PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER CAROLYN TANAKA
In April of 1966 the doctors with whom Carolyn was working at Fresno General Hospital began receiving their orders for duty in Vietnam. Her two younger brothers were facing the draft, so they volunteered for the Army. Her older brother was already an Air Force veteran, having served in the Korean War. Carolyn didn’t want to be the only nonveteran in her family, so she volunteered for the Army Nurse Corps to serve in Vietnam.
Carolyn was inducted at the rank of Captain in September, 1966 and spent six weeks in “Boot Camp” at the Medical Field Service School in Fort Sam Houston, TX. Her temporary duty station was at Fort Ord, CA. She received her port of call to Vietnam on February 13, 1967, where she was assigned to the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh.
After six months as a staff nurse in the emergency room, she became the head nurse in September, 1967, and remained in that capacity until September, 1968. She was awarded the Bronze Star medal for meritorious achievements.
In 1986 Carolyn became a volunteer for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial project to help raise funds to establish a Memorial at The Wall in Washington, DC to honor the 265,000 women who served during the twelve years of the Vietnam War.
In 1994 Museum Director Chuck Monges asked Carolyn to set up a display for women veterans in the Legion of Valor Museum. This led to her becoming a volunteer for the museum. Getting to know the WWII and Korean War veterans who served as docents and staff of the museum proved to be a rich and rewarding experience. Carolyn loves to hear their “War Stories” and other life experiences.
Carolyn’s mission in life became to educate the public about what women do in all wars. In this capacity, she has spoken to the American History classes at Hoover High School since 1990. This led to the “Treasure Hunt” developed by two teachers at Hoover as an extra credit assignment. It was shared by other schools in the Fresno and Clovis areas for many years.
Carolyn is now completely retired, and though we see her only periodically, she has been a great asset to our docent staff. There have been Vietnam veterans come through who thought she could have treated them in one camp or another while in Vietnam. Whether she did (or didn’t), they were extremely thankful for her service.