Vietnam Nurse: Mending & Remembering

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate had this to say.

Combining narrative and poetry, photos and documents, Lou Eisenbrandt’s Vietnam Nurse tells the compelling story of how a Midwestern woman, born with a little wanderlust and a lot of courage, found herself serving as a nurse in Vietnam during some of the most dangerous and damaging stretches of the war in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During her service, Eisenbrandt encounters life-changing stories, most notably her own, as she writes in one of her poems, that spark “Songs of love and loss, of sweat-drenched nights and blood-smeared days.” Since the war and through her many return journeys to Vietnam, Eisenbrandt shows us her deepening commitment to service, widening search for truth, and enduring creation of a life that matters.

A bit more about the author

Lou grew up in a small Illinois town and decided to join the Army to “see the world.” After graduating as a Registered Nurse in June 1968, she went on to attend basic training, then headed to Ft. Dix New Jersey, her first duty assignment.

Then, in September 1969, Lou received orders to go to Vietnam, arriving there on November 1. During her year at the 91st Evac Hospital, she cared for GIs, South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, even Viet Cong and NVA soldiers. From malaria and hepatitis to double amputees, massive head traumas, and deadly bullet wounds, Lou Eisenbrandt saw it all.

Since 1970, she had made 4 return trips to Vietnam, the most recent one being in September 2014, when she joined 11 other vets making their first return trip to the country.

She is Chairman Emeritus of the board of Turning Point in Leawood, KS. Her other interests are travel, photography, golf, gardening, and finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, which she battles due to exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam.

My thoughts …

First, I found the book to be a quick, compelling, and enjoyable read. I liked the author’s style and the way she kept it light and managed to find humor is some pretty tough situations. I smiled and even chuckled at some of the memories she shared and learned some interesting little tidbits. For example, in reading about the Vietnam War over the years, I had never come across the acronym “LRB” before! Picturing the grinning South Vietnamese fishermen in their little round boats being towed like water skiers made me smile.

Several reviewers seemed disappointed and gave this book poor reviews. However, I think they missed the boat. It seemed to me that they wanted bloody, exacting details of assisting in operations on severely wounded GI’s or cowering fearfully in a bunker during a rocket attack. But this book was not about that. They should go back and read the subtitle. This book was about Lou Eisenbrandt and her memories and healing process. And I think she shared that pretty well.

And, so did the Military Writers Society of America, which gave it a Silver Medal Award.

That being said, I do wish the author had included a bit more detail here and there. I would have liked the book to be a little longer; it left me wanting more.

To those willing to look, I think this book presents a clear window into the author’s experiences as a nurse during the Vietnamese conflict. And, sadly, it is a story that is seldom told. This is a good read. I give it 4 out of 5 Stars.

To the combat veteran, nurses like Lou Eisenbrandt will always be seen as angels of mercy. So personally, I wish to say to Lou, thank you for your service.

10 thoughts on “Vietnam Nurse: Mending & Remembering”

  1. I’m reading about Vietnam also–Blaze of Light about a Green Beret medic who was imbedded with Montagnards, whom he adopted and was adopted by. Wondered if you’d read it, as you’d understand that. Just finished the fascinating combat part and Gary Beikirch has been shot up pretty bad and in a hospital in the US.

    1. That memorial is one of my favorites as well. That and the Korean War Memorial. While they’re all moving, those two created an especially strong emotional response when I first saw them.

      1. It’s never too late. When I was there to see the WWII Memorial, it was closed. I never really figured out the sense, or purpose, of closing the memorials. I will go back, though.

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