Vietnam Stories: The many victims of Vietnam

For the Monitor
Friday, October 20, 2017

In 1966, I was a young Army nurse stationed in Seoul, South Korea.

During a mock disaster drill at the hospital, I was handed a message from the Red Cross that said my husband, Capt. William Feaster (an Army chaplain), had been critically wounded in Vietnam.

My first reaction was that it was a cruel joke to play during the disaster drill. Unfortunately, it was not a joke and I was soon on my way to Saigon.

Bill was much beloved by the troops and agreed to accompany them on a mission. He was hit by friendly fire.

There were immediate fatalities, but Bill survived the initial event. He contracted an infection from the soil that no one had ever survived. The treatments he endured as we tried to save him were very trying – surgeries for side effects from the drugs used to treat the infection and finally an amputation.

Early in the morning of Oct. 26, 1966, I was awakened by the chief nurse, whose couch I was sleeping on, and told “the chaplain just expired.”

One of my most vivid memories of the weeks he survived was a visit from the young captain who was in charge of the artillery unit that fired the rounds killing and injuring the men.

I do not recall his name. I do remember my husband trying to comfort him and assuring him he did not blame him and harbored no ill will. Bill granted the forgiveness the captain asked from him, but the look on the young captain’s face and his demeanor still haunt me. He was a broken man. Another victim of war.

I have often wondered if he survived the war and, if he did, how that event affected him.

Wars claim many victims – those who are hurt and suffer and die, those who love them and so many others.

(Judith Miller lives in Henniker. Chaplain William N. Feaster was from Portsmouth. He went to Vietnam with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade from Ft. Devens, Mass.)