Cathie (Henderson) Solomonson

Cathie arrived in country April Fool's Day, 1968.  She served as an Army Nurse at the 24th Evac Hospital, Long Binh, on the neuro surgical post-op recovery ward.   She cared for wounded U. S. military, soldiers from multinational forces, and Vietnamese civilian war casualties.  She participated in Med-Cap programs with her brother, Timothy, a Navy Medic stationed nearby with a "Sea-Bee" Company.




Slow Dancing at the 24th Evac


I can show you where his wire sutures

Pressed into my cheek

But I probably won't....

He was one of the few

That could actually be moved

Out of bed.  His name was John.

And he was from some small town on Long Island.

He looked to me to be Italian...

Gorgeous black curly hair

(Where it wasn't shaved from surgery)

Beautiful dark olive skin 

(Where it wasn't dappled with scabs

Or abrasions )?

I would talk him through the moves to prepare him...

"John, I'm going to move you to the edge of the bed."

Then I'd slowly support his upper body as he shimmied

To the edge and then dangled his legs

Over the side.

I would take care not to touch

Any of the gauze covered areas

That hid the wires holding together the edges

Of dozens of painful frag wounds.

"OK, we'll stand for a moment and then swivel

Into the chair that's right alongside the bed here."

Then I'd lean into him and place my arms around

His chest and press my face against his and pull

Him forward until he slid-down off the mattress

Onto a wobbly stand...

And for just a brief moment we were locked

In that same wonderful embrace I remembered

From the slow dances at the high school sock hops.


And I had the same longing for the song not to end.

He was blind so he couldn't tell much about me?

Couldn't tell I had skin like silk

From my Scottish grandmother,

Couldn't tell I had Barbie doll legs and

An ultra-brite smile.

Couldn't tell, and it didn't much matter,

That I was the stuff of prom courts and wet dreams.

What he could tell was that there was no way in hell

I was letting go of him?

No matter how deep the wires pierced my cheek... 

No matter how much green slime came lunging

At me from his trach.  I would not let go

Until he was safely and lovingly escorted

To his seat when the dance was over...

And 20 years later when the armed forces recruiter

Called and asked to talk to my first born son

I made no attempt at politeness...

I was a nurse in Vietnam, I said. 

I have seen what the Army does

To the men and women placed in its care.

Do not call here again.  And, as I placed the phone

Carefully back in its cradle, I realized

It had been pressing against that same spot on my cheek.



But You Did, Dear Nance


The night shift officially ended at 7am .. If we were lucky,

we got one of Sgt. Peveehouse's omelets by 9?

and then some shut eye


We never needed a wake up call

Some inner urging brought us out each afternoon

We sat on the rickety picnic table nestled between


our sand bagged homes letting the warm monsoon rains

wash away the night's memories

You talked of the boy with Black Water fever


I spoke of the one who kept going bad

Sometimes we choked on our words

Sometimes we just sat silently with our eyes closed


Letting the downpour caress us,

faces gradually turning upward

toward the heavens?I was sure,

no longer cared about anything

that mattered to me


But you did dear Nance.  You did.



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