The Healer: A trail-blazing Army nurse who served in three wars returns to active duty at age 63 to care for wounded warriors

By Kay Nolan,  October 2009

Tracy treated casualties in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and Afghanistan, and rose to colonel while sandwiching her Army career around a 15-year break to raise a Wisconsin family. Now, she’s back on active duty at San Diego’s Balboa Naval Medical Center.

I first came into the Army in 1967 and went to Okinawa, where we served the wounded from Vietnam. A lot of fellows got hurt. During the Tet Offensive in 1969, our hospital doubled in occupancy. We were working six days a week, 12 hours a day, getting 60 air evacuees every other day. We had them hanging from the ceiling.

Back then, you didn’t see amputated soldiers staying in the service, but we’re seeing more and more of that. They’re just strapping on that leg or that arm and they’re out the door again. The military had a thing where they could get back into active duty if they had a below-the-knee amputation, but so many are
coming back with above-the-knee amputations, if not worse. We’re making incredible strides with prosthetics