This month Three by Five introduces Sarah Blum, author and Viet Nam veteran.
“I’m interested in the truth,” Sarah Blum said of helping to treat the emotional wounds of others. “I’m a clear thinker, a problem solver. I’m a very strong person. I am someone who heals.”
Sarah Blum knows something about wounds and about healing. Once she was a 26 year old Army Captain and operating nurse with the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi Viet Nam. Today she is a nurse psychotherapist. Sarah believes her drive to tell the stories of women veterans is a spiritual mission. With her tools as a psychotherapist and experience as a women veteran, she is a compassionate listener supports other women veterans having their voices heard. Her recent book, Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military was published in January 2014.
War stories are often about firsts. Sarah has a story about her first mortar attack:
“The first time we were mortared I was in the shower. Our shower is a wooden stall with only three sides. The front is wide open. The water comes from a tank above the hooch where we live so it is not very forceful or wide, more like the width of a finger coming down.
I started to hear a sound like a whoosh with a whistle and then a thud and an explosion. I turned off the noisy sound of the spigot to hear it more clearly and wondered what it was as I turned the spigot again to rinse off the soap I was covered in. At that point a soldier showed up right in front of me. He was in full battle gear with uniform, helmet, rifle and flak jacket. He looked at me very intensely and said: ‘Ma’am we are being mortared-you need to go to the bunker immediately!’
I said OK and continued to try and rinse off the soap. He stepped up his intensity and shouted, “If you don’t leave now and go to the bunker I will have to carry you!” I could tell he meant business so I put on my shorty robe that barely covered my butt and of course the soap on my wet skin went right through the material of the robe and I went slip sliding through the hooch in my flip flops with soapy water running down my legs.
When I got to the bunker I could not see anything because I had come from the blazing sun into a darkened dug out covered with sandbags. Someone grabbed my arm and guided me to a bench to sit down. My eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness and I saw my chief nurse in her helmet and flak jacket and she told all of us nurses, ‘We will wait until the all clear and then return to what we were doing.’ The next moment a soldier appeared at the opening and said, ‘We need Lieutenant Blum in the OR right now!’ I looked at my chief nurse and she nodded for me to go. I went right back to the shower to rinse off the soap and now mud all over my legs and feet. Then I dried off and scrambled into my fatigues and boots and ran zig zag across the compound to the OR. I did not wear my flak jacket or my helmet because they added about 30 more pounds of weight to my small 5 foot 100 pound body and I could run faster without them on.
From that day on when I heard the mortars I went right to the OR because that was where I was needed and I never went to the bunker again.”
Stories are a good tool for a psychotherapist.
VAH: Sarah, why do you write?
SB: I write because I feel the passion and urgency to get the message of justice and healing out on behalf of women serving in our military and our women veterans.
VAH: What was your first story about?
SB: My own experiences as a nurse in Vietnam.
VAH: Do you have a favorite literary character?
SB: Aslan the Lion in Lion, Witch and Wardrobe.
VAH: What book or series of books would you want if stranded on a deserted island and why?
SB: Books by Mercedes Lackey because I enjoy them and they are inspirational.
VAH: What would you say was your biggest influence on your development as a writer?
SB: Barbara Turner Vessalago my writing teacher and my writing group.
Find out more about Sarah Blum here.
Return on the 13th and 23rd for more.