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Veterans Interview: Dennis Boyd talks with Colonel Sue Minahan

Veterans Interview: Former Seattle Seahawk Dennis Boyd talks with Colonel Sue Minahan, a 22-year veteran of the Army Nursing Corps., at Patriot’s Landing in DuPont, Washington.

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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

And now back to Answers for Elders as we honor our military veterans. Careage is the proud sponsor of our veteran segment posted by former Seattle Seahawk Dennis Boyd. This is Dennis Boyd for Answers for Elders and we are down at Patriots Landing and DuPont Washington. Today we have the honor of talk to Colonel Sue Minahan, twenty two year veteran of the Army Nursing Corps. Carl Menehan, thank you for joining us. Thank you good to be here. Thank you, colonel. What we would like you to do is kind of take us through your the steps of the you know, as we work through your career with the army and how you got into the Army Nursing Corps. Okay, I never for one thing. I never thought I would ever do that. And when I finished school at the Texas Women’s University with my degree in nursing, I went to work in Dallas and after about four years I decided I wanted something different and, much to my amazement, I decided the army nurse corps might be the thing I did join at that point in one thousand nine hundred and sixty six for three years and has happened with many of us, the three years became twenty two and I loved it it. I couldn’t have picked a better career. My first assignment was in Denver at Fitzsimmons Hospital and then I was transferred up here for some training and army health nursing. Moved to New England to Fort Devans Massachusetts there and from Fort Devans, after I changed my medical nursing specialty to General Medical Surgical, I went straight away to Vietnam, which was an answer to one of your questions earlier. The most challenging and rewarding probably experience I had in my career. What years were you over to be at all? Sixty nine hundred and seventy one. See, you aren’t there for two years, but not quite. We were there the assigned. The tour wasn’t was a year. We had such a fantastic crew at our hospital and the experience was so good that I extended for six months and they closed the hospital, so we had to all be reassigned to other facilities and I finished that next rest of that period mostly in long been but I also had a rather unusual experience in that I was chosen to go be the nurse for the newly opened embassy in Panampan, Cambodia. The State Department didn’t have a nursing available, nurses available to do that, so they had looked at my background with the various things I had done at that point, and they sent me to Cambodia to can on pin for about two or three months, which was a truly unique and extremely different experience. But Vietnam was, like I said, the most challenging. The time in Vietnam with at the hospital thing I ever did in my nursing career. That’s what would have for your nurse. That was in the medical teams that were working there in the event of hospitals of Vietnam. Now that there was ever a typical day. But what was a day like for you there? They could be it was either we were usually really busy or it was they’re just waiting to see what happened in the emergency room aread, which is where I worked initially, and the regular ward areas. It was usual patient care seven and we did twelve hour shifts for the most part. On the emergency room was one of those things. Like any hospital emergency room, you were either overwhelmed are you were just not super busy. And the overwhelmed was when the helicopters hit the pad outside the building. Then you got busy fast that. Did you ever have any warning that? I would assume that there was some kind of information that a push or something like this is about to happen and there were rumors you could hear. You got, I think people got rumors, and then we would be alerted before the helicopters landed. They rarely ever just landed and you didn’t know they were coming, but we had some sense of what was going on around. But the patients were beyond belief as far as their fight and everything about them. It was just an extraordinary experience to deal with those guys right after they came in. Well, I can only imagine that they were glad to be seeing you from some of the stories about them being pulled out of the jungles in the fields and yeah, they were happy to be alive and then be looking in the hospital. Yeah, being taken care of and we had a fantastic team. You never had to worry about enough help when a helicopter landed, people came from all over the hospital to see if we had enough staff on hand in the ear and if we needed any more assistance. You we never had any need for help. People just get was a team and everybody worked like a team. That’s the consistent story as I talked to the veterans here at Patriots Landing. Is that feeling of team who, regardless of if you were a flight officer, nursing army, nursing coal or or just, you know, somebody, a lieutenant in the field. Sure it was that feeling of team as that given to you. Do you think that is probably one of the classic things that they that the army does teach you? I think so and I think it’s one of the things you kind of carry with you and when you lead that setting, it’s one of the things you miss because when I left the army I work for a while in a civilian facility and it was not the same. You’re not quite not the same at all, but the team and everything was very, very much a part of the army culture and you group to know it. It wasn’t necessarily something they taught you in basic. Yeah, you grew to know that. How do you manage and in correct me if I’m wrong, but my understandings that you constantly got a rotating group of people. People are getting deployed in and people are getting rotated out. So the ability to maintain that cohesive team with constantly changing people, how do you how do you accomplish that? It had musically, when people change, you don’t have a huge turnover all at once and the people who come into the system are usually pretty quickly integrated because we all had that same sense of team and people would be as helped to get oriented to the setting they were in at that time, and I think that was the key to making it all work. You mentioned before that you came up to Fort Louis for some of your nursing training. Right. What did you receive that was different here than what you did in normal straightest in nursing school? But this was a specialty and community health, public health nursing, and we still have army health nurses and it was more attend aligned with caring for the patient, the families of the soldiers rather than the soldiers themselves, the wives and children of the active duty folks, and that’s typical of what community health nursing is anywhere in civilian world. are in the military, that’s what you do, and I carried that specialty and till I was at Fort Devans, Massachusetts, where I decided I wanted to change my specialty and I changed it to General Medical Surgical, as I think I said earlier, which sent me straight to Vietnam, which was fine, and it’s interesting some of these small decisions that make. Dressing takeep for cushions. Yes, so they someone said to me, you know, you were, you’re going, and I said that’s fine, it’s okay, you know. And then when I came back from there, I went to a nurse the career course down at Fort Sam Houston that they had for officers who were staying on active duty, and from there I came back up here for graduate school at the University of Washington. Okay, see, you’re at their medical center there then doing taking a gratuous schooling and nursing then, yes, so to join up with a master’s. Yes, that’s unusual. That’s so. A lot of us have a really we have a lot of doctor really prepared nurses in the Nurse Corps now actually, wow, so it’s changed a lot. Well, there are a lot of times, and I do know this, where the the nurses are placed in positions where you’re because the physician isn’t there or the doctors out there, you’re having to make similar decisions. Right. So to have that knowledge basis it’s important. Sure you and I talked before the interview here about discussing some of the most challenging is the most exciting, and you mentioned that the anonomist was the same for you. Right. Are there any specific days or examples of something that was that was exciting that you walked away from? You said we did a heck of a job there. I think any time we had a large number of casualties come in at once and it was a situation where you had to have every ounce of your nursing skills ready and use them all the time. And I think, but that, I think would be the time when you’d go away at the end of the shift or the whatever insight. We did a good job when we got a lot of guys don at one time and we got them all sorted out and taken care of and moved on is they needed to go. Hmm then. And then the most challenging time again, would be handling that high volume of casual is coming right, right, but how did the army? Did you just learn, by excuse the expression OJT, on the job training or is this something that they prepare you for? Not so much prepare you for specifically for that as far as casualties, although there is some training in that area, in basic training, because we all knew where all of us would probably wind up. But I had had some similar experiences a civilian nurse and a very busy hospital with emergency room in the City County Hospital. So some of that wasn’t a totally new setting for me, but it’s very difficult for people who come into that setting who’ve not had that kind of experience in the background. It’s a wholly different kind of nursing. usedly patients are in beds and clean settlings and so forth, but to have a whole helicopter full of wounded men come in at once with horrible wounds is quite an experience. Tell me about your life now. Well, it’s good. I retired. I had one other assignment I loved and that was Germany, which was three years, which was fantastic, and here I’ve been here three years. To set fast September and I’ve loved the northwest. I knew when I was up here your first time in sixty seven this was a area I wanted to come back to and I’ve never regretted that either. So Texas never pulled you back. Texas has never pulled me back. It’s too hot, too dry and just too much of everything. So no, Tex is never drew me back. I love the Northwest and I’m very happy to be here. Well, that’s great. Anything you want to tell a family member friends that might be listening to this program on? No, I have none up if Syria and I have a very few family even still in Texas. So I just you know, it’s nice to be given this opportunity and it was a fantastic career. CARLM in a hand. How’s your stated here at goods? It good. It’s a good place. They take they do everything they can to make things comfortable for us and work well and it’s a great staff here. Well, I tell you, there’s every time I come down here there’s that sense of community and former military you all. It’s a mutual respect of everybody that’s here and after this listening to your story, it’s obvious to see why. Thank a hand. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it. You’re welcome. Thank you very much for doing this. This has been a special honoring Veterans Presentation of Answers for Elders brought to you by CareAge. For more information about CareAge, the website is


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Originally published October 28, 2017

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