Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam

Univ of Massachusetts Press
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Lynda Van Devanter was the girl next door, the cheerleader who went to Catholic schools, enjoyed sports, and got along well with her four sisters and parents. After high school she attended nursing school and then did something that would shatter her secure world for the rest of her life: in 1969, she joined the army and was shipped to Vietnam. When she arrived in Vietnam her idealistic view of the war vanished quickly. She worked long and arduous hours in cramped, ill-equipped, understaffed operating rooms. She saw friends die. Witnessing a war close-up, operating on soldiers and civilians whose injuries were catastrophic, she found the very foundations of her thinking changing daily.

After one traumatic year, she came home, a Vietnam veteran. Coming home was nearly as devastating as the time she spent in Asia. Nothing was the same -- including Lynda herself. Viewed by many as a murderer instead of a healer, she felt isolated and angry. The anger turned to depression; like many other Vietnam veterans she suffered from delayed stress syndrome. Working in hospitals brought back chilling scenes of hopelessly wounded soldiers. A marriage ended in divorce. The war that was fought physically halfway around the world had become a personal, internal battle.

Home before Morning is the story of a woman whose courage, stamina, and personal history make this a compelling autobiography. It is also the saga of others who went to war to aid the wounded and came back wounded -- physically and emotionally -- themselves. And, it is the true story of one person's triumphs: her understanding of, and coming to terms with, her destiny.

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About the author

Lynda Van Devanter served as the National Women's Director of the Vietnam Veterans of America. She counseled other Vietnam veterans and conducted seminars around the country. Coping with ill health since her tour of duty in Vietnam, she died in November 2002 at age fifty-five.

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Univ of Massachusetts Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 1983
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Biography & Autobiography / Medical
Biography & Autobiography / Military
Biography & Autobiography / Women
History / Asia / General
History / Military / Vietnam War
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Eligible for Family Library

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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The national bestseller that tells the truth about the Vietnam War from the black soldiers’ perspective.

An oral history unlike any other, Bloods features twenty black men who tell the story of how members of their race were sent off to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers, and of the special test of patriotism they faced. Told in voices no reader will soon forget, Bloods is a must-read for anyone who wants to put the Vietnam experience in historical, cultural, and political perspective.

Praise for Bloods

“Superb . . . a portrait not just of warfare and warriors but of beleaguered patriotism and pride. The violence recalled in Bloods is chilling. . . . On most of its pages hope prevails. Some of these men have witnessed the very worst that people can inflict on one another. . . . Their experience finally transcends race; their dramatic monologues bear witness to humanity.”—Time

“[Wallace] Terry’s oral history captures the very essence of war, at both its best and worst. . . . [He] has done a great service for all Americans with Bloods. Future historians will find his case studies extremely useful, and they will be hard pressed to ignore the role of blacks, as too often has been the case in past wars.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Terry set out to write an oral history of American blacks who fought for their country in Vietnam, but he did better than that. He wrote a compelling portrait of Americans in combat, and used his words so that the reader—black or white—knows the soldiers as men and Americans, their race overshadowed by the larger humanity Terry conveys. . . . This is not light reading, but it is literature with the ring of truth that shows the reader worlds through the eyes of others. You can’t ask much more from a book than that.”—Associated Press

“Bloods is a major contribution to the literature of this war. For the first time a book has detailed the inequities blacks faced at home and on the battlefield. Their war stories involve not only Vietnam, but Harlem, Watts, Washington D.C. and small-town America.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I wish Bloods were longer, and I hope it makes the start of a comprehensive oral and analytic history of blacks in Vietnam. . . . They see their experiences as Americans, and as blacks who live in, but are sometimes at odds with, America. The results are sometimes stirring, sometimes appalling, but this three-tiered perspective heightens and shadows every tale.”—The Village Voice

“Terry was in Vietnam from 1967 through 1969. . . . In this book he has backtracked, Studs Terkel–like, and found twenty black veterans of the Vietnam War and let them spill their guts. And they do; oh, how they do. The language is raw, naked, a brick through a window on a still night. At the height of tension a sweet story, a soft story, drops into view. The veterans talk about fighting two wars: Vietnam and racism. They talk about fighting alongside the Ku Klux Klan.”—The Boston Globe
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