The North Bend Eagle


Desire to help led Feala to Vietnam emergency room

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 11/12/14

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, and as we do every year, the North Bend Eagle recognizes veterans in our community. This year we are recognizing women in or from the community who have served in the military.

In 1901 the Army organized the Nurse Corps, followed by the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908. In 1972 the draft ended and the Equal Rights Amendment was passed.

These two events saw the military increasing the opportunities for women in the military. Yet it was a long haul. In 1991 only two percent of those serving in the military were women. In 2011 that number was 15 percent.

Feala in Vietnam emergency roomCheryl Feala, right, works in the emergency room of the 27th Surgical Hospital in Vietnam c. 1968.

Cheryl Feala graduated from Nelson High School in 1964 and went to St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Lincoln. During her senior year she joined the Army Nurse Corps with four others from her class, committing themselves to serving three years in the Army. The new nurses took their board exams and got the results back in two to three weeks, a process that normally took two to three months, but Feala thinks the Army sped up the process.

“I think we were naive and idealistic but had the desire to help the war wounded more than anything else,” Feala said.

The quintet went together to orientation in San Antonio, Texas, which was six weeks of learning protocol, medical forms, charts and limited war preparation. Then they each went to a different Army hospitals in the United States.

Feala was stationed at Nobel Army Hospital at Fort McClellan, Alabama, in a surgical ward. This was 1967 in the deep South. Feala said they only left the post once.

It wasn’t long before the five friends were reunited — on a flight to Vietnam. Once there they once again went different ways.

Feala traveled in a C-130 aircraft to Chu Lai, just 30 miles south of the DMZ. As a surgical nurse, her duty was in the emergency room of the 27th Surgical Hospital. Feala served in Vietnam for about a year.

“Experiences in that setting were difficult to comprehend and even more difficult to talk about to anyone except those who have experienced the same,” Feala said.

Feala said she is glad she had the military experience.

“It gives you a chance to draw from your inner strengths, to become innovative, to learn to fully rely on another’s skills and become adaptable with limited resources.”

Feala served during a time of draft for young men. She recognizes that in today’s world it is a personal issue of whether to enlist.

“I know that patriotism is a big draw (to enlist)” Feala said. “So is the opportunity to further one’s education after or even during serving. I am sure there are any number of reasons for joining the Guards or regular forces today.

No matter what the reason, I would hope that they are treated with respect for giving us the freedoms we have and enjoy.

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