Gene Ogozalek, a regular contributor for VetLikeMe, recalled an flash encounter with a nurse he met from while he was in deep trauma in Dong Ha, Vietnam.
She played a soothing role in his transport from battlefield to hospital, Dong Ha, Vietnam, January, 1968. Given the temperament and mood of life today, the scene is poignant and refreshing.
The other day I decided to hand deliver a Christmas card to a former Navy operating room nurse who lives 25 miles north of me in the mountains near Carbondale, PA. Her name is Virginia ( Ginger ) York.
On Jan. 25, 1968, after I was wounded, and underwent triage in the MASH unit in Dong Ha, they choppered me to the USS Repose, a full blown medical hospital ship, 6 miles off the coast of Dong Ha, where I would undergo surgery on my head, and on four other shrapnel wounds on my right arm and leg.
While waiting to be taken in the operating room, a nurse put her hand on my shoulder, and asked how I was doing. She also asked where I was from. I said that I grew up in New Jersey, but I am from a small town in PA that she probably never heard of named “Olyphant”.
She then excitedly said in a very loud voice, ” I am from Carbondale !”
(about 4 miles north of Olyphant.). For the 31 years, until the year 1999, I did not see her again or know who she was. In commemoration of the year 2000, I decided to find her. I was not optimistic.
Joe Flannery, at the Scranton Times, published an article in Nov. 1999 asking for information from anyone who had knowledge of a Navy nurse from Carbondale who served aboard the Repose in Jan., 1968. When the article hit the Sunday Times, Ginger was sitting at home drinking a cup of coffee at her kitchen table, when a friend called, and said, ” Ginger, someone is looking for you”.
I am attaching a photo of my reunion with her, when my wife and I had dinner with her at Russell’s restaurant in Scranton in Dec., 1999. There is also a photo of her in 1968, in the operating room aboard the Repose with two Navy corpsmen. That photo is exactly how I remembered her.
The other day at my visit with her, her sister Barbara and a friend, Chrisy, were also there. I told both Barbara and Chrisy that there are no words to adequately describe the ordeal that Ginger went through between Oct. ’67 and Oct ’68. That period had the highest number of casualties in all of the war. She essentially was in the operating room every day saving Marines who were very seriously injured.
Here is a link to a yuotube video about Army nurses in Vietnam. It will bring tears to your eyes as it pulls no punches on what they experienced as nurses treating soldiers hanging on to life.
Ginger’s email ( below ) makes me feel a bit warm and fuzzy.
Nice story for Christmas.
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 10:09 AM
To: Gene Ogozalek
Dear Gene: I was very glad you came to visit with me. You look wonderful. I love your red socks and your shining shoes. My sister Barbara and Chrisy thinks you are wonderful. Barbara has a friend who is retired from the Air Force and he wanted to know all about you. I follow your foot prints also. I see you on television and read your articles in the newspaper. You are a very important and busy man. I’m glad we share a bond from our past experiences. I think about it many times.
Don’t ever be anxious about visiting me at my home. My door is open to you any time. The welcome mat is always out for a Fine looking Marine . I try to lead a quiet life and harmonious life. I don’t like a lot of excitement except of course at the casino. HaHa. I find that walking is very helpful to me and listening to good music. I love to drive my tractor in the summer with my ear phones on . As you know I play golf . I’m the oldest member on my team. I love my land and walk around It everyday. I try to get in tune with nature and the Master Mind. I will watch the Army Nurses on UTUBE later on this week. Looking forward to watching the tape on the “REPOSE.”
After the holidays I am going to have my hearing checked again. I know I need a hearing aid and this time I will get one. If I missed anything in our conversation when you were here , that is the reason. Old age does not come alone. I’m sorry about your granddaughter not being able to see you. Hopefully when she is older she will know the truth. Gene you and Emilia have a great Christmas and a wonderful NEW YEAR. You are a very warm and caring man Gene. Your Mother raised a great son.