Vietnam Women Veterans
Stories from Vietnam Women Veterans Living in the East Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
How were women treated by male soldiers or military personnel?
 

Narrator: Joyce McCollum
Interviewed by: Josh Lavis
 
 
JL:  How were women treated by male soldiers or military personnel? 
JM: When I first went in, not very nicely for the most part. [At] Fort Ord  
California, first permanent post, most of the GI's there were under the impression that we were there for their pleasure, and they didn't like being told no. When pressed to, [I'd] say "Well, where did you ever come up with that idea?" and I got really upset with a couple of them. I would be walking down you know, between the chairs and the booths, and one G.I. just reached out and grabbed me around the waist and pulled me onto his lap, and that was not something I was willing to do. So when I disengaged myself from him, and kind of just slapped him upside the head (laughing) and said, "Whatever gave you the idea that you could do something like this?" And he said he was there for basic training and that his sergeant told him that that's what we were there for.
JL: Did he get into any trouble for that? 
JM: Nope, no, he didn't, and they also thought it was great sport to break into the barracks at night, and scare some of the women to have some man all of the sudden standing in their cubicle, and that was great sport. They didn't like us there, and they were not gonna treat us with a whole lot of respect.  That did change over time.  And as they got used to having us around, and decided that we weren't there for their pleasure, that we were there to do a job; we eventually got the respect that we were due.
 
Narrator: Shirley Vega
Interviewed by: Delia Gallegos
 
 
DG: How were women treated by male soldiers and military personnel? Did you ever experience harassment based on gender (either in the military or outside of the military)? 
SV: Oh boy!  That is an interesting subject.  I think that some males in the military thought we were issued for them.   There is a military saying that if the Army wanted you to have something, they would issue it to you.  The military issues clothes, shoes, supplies, etc.   There were some guys who thought that the women were issued for them.  I was kind of a na´ve girl from a small town; I really wasn't expecting that.   I was somewhat shy and reserved.  I think that it took me a while to figure out the guys who wanted to be your friends, the guys who wanted to get you in bed, and the guys that respected you as a woman.  However, when you put the uniform on they gave you a totally different look.
 
Narrator: Lari Braun
Interviewed by: Byanca Nelson
 
  
BN: We talked earlier about sexual harassment; I mean how did you feel about that? 
LB: You know I think for the first we just expected it. I'll tell you a funny little story.  I was stationed at an air-force base called Offutt Air Force Base, and I was at the hospital and we had to wear white uniforms,  and women wore dresses all the time. That's just the way it was before they came out with pants suits for us. One of the things we had to do in my office, we had these metal cabinets on the wall. I'll never forget, they were pink, kind of teal blue color. Teal blue in the sixties and the seventies was a popular decorative color, and the tops of the cabinets were slanted so they were kind of dust collectors. Of course we had to clean our office. We didn't have janitorial help, so everybody had to clean their own, and because I was the least ranking, it was my job to have the grunt jobs. I remember having to climb up there, and they were about as tall as my own cabinet here. So I would have to climb on the cabinet and I would walk around. Well I was too dumb to realize, but there was a guy who worked in my office, and whenever I was cleaning he would always be on the floor looking for things in the bottom cabinets. I was too dumb to figure-- too naive not too dumb-- too naive to figure out. And I finally said to him, "Excuse me, Sergeant Dwyer, what are you looking for?"  "Oh just looking for this, and I found it and that's it."  I thought, "Yeah, right!" Then he realized that he wasn't going to get away with it, and I was just much more cheerful about it. You know, all right, just until the guys are not around (ha ha). You know there were some duties that I think I had to do, like the guys didn't have to type the reports but they expected me to type the reports. Now on the other hand, I was okay typing the reports because that was something I could do and I could do it well. So this was before word processors. We had to stick the carbon sheets and all that stuff, but I did; because one, it was a contribution to the team, and I never gave a second thought to it.

Photos courtesy of the families.

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Joyce McCollum

Joyce McCollum's medal

Lari Braun with friends