sense of which way the war was going?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

No? You had no idea? Did -- was this opinion shared by your fellow nurses? Like, nobody else had any opinions on which way the war was --

Bernadette Sanner:

Nor did they care.

Robert Wray:

They just wanted to --

Bernadette Sanner:

They just wanted to do what they were there for, and then to leave. Much more difficult when you got home.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. That's when you seem to have been exposed to all of the politics. This is a statement from Jean Youngstrom Diebolt, who was also an Air Force nurse. She stated that "We were the most inexperienced group of medical personal ever to serve in wartime. I was scared. Not that I would be wounded or killed, but that I wouldn't measure up. That I would panic and freeze when the soldier's life depended on me." Does this seem to be your own experience?

Bernadette Sanner:

I know her, yes.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

We -- there are many of us that meet together.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

We meet once or twice a year.

Robert Wray:

Oh. You actually know her?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. And --

Robert Wray:

That's interesting.

Bernadette Sanner:

And many of us have had the opportunity to share these experiences. There is no difference. We were all the same. We were all in our early 20s. I was a nurse for one year, maybe two years, which I was at an advantage. Let's see. I left -- I was a nurse almost two years. Because I got there July of '69, graduated in August of '67. So, I had two years on everybody else. Some of these guys, especially the Army people, graduated. They paid for their own tuition. They had their two weeks of basic and went to Vietnam. So, we were at an advantage.

Robert Wray:

I see.

Bernadette Sanner:

It's funny, because we were all kids. None of us knew what we were doing.

Robert Wray:

Thrown into that type of situation. When it came time for you to go home at the end of your tour, were you relieved or did you feel you should stay and continue to help?

Bernadette Sanner:

No. I needed to leave.

Robert Wray:

Why was that? Were you just fed up or --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. I wasn't fed up. I was exhausted. I had six days off between -- I was -- I was in Hawaii for six days in January. And then, I went to the Philippines for two days. I think I went to Hong Kong for three days, and that was it. And I was exhausted. Physically, I don't know how much more I could have done.

Robert Wray:

During your leaves, did you find any particular place pleasurable to be at?

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't know that "pleasurable" is a good word. Just where you don't have to listen to things being shot at.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

That was good.

Robert Wray:

I guess --

Bernadette Sanner:

And food. You don't appreciate not having real food.

Robert Wray:

Did you eat a lot of the -- the local cuisine there or --

Bernadette Sanner:

I didn't eat.

Robert Wray:

-- did you stick to Army --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. I primarily lived on RC for one year.

Robert Wray:

And what did that consist of? What was -- what was that like? Are you talking about RC Cola?

Bernadette Sanner:

RC Cola.

Robert Wray:

Oh, okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

That's what I lived on.

Robert Wray:

What about --

Bernadette Sanner:

My mother and father used to send me food, and that's what I lived on. First of all, you didn't have time -- that's why I said that to you.

Robert Wray:

You didn't eat.

Bernadette Sanner:

You didn't have -- you had to go to the dining room or cafeteria to eat, and that was the least of your thoughts. And so, you didn't think about food. We never had real milk. They never had real milk. They had coconut milk. There were things that you could never get, so fresh fruit is what they used to send me.

Robert Wray:

Did -- in comparison, though, what was the actual -- the rations that you were given or the Army food?

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't -- I really -- it was nothing.

Robert Wray:

Was it terrible?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. I would think it's just -- yeah. Just -- but I really -- I really don't remember eating. That's what's been bugging me. I was thinking about this and it's like --

Robert Wray:

You probably didn't.

Bernadette Sanner:

-- you don't remember. I probably didn't. I lived on RC Cola. I used to drink a case of RC Cola every other day.

Robert Wray:

Wow.

Bernadette Sanner:

That, I remember going and buying all the time.

Robert Wray:

So, you've already mentioned that you were unaware of the intentions at home about the war and our involvement in it. Once you got home, did you -- were you shocked to find out that there was that much conflict going on here in the States about our involvement in Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. I was shocked, but the people I was surrounded by were very positive. So, they weren't the people that were doing all the complaining and all the different things. So, I really wasn't that exposed -- I mean, I read about it, you knew what was happening, yet the people around me were very supportive. So, I didn't have some of the problems some of the guys did or women did when they came home.

Robert Wray:

Okay. So, you pretty much didn't experience any resentment once you returned?

Bernadette Sanner:

But you also didn't tell anybody you were here -- or, there.

Robert Wray:

Did that -- how did that make you feel?

Bernadette Sanner:

I didn't tell anybody probably for 15 years.

Robert Wray:

Did that make you feel that you were -- went to defend an ungrateful country or something, or --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. I just locked it away because I didn't want to deal with it. First of all, you don't want to remember it.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, it wasn't that -- it wasn't that difficult, because it was just too -- it was things you just didn't want to think about.

Robert Wray:

If you can, please tell me the most prominent memory you have of your experiences in Vietnam. Like, when you think of Vietnam, like the first thing that comes to mind.

Bernadette Sanner:

Well, the first thing that comes to mind, there were people that were so bad that -- I just remember like the one guy that kept saying to me, "Don't let them cut my hand off," because he was holding his hand in his hand. Well, there was no hand here. It was gone, all the way to the shoulder. And he kept saying to me, "Promise me. Promise me." And I wish I could find him.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't remember his name. I don't remember any of their names. Because I would find him to tell him what had happened. Because, you know, he's begging me to promise him. And the next day, I had to tell him it was gone. You know, those are the things that were so hard. And some of the punji stick wounds, which were so violent, if these guys were walking in the field -- and you need to figure, these are all rice patties and God knows what, and they would fall in these punji stick wounds which would just pierce them. They were the punji stick wounds that they -- the punji sticks, they would put all kind of bacteria and stuff on them, and you would just have parts of the body -- And the one guy in particular, he finallyleft the country, and I'm hoping he lived. Again, I don't remember these guys' names, and I don't know if that's good or bad. A couple of times, I wanted to go to The Wall and look for namesand dates, because I could put dates with names, but I've never done that.

Robert Wray:

Did -- was it a constant flow of wounded, or would they come in sort of like, you know, as children of the '80s and '70s, like how MASH, how they would just have one big rush, or was it a constant flow of wounded?

Bernadette Sanner:

That's a good question, and I don't even remember that. It doesn't seem like we ever had empty beds, so they probably came in spurts. You know, you couldn't take somebody if you didn't have a bed.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, that's why you were constantly trying to get people out of country when you knew what was going on, and then get new ones in. So, I don't know that a constant flow, but you were pretty steadily busy.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

Because like MASH, they talk about, you know, like incoming -- See, our incoming would go to the ER --

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

-- and then we would get them out of the -- out of the OR or whatever, unless we were doing triage, where I was at.

Robert Wray:

So, you really weren't -- you really weren't in the ER yourself?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

You dealt with them after they came out the ER?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes, unless the ER was inundated. And then, we were the secondary triage unit.

Robert Wray:

Did you ever have to go into the ER and help out during that --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. Because they usually, by then, would have it already -- I'd be the second ER.

Robert Wray:

Oh, okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, usually, that's what I was.

Robert Wray:

What was the most probably intense medical thing that you had to do there? Like, did you -- I'm not exactly sure of what would be the -- the most critical medical procedure you would have to perform there.

Bernadette Sanner:

We did so many procedures. I guess, some of the punji stick wounds. We had to open those guys up and --

Robert Wray:

Just --

Bernadette Sanner:

-- irrigate them out. Those were probably the most intense.

Robert Wray:

So, they actually -- the --

Bernadette Sanner:

And you figure -- and you have to understand. This is not like you would think of. There was no privacy. Here was a bed. Here was a room -- the few feet. There was another bed. That was it. So, everybody saw everything. There was no privacy. But those things were very difficult to take care of. Very difficult.

Robert Wray:

The punji stick, or --

Bernadette Sanner:

Because they were so nasty.

Robert Wray:

And they actually put bacteria on these to --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. They make them so that if the guys would fall, they would definitely get hurt, and they were just awful.

Robert Wray:

That's something you really don't hear about too much.

Bernadette Sanner:

No. They didn't talk about that, and I always wondered why.

Robert Wray:

You'd think they would?

Bernadette Sanner:

But they take the bamboo chutes and they do this stuff. It was awful.

Robert Wray:

Now that you look back on the war, do you feel that your involvement changed theway that you led your life?

Bernadette Sanner:

Absolutely.

Robert Wray:

Was it a positive change or was it more --

Bernadette Sanner:

I was probably very negative until about 10 years ago, when I started working with a group of nurses. And there's a group -- there's -- there's nurses from all over thecountry, not just a group. And they're all the different military branches, not just one military branch, where we did conference sessions and brought these things to light amongst ourselves. And that's when things started turning positive for me.

Robert Wray:

How --

Bernadette Sanner:

Before then, I buried it all.

Robert Wray:

Is that because you started to --

Bernadette Sanner:

Talk about it?

Robert Wray:

-- talk about it --

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

-- with people that were there?

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh. Because you can't talk to this about somebody that doesn't understand. They have no -- they'd think you were nuts. They would have no clue what you were talking about. Now, who in their right mind would take care of 80 people?

Robert Wray:

Yeah. With those types of wounds.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh. And -- and you have to understand, most of them had IVs going, you know. That's why I have to laugh at nurses when they tell me, "I have five IVs." You know, I want to say, "I had 80." But you had to mix your own IVs. You had to mix your own antibiotics. No nurse in their own mind would ever do any of those things now. So, everything we didwas ours to do. There was nobody else to do it. Now, you wouldn't think about giving somebody an IV that wasn't mixed under a hood. Well, there were no hoods. We were glad we had a roofover our head. And then, there were air conditioning units in there, because you had asked about the climate. Well, there were days that the air conditioning unit went out. You just didwhat you had to do.

Robert Wray:

What was the -- the usual temperature there, that you remember?

Bernadette Sanner:

Oh, 105. That was the usual temperature. And it rained every day at 3:00.

Robert Wray:

Every day?

Bernadette Sanner:

Every day. It was God awful.

Robert Wray:

Torrential downpour or was it just --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. And then, it was just sat. But it gone because it was so hot. It was just awful.

Robert Wray:

That is something else.

Bernadette Sanner:

Heat was very oppressive.

Robert Wray:

Did the Vietnam War change the way that you viewed the US Government in its policies with other countries?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. It definitely has done that.

Robert Wray:

How is that?

Bernadette Sanner:

I'm probably a little more cynical, because I don't think we do our homework and look at everything that we should be looking at. And, likewise, I think, when we left,we didn't do our homework. And there's a nurse that was from Lafayette, who, because of us not doing our homework, is now dead. Because she died flying out a bunch of kids, and all of them lost their lives there. Those people didn't -- didn't do their homework.

Robert Wray:

Did -- do you -- do you think that the US Government sort of let you guys down?

Bernadette Sanner:

Absolutely, they let us down.

Robert Wray:

You feel that?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. Yeah. And I'm a survivor. You know, I have a career.

Robert Wray:

Uh-huh.

Bernadette Sanner:

I went in there with a career, but there were a lot of other people who didn't. They were doing what they felt was best, you know, with taking -- you know, doing for their country, and -- and it left them a mess. Now, are we much better now? I think so. But how many years did it take us to get much better? And I resent it for the guys. You know? I resent it to a certain extent for myself, because I didn't know what I buried that I do know now. But I resent it for the guys who really had it a lot worse.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. Just like (inaudible). You said, there's no -- no way nobody --

Bernadette Sanner:

No, there isn't.

Robert Wray:

-- nobody alive today can --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- identify that.

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

You mentioned that you get together with other nurses.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Is this local or is it --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. There's a group in Springfield.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

And they -- they have programs twice a year. And different ones of us have gotten together at different times. And there's different people all over the country. Wehave each other's names, and sometimes we'll just drop a line. It's just kind of nice. And Iknow the people locally that are -- there's not very many of us. You figure there was 6,000.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

And that was all females, not females only in Vietnam in that period of time. So, you're looking at a lot of people.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. It's just the females. Just the nurses and --

Bernadette Sanner:

Well -- but it's not just -- when the Vietnam Women's Memorial came up, itwas put for any female that served during that time, and you didn't have to be in Vietnam. So, even that way, you're looking at a number of 6,000. That number is very minute. So, if you actually looked at how many were in Vietnam, that number is going to be much less. Because when I was there, there were 80 people for a 1,000 bed hospital.

Robert Wray:

Now, 80 people just for the whole base, the Cam Ranh Bay or --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. The nursing division, female, there were 80 of us. Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Because this -- that was one of the largest bases in --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes.

Robert Wray:

-- Vietnam; wasn't it? Did you happen to keep any mementos or anything from Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

I have pictures.

Robert Wray:

You just got pictures?

Bernadette Sanner:

I had a hat, which, if I could get this hat back, I would be very happy. I had a hat that different guys gave me -- or, one guy gave me the hat. I was in Australia when he gave me the hat. And then, different guys gave me things to put on the hat. And when I was in Washington for the Vietnam Memorial, Women's Memorial, I -- I lost the hat, or someone took it. And if I could -- and my name was down in the hat. If I ever could get anything back, I'd like my hat back, because that was the only thing that really meant anything to me. I had some fatigues. My -- my -- you know, my brothers took those and -- but nothing meant anything to me but the hat.

Robert Wray:

And you said you kept some pictures, too, though.

Bernadette Sanner:

And the pictures, too.

Robert Wray:

Did -- was it a conscious decision to keep these pictures or did -- once you got back, you said you sort of wanted to bury everything.

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't think -- I don't think I did the pictures. I think my mother did from things I sent her. [INTERRUPTION IN CD]

Robert Wray:

So, the years you served were from -- I'm sorry. Remind --

Bernadette Sanner:

'69 to '70.

Robert Wray:

So, you were obviously there during the Tet (inaudible)?

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Do you have any particular memories of that, once that started to come about?

Bernadette Sanner:

No. The only thing I remember from that are the guys talking about the -- the vicious fighting, and that's -- you know. But --

Robert Wray:

Did the wounded increase or --

Bernadette Sanner:

It's hard to say because it always seemed like they were there.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, to say that it increased, I don't know. I -- I -- I -- that, I can't answer. I -- I don't remember. It just seemed like there was never any quiet time.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. It seemed like we, the Government, was expecting sort of a lull in fighting --

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

-- at that point in time, and then it turned out to be the exact opposite.

Bernadette Sanner:

Right.

Robert Wray:

Did you -- were you aware of that, that there was supposed to be the Tet holiday or --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

Nothing like that? You weren't expecting any type of --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- peace? In retrospect, do you think you'll ever go back to Vietnam to visit?

Bernadette Sanner:

I've been asked to go back a few times to teach, and I've always hesitated to go back. A couple people I know have been back, and they are strongly encouraging me to doit. I have to just take it one day at a time. I'm not ready to go back. But I may go back to teach.

Robert Wray:

You may go back to teach -- what; just --

Bernadette Sanner:

Nursing.

Robert Wray:

-- nursing?

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

To the Vietnamese?

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Did the other vets that you've talked to that have returned to Vietnam, what did they say their --

Bernadette Sanner:

They had mixed emotions. Extreme mixed emotions. Everybody that went back that I know were Army nurses, and I really think they had it a whole lot harder than we did.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

And they really had a hard time.

Robert Wray:

Why is that; because they were stationed different -- in different places or --

Bernadette Sanner:

Not just -- they were moved more. You know, they were taken from base to base to base periodically.

Robert Wray:

Oh.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, they didn't have the luxury of staying in one place. There's just -- it just -- and they were -- to me, they were not really ready. Again, two of the Army nurses that I know the best weren't nurses for six months, and they were thrown into that. And, I'm sorry. That's thrown into that. In fact -- no, I don't know if I hung it up. I was going to show you a picture. There was a picture of my office, but I don't know if I hung it up or not. Was there a picture of my office when you walked in?

Robert Wray:

I -- yeah. I was --

Bernadette Sanner:

See, it was in my old office. I'm trying to remember -- but anyway, that's an Army nurse that I'm very close to.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

But it isn't a picture like you think of a picture. You would not -- you would not know that's what it was.

Robert Wray:

Oh. It's just -- it's not a posed picture --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- or anything like that? It's just --

Bernadette Sanner:

It actually is a posed picture, but you wouldn't know that it is.

Robert Wray:

And that's -- it's in Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. It was -- they had a memorial after they lost their dozenth guy in one night.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. And the Soviet did a makeshift memorial and that's a picture of us, but you wouldn't figure it out just by looking at it.

Robert Wray:

I did see some pictures on -- you know, because I did a lot of research online. There's some -- there's not many --

Bernadette Sanner:

No, there's not a lot.

Robert Wray:

-- pictures. And believe it or not, in my class, I'm the only one interviewing a female vet.

Bernadette Sanner:

Oh, really?

Robert Wray:

This is like 30 kids, so --

Bernadette Sanner:

Is that good or bad?

Robert Wray:

I think that's probably bad for me because they'll scrutinize my interview a little bit more, but it's interesting to find the female's perception of the war, you know, because you only hear about the male combat.

Bernadette Sanner:

But before I went to Vietnam -- let me go back. Maybe I didn't say this. That wasn't true. There were two things I had to learn. One I had to learn to -- to drive those -- they're not four-wheelers. You -- you know, the big ambulances?

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

Okay. I had to learn to drive that, which was awful, because I never did a stick.

Robert Wray:

Was that a stick shift?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes, because I never did a stick. And the other thing, I was supposed to learn to shoot a gun. And I shot a gun one time, and it was as much as I would do. But we had to learn how to shoot.

Robert Wray:

What kind of gun did you shoot?

Bernadette Sanner:

M-15.

Robert Wray:

What was it like; frightening or --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. It shakes too much and I -- I just didn't think I'd ever kill anybody.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

You know, I really don't think I could have killed somebody to save myself. Now, in retrospect, would I have killed somebody to save my kid? Probably. But I don't know that, at that point in time, I could have done that. But that is one thing we always had when we were being overrun. We had a guard.

Robert Wray:

You mentioned that you had guards where you would sleep, like your quarters --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- there were guards?

Bernadette Sanner:

On the base. If we were being overrun, we were taken away from where we slept.

Robert Wray:

Now, overrun, you're talking about just --

Bernadette Sanner:

People on the base.

Robert Wray:

Really? Did that happen often?

Bernadette Sanner:

More times than one. But how often? I don't remember.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

But I know it's happened several times. So, we -- they would bring us back to the hospital to -- because they needed you to work, first of all.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

And they'd take us by fire personnel carrier. And I think that's why I'm claustrophobic now. And so, that -- that was the only other thing we had to learn. And I don't know if that was an Air Force thing, or whose thing it was.

Robert Wray:

Did -- when you first got to the base, when you first got to Vietnam, were you -- did you automatically see the base being overrun, or did that happen afterwards?

Bernadette Sanner:

It happened that day, but I don't remember much, because they didn't know what to do with us, because we didn't have an assignment where to go yet. So, they just got us somewhere to -- you know, to put our things down, basically, is what they did.

Robert Wray:

Did you feel like, "Oh my God. What did I get myself into" --

Bernadette Sanner:

Oh, yeah.

Robert Wray:

-- at that point in time?

Bernadette Sanner:

You know, but you don't know what it is. How do you compare that? To what?

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

You know, I didn't know what war meant. You know, you read about it, but what does it mean?

Robert Wray:

Yes. Did you know a lot about the Korean War before you went to Vietnam?

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

You didn't have much contact --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

You -- you now have children and grand -- you have a grandchild or you have grandchildren?

Bernadette Sanner:

I have grandchildren.

Robert Wray:

Do you talk openly with them about the war, or do you --

Bernadette Sanner:

It upsets my son to talk about it.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

It really upsets my son. And my daughter doesn't really want to talk aboutit. My grandchildren are very little, so they --

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

But it always bothered my son more than -- like I said, my daughter never says much about it. It always bothered my son.

Robert Wray:

Because of his mom --

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. I don't think he wants to think about his mother ever being shot at. And, see, I was married -- of course I was married. I have children, but my husband was never in the war. He was in the Air Force for 12 or so years, but he never went to Vietnam. So, I think that's one of the things that's always bothered my son.

Robert Wray:

That's interesting. Obviously, I'm a film student, so I would -- I'm curious about your take on films that deal with the Vietnam War, such as -- you know, I don't know if you've seen any or if you have seen some. Not necessarily just the Vietnam War, but war in general.

Bernadette Sanner:

It's real hard for me to watch war movies.

Robert Wray:

Really? Have you seen any?

Bernadette Sanner:

I'm trying to think what I've seen. I think I've seen one. I'm trying to think which one it was.

Robert Wray:

Let's see. Ones that deal with Vietnam. There's Full Metal Jacket.

Bernadette Sanner:

See, I've never seen that one now.

Robert Wray:

Apocalypse Now.

Bernadette Sanner:

Never saw that one. Because I know -- I guess I would relate, and I just don't watch them.

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

I just don't --

Robert Wray:

You wouldn't be interested in --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

-- reliving that?

Bernadette Sanner:

It's too hard for me. It just -- you know, even now, every now and then, you get a flash of something that happened. Then you think, "Where did that come from?" And then it dawns on you where it came from, because it's just something you just don't want to dwell on.

Robert Wray:

There was a television show, I think back in the '90s --

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

-- called China Beach.

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. I watched that.

Robert Wray:

Now, did you find that to be just glamorized or --

Bernadette Sanner:

It was just glamorized.

Robert Wray:

And none of it --

Bernadette Sanner:

But some of the things she said were very true.

Robert Wray:

Really?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. Yeah. Some of the things they did were very true.

Robert Wray:

Is that very similar to -- or, not similar to --

Bernadette Sanner:

It was just more free time than we would have all liked, you know. And that was the -- kind of the chuckle part of the whole thing.

Robert Wray:

What was one of the -- or, the most important thing that you learned from your experience in Vietnam? You know, your -- whether it's personal or professional or about how to deal with other people.

Bernadette Sanner:

I guess the thing that -- I am probably a little cynical. As you know, you live for now, because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. And I watched that with these young people dying. The whole time I was there, we lost one guy, and that was pretty phenomenal.

Robert Wray:

You lost one guy?

Bernadette Sanner:

One guy.

Robert Wray:

Wow. That's --

Bernadette Sanner:

And he was 17, because he lied about his age. And I -- he had told me the day before, he was 17, and he told me he was going to die. And it was like, "Yeah, right." You know, you're just like -- And he wanted to talk to his mother. I spent four hours working with different radio people. He talked to his mom, and the next day, they called me to tell me he had died. Because I hadn't come back to work yet, and he had died.

Robert Wray:

Was he -- was it shrapnel or was it --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. He blew an artery.

Robert Wray:

God.

Bernadette Sanner:

And it was just -- you know, and he kind of changed my perspective on a lot of things.

Robert Wray:

I see. When you were dealing with the wounded --

Bernadette Sanner:

Now, I'm not going to tell you that they didn't die other places. I'm saying, right with me --

Robert Wray:

With you.

Bernadette Sanner:

And we were able to get them to the OR or somewhere else. But right with me -- because I know several of them died when we sent them to Japan and things like that. But right where I -- just the one.

Robert Wray:

You mentioned before about -- there was -- you really didn't have time to worry about the risk of infection with open wounds and so forth.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Did you ever find you were really strapped for blood supplies and so forth?

Bernadette Sanner:

We were always strapped for blood supplies.

Robert Wray:

Did those come from the States, too, or did they --

Bernadette Sanner:

They came from anywhere you could get them. And sometimes, you just said, as the guys healed up, "You're okay. Roll up." And that's what we did a lot.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

You know -- so, if you get a guy who really wasn't doing that bad and things, as far as IV antibiotics, you don't -- I don't think there was a person in the hospital that you didn't treat with IV antibiotics. I don't think there was a person. Because you knew something was going to happen.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. There was a lot fevers and so forth?

Bernadette Sanner:

Oh, yeah.

Robert Wray:

Did --

Bernadette Sanner:

Again, the fever, too, who knows what was a normal temperature for any of us there.

Robert Wray:

That's true.

Bernadette Sanner:

I mean, you know, everybody could have been at 99 or 100 with the temperature. Who knows?

Robert Wray:

Yeah.

Bernadette Sanner:

We never thought about it, if you want to know the truth. So, it wasn't important.

Robert Wray:

Is it -- yeah. Obviously, the only thing that's important is if you're going to die or not.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh. And saving as many body parts as you can. I mean, the other guy that I know died, but he was in the med-evac unit, and we really didn't take care of him. I forgot why he had to go to the med-evac unit. He was a quad amputee. He asked me to kill him. I mean, he was a big, big man, and it was like -- you know. And he did die on the plane.

Robert Wray:

Was that towards the end of your tour or was that --

Bernadette Sanner:

I think it was in the middle. But he was the most pathetic person in the war.

Robert Wray:

Jeez. And that -- that still -- does that still bother you?

Bernadette Sanner:

Sure. Sure.

Robert Wray:

Obviously.

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't even know what you could do to help -- what I could have done to help him.

Robert Wray:

Did -- are you a very religious person?

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't know what the word "very" is, but I'm religious.

Robert Wray:

Did your experience in the war change that at all or --

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't know that it changed it. It made me appreciate it because it gives you a certain amount of peace. I mean, you can get angry. But interestingly enough, most of the guys wanted it. So, I guess that made it even more comfortable.

Robert Wray:

You mean, they want -- like, if they were sick --

Bernadette Sanner:

Wanted something religious, yeah.

Robert Wray:

-- they wanted religious things?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes.

Robert Wray:

Very interesting.

Bernadette Sanner:

And the chaplains were very good to the guys, and they were always available.

Robert Wray:

Was there a lot of chaplains there?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah.

Robert Wray:

Did you -- did they actually have services there?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. They did have services there, yes. There was -- in fact, there was a chapel, and so different services were at different times.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

They did actually have services, yes.

Robert Wray:

And your shifts, did they go -- is that what you would -- is that what they're referred to, like --

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

-- your shifts? Would they go from like -- like, sort of like they would do shifts in a steel mill, where --

Bernadette Sanner:

Well, once in a while, if we had a third nurse. Usually, there were just two nurses.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

So, if there were three nurses, then we would do eight-hour shifts. And so, it would be like in the mill. But 90 percent of the time, we had 12 hours. So, you'd work seven to seven days or seven to seven nights. And so, then when you'd switch, you'd usually have a day off so that you could come back to the days or the nights or whatever. And that's pretty much how we worked.

Robert Wray:

When -- when you finally got back, how long did it take for you to readjust to, you know, the five-day work week and sort of just getting back into the American lifestyle?

Bernadette Sanner:

I don't know that I still ever adjusted. Maybe that's why I work so much. I don't know. When I came back, I went to work right away. Then, I went to school. So, again, you know, I never thought about that, because I've almost always done both. So, maybe I never really learned to adjust. I don't know that you can just turn it off.

Robert Wray:

Turn it off?

Bernadette Sanner:

I just don't.

Robert Wray:

I wouldn't see how you could, personally.

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. I don't.

Robert Wray:

Do you still have -- do you have any nightmares or --

Bernadette Sanner:

I had them for about two -- probably about between two and five years.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

But I still don't sleep at night. I have yet to -- I think -- if I sleep all night once a month, I've slept a lot. Usually, I'm up at 2:00. If I go to sleep at 11:00, I'm usually up at 2:00. If I go to sleep at midnight, I'm up at 4:00. And I'll go back to sleep in a couple of hours, but I rarely ever sleep the night.

Robert Wray:

You only sleep in small stints?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Wray:

And that's directly because of your involvement in the war?

Bernadette Sanner:

I think so, because I never had that problem before.

Robert Wray:

Is that how you slept when you were there, if you slept at all?

Bernadette Sanner:

No. Actually, when we left work and went to sleep, we actually slept pretty hard. Now, time? Probably five, six hours.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

Because I -- you just had to, because you were so exhausted. Because I know -- this is off the wall, but I had a roommate. I forget what unit she worked on. But anyways, she -- we had a litter of rats in our -- you know, these were just huts. And I guess they came out -- I slept on the bottom. She was -- she was only like five foot. She was at the top. And they were crawling up my arm. Well, that's how hard I slept. I never felt a thing. So, she came out -- I don't know how she got out, and she went and got an exterminator, and they had the exterminator come out and got all these off of me. That's how I woke up, some guy exterminating our place and taking rats off of me. That is how hard I slept.

Robert Wray:

Wow.

Bernadette Sanner:

Because you were exhausted. But I'll never forget that one. All I was glad was, I never saw the rats, because I don't know what I would have done. I would have lost it. I would have been coming home the next day.

Robert Wray:

I can just imagine.

Bernadette Sanner:

But she -- because she lives here in Chicago, and she'll call me every now and then and make sure I'm not marked about it. Because like, "It's okay. You saw it. I didn't." She says she wishes she could have had a camera for that one, though. But she said, "Time would have bought that one." I said, "Thanks a lot." But every now and then, she'll call and remind me of that.

Robert Wray:

Does she go to the meetings that you guys attend?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. She's gone a couple times.

Robert Wray:

And now, a final note. When the Gulf War started, did you have any particular feelings about that?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yes. I was glad that I was old enough that they wouldn't draft me.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

I'll be real honest with you, because it made me nervous.

Robert Wray:

Were you angry about our involvement in that situation or --

Bernadette Sanner:

I wasn't angry. I was more concerned that we were -- again, weren't doing it right. A couple of nurse friends of mine were being called that, you know, were in the Reserves. So, it just concerned me. I was just glad it was over with as fast as it was.

Robert Wray:

Okay.

Bernadette Sanner:

It concerns me now what's going on.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. Well, I can understand. And I thought about the My Lai or the My Lai Massacre.

Bernadette Sanner:

Uh-huh.

Robert Wray:

Did you hear about that when you were over there or --

Bernadette Sanner:

No.

Robert Wray:

You didn't hear --

Bernadette Sanner:

But I heard about it when I got home.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. I just really found out about it myself, so I was --

Bernadette Sanner:

I'm sure there was a lot more things that people didn't know because, again, people didn't think about them when you got home. And, again, you couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys. There wasn't -- you know, there's no tattoo on their forehead to say "I'm this" or "I'm that." And that's the hard part of war. People don't appreciate how hard that is.

Robert Wray:

Was there any bombings on Cam Ranh Bay? I mean, like -- I mean, these sort of terrorist-type bombings where --

Bernadette Sanner:

No. No. Not terrorist kind of things. We were shelled periodically, andthat's primarily what it was, but -- And then, you'd have somebody come in and throw -- yeah,I guess we did. We had a couple people -- you know, the --

Robert Wray:

Throw grenades or something?

Bernadette Sanner:

Yeah. Well, they -- they were kind of like -- some of the things where they would just come in and bring them and plant them, and stuff like that, so your place would blow up. You know, you kind of become cynical after a while.

Robert Wray:

Yeah. Well, you would have to, I would think, to survive a situation such as that.

Robert Wray:

Well, thank you very much.

Bernadette Sanner:

You're welcome.

Robert Wray:

I appreciate it --

Bernadette Sanner:

No problem.

Robert Wray:

-- very much.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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