Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Sharolyn Walcutt, who served as a nurse on the hospital ship USS Repose during the Vietnam War.
Born in May 1939 in Ohio, Sharolyn Walcutt joined the Navy after becoming friends with a former Navy nurse who spoke of her service with great excitement and enthusiasm. This inspired Walcutt to contact a Navy recruiter, and she joined shortly thereafter.
After joining, Walcutt went through a three-month indoctrination program in Rhode Island. While there, Walcutt watched many videos about ships and the military and swam at least three times a week in the frigid waters. Although Walcutt was not used to the regimented ways of military life, she got through her training by taking it one day at a time.
Walcutt began her service at New York’s St. Albans Naval Hospital, where she worked for two years. Walcutt was one of 29 nurses selected to be part of the first group of nurses to serve in Vietnam. She joined the floating hospital known as USS Repose.
Onboard USS Repose, Walcutt worked to triage the casualties that came onto the ship. She also spent time with the medical unit treating patients infected with malaria, as well as with the orthopedic unit, where she worked with amputees. Additionally, Walcutt helped care for injured women and children while part of the Vietnamese women and children’s unit.
When she was not working on the ship, Walcutt watched movies and learned to play chess and bridge. She earned a second-place victory in the ship’s bridge tournament. She also enjoyed sunbathing on the ship’s deck and spending time talking with her friends, several who remain her best friends today. During her rest and relax time and when the ship needed repairs, Walcutt journeyed to Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines.
Following her time in Vietnam, Walcutt went on a 21-day world tour with some of her fellow nurses and traveled to Thailand, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, India, Spain and England before returning to New York and then Ohio.
She continued her service at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, for two years and fell in love with San Francisco. Walcutt moved to Guam for two years with her then-husband, working at a Naval hospital there as a civilian for two months. She later worked at a civilian hospital and became head nurse. She trained her ear to listen to all the different dialects spoken and learned to understand many of them.
After her service, Walcutt remained active and joined the Navy Nurse Corps Association, participating in biannual trips, seminars and conventions. She also attended the dedication of the Vietnam’s Women Memorial in Washington D.C., where those on USS Repose gathered together again, many for the first time in 25 years.
Walcutt finished her time in the Navy as a lieutenant.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Fact checker: Ciara Nalda