Dare to Dream
At long last, on Veterans Day 1993, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated in a grove of trees just 300 feet from the Wall of names on the National Mall, bringing honor, healing and hope to the otherwise forgotten women who served during the Vietnam War. The monument, sculpted by American artist Glenna Goodacre, honors the more than 265,00 women who served during the Vietnam era around the world in uniform and in civilian support roles. Nearly 11,000 of these women served in-country Vietnam.
How proud I was of those many women I served with! Yet, as the nation dedicated memorials to Vietnam veterans across the country, very few recognized the vast and essential role of women. I knew that the nation could not forget them and began to dream of adding a statue portraying women’s strength, compassion, courage, and service on the hallowed ground of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Many others agreed, and together we founded the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project in 1984. The Project’s mission to promote the healing of women veterans included several aims: to conduct a “sister search” to identify the military and civilian women who had served, to educate the public about their roles, and to facilitate research on the physiological, psychological, and sociological issues related to their service.
The ensuing years to achieve the Project’s mission were a formidable journey for hundreds of our dedicated volunteers who faced enormous barriers. Many critics opposed an addition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Others opposed and criticized women’s military and wartime service. Government and civilian agencies rejected the proposed site and design. We were tested. But hadn’t we been tested once before? We were used to fighting for each other and for our country. We succeeded because those who brought their skills, fortitude, and love to the Project’s mission helped turn obstacles into stepping stones.
Ours is a story from the past that can power women’s future. Our efforts were not just for the women of the Vietnam era. They were for our daughters and granddaughters, for the women who step up to serve today, and for our brother soldiers who united in that same patriotic spirit. As I expressed during a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.: “Women didn’t have to enter military service, but we stepped up to serve believing we belonged with our brothers-in-arms and now we belong with them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. If they belong there, we belong there. We were there for them then. We mattered.”
In 2015, The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation (formerly “Project”) selected Eastern National, with the National Park Service, to assume its operating mission. Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, women veterans bring the bronze sculpture to life by sharing their stories and uniting generations of women who have served their nation.
Diane Carlson Evans, RN
Founder and Past President
Vietnam Women’s Memorial
Army Nurse Corps, 1966-1972