Your Letters – SUMMER 2015
Oversight or Omission?
I enjoyed your article on Norwich nurses; however, I’m concerned that you omitted a few of the “original” nursing students when the program began. Seeing how Robert Lattrelle, Kelly Gillen, and Heather Altman were the first NU (Corps) nursing students, and Heather was awarded the first four-year Army ROTC nursing scholarship at Norwich, I’m not sure why the oversight or omission?
I understand that not all nursing students could be recognized, but surely some of the first students in the program ought to rate mention, if not a proper highlight like the others.
LTC Mark Maitag, USA (Ret.) ’94
Chaumont, New York
Editor’s response: Sadly, the documentation available from that time period is far from complete, so we were largely dependent on the memories of former faculty, staff, and students to piece together the history of Norwich nursing. Thank you for giving these pioneering nursing students the mention they so richly deserve.
More Vietnam Memories
In January of 1966, I suddenly received orders for a tour of duty in Vietnam. At that time we were in Friedberg, Germany. We had just found out that Jackie was pregnant with our third child, and we thought we were going to be in Germany for at least another year. For three years I had been the only Norwich grad in the brigade, but in the summer of ’65, then-Captain Gordon R. Sullivan ’59 and his bride, Gay, had been assigned to the other tank battalion. CPT Sullivan was the first Vietnam veteran to come into the brigade, and since we bowled together, I asked him lots of questions about the duty there. A couple of weeks after being alerted, we left Germany, and I was on my way to Vietnam.
When I got to Travis AFB I got my first surprise: My duty station was going to be in Thailand, though I had no idea why. Once I landed in Bangkok, I went to the JUSMAG headquarters to find my new home. I walked around the headquarters for days until I found a USAF major in J-37. His words were, “Maybe you’re one of my guys?” Ominous! After questions about my airborne, Special Forces, etc., qualifications (none) he asked, “Any rescue team experience?” Suddenly it dawned on me that my Mountain Rescue Team experience at Norwich was in my Army file. I subsequently learned I was supposed to lead a five-man rescue team jumping into North Vietnam and Laos to rescue downed pilots. After a week of waiting and wondering and a lot of praying, I was told that the mission was canceled. I was now going to be sent to Vietnam!
I was booked on an MAC flight to Saigon with about 180 airmen who had just completed yearlong tours in Thailand. If they knew I was the reason they were landing in Saigon in the middle of the night, I am sure they would have let me out at 30,000 feet. Once in country, I was assigned to MACV Advisory Team 31 in Cheo Reo in Phu Bon Province. It was a small team of six officers and ten soldiers. I was assigned as the RF/PF advisor and the advisor for the 402 Highland Scout Company. The team commander was COL Adams, USA, a West Point graduate, Class of 1950 and a third-generation West Pointer. As the year went on, I was joined by two other Norwich grads: CPT John Jorgensen ’62 (classmate and fraternity brother) and CPT Charlie Nason ’61. All of a sudden this little advisory team was fifty percent Norwich grads! Poor COL Adams wondered what he had done to deserve such a fate! Never before or since have I served with more Norwich grads!
COL Tim Donovan, USA (Ret.) ’62
I just wanted to commend you on the Vietnam issue, which I finally got a chance to sit down and read. I am sure the fact I am a Vietnam veteran colors my perspective, but I thought it was a really emotional walk-through of the war’s impact—on the soldiers, the families, the friends. I had to wipe away tears several times, and suspect a lot of others did as well.
What a gut punch to find out that after surviving the war, Howard Lewis died of cancer, and I have no doubt from Agent Orange. From my perspective having seen the war firsthand, I have no doubt it was misguided, and a tragedy for the 50,000 plus Americans who lost their lives and the families who wonder why, not to mention the Vietnamese who died and the soldiers wounded. I hope your layout can be preserved as an exhibit. It is remarkable how the letters, on their own each an insignificant minor snippet of the war, combined to form a much larger, revealing narrative of what it was like to fight there in that senseless, devastating effort, and the sense of fear and loss that pervaded the tour for those on the front lines.
So, a really nice job conceiving and laying out that narrative, turning one person’s front-seat view into a broader look at the whole theater.
Norwich Guidon Advisor
More on Norwich Nursing
When Norwich hired me as treasurer and CFO in 1973, the merger with Vermont College was only a year old, and I immediately became involved in the many administrative changes needed as a result. One of the things I did was to analyze the cost-effectiveness of the various programs at VC. My study revealed that the nursing program was by far the best program, in terms of dollars, on that campus. One good reason for that fact was that it was easier—i.e., less costly—to recruit students who wished to be nurses, as there was a lot more competition among small, independent, New England colleges for students interested in the nonprofessional programs such as liberal arts.
With the advent of the baccalaureate degree in nursing and the move to the Northfield campus, the program has obviously become an even more important part of Norwich’s offerings.
In reading the article I was delighted to learn how essential Anita Ristau and Linda Ellis were to the success of the nursing program. I got to know both of them very well and developed a great deal of respect for each. The picture of Sister St. Thomas brought back good memories—she was a jewel!
Gerald L. Painter
Your outstanding issue of the Record on Norwich nurses would not be complete without this story. On Veterans Day in 1994, a very special commissioning ceremony took place in Washington, D.C. Heather Altman had completed her Bachelor of Science in nursing and was going to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Heather asked if I would do the commissioning at the site of the Vietnam War Memorial. I had retired the year before, but I told her I would be delighted. SFC (Ret.) Duke Dewey from the Army Dept. flew down to take the “first salute.” Heather’s folks were there, along with several classmates. At the appointed time we all met at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. One glitch! We needed an American flag. A group of veterans who were there for the November 11 observance let us borrow theirs. We conducted the ceremony in front of what had grown to be a large audience of primarily Vietnam vets, three Army nurses among them. Once the commissioning oath was given, and the salute exchanged, an impromptu receiving line formed, and the several hundred onlookers waited their turn to congratulate Heather. The first three in line were the Vietnam nurses, all of them in tears. What an absolutely remarkable and unforgettable day!
COL Tim Donovan, USA (Ret.) ’62
Memories of Sumner McIntire
My great-grandfather Sumner McIntire was a physics professor at Norwich for many years and the Dean of the University during the 1970s. He lived on Central Street until his death in 2004, and while growing up my siblings and I would wake up early whenever we stayed with him and watch the cadets marching by from the dining room windows. Later, when I was a student, I remember a plaque dedicated to him hanging outside the bursar’s office in Jackman Hall. He loved teaching and was thrilled when I decided to go to Norwich for nursing. Even in his 90s he wanted to know all of the goings-on on campus and all about my classes.
Rachel LaCasse ’06
Editor’s note: We have since learned that Sumner McIntire trained nurses and first responders on how to protect the public’s health in the event of a nuclear attack, as described in a Northfield News article published on November 26, 1959: “Fifteen public health nurses and firemen of the central Vermont area Monday received certificates marking completion of a five-week course in radiological defense under the auspices of the Vermont Civil Defense organization. The course was taught by Prof. Sumner H. McIntire, Norwich University professor of physics. It was the fourth such course he has given.