Montana Treasure: Helena woman founds Vietnam Women's Memorial - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Montana Treasure: Helena woman founds Vietnam Women's Memorial

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The Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C. stands as a testament to the women who served in Vietnam, mostly as nurses. It only exists today thanks to the perseverance of a Helena woman and many others.

Diane Carlson Evans lives in the shadow of Montana’s state capitol. She's known all over the nation for the work she has done to honor women like her women, who served their country, even when it wasn't popular. 

"They were just as brave and they were just as honorable as any soldier that had ever served,” said Evans.

Evans was a nurse in Vietnam from 1968-1969 at the height of the war, when 30,000 Americans died in two years.

Without the life-saving work of Vietnam nurses, Evans believes that thousands more would have died.

The war was so unpopular that she and many others who served in Vietnam faced another battle when she got home.

She remembers being called the "machine that oiled the baby killers." She felt rejected from society and says she received very little support from her representatives in D.C.

"We felt betrayed,” said Evans.

She says that after years of trying to put her time in service behind her, something changed when she saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the first time. The names of Americans who died in Vietnam are etched on the nearly 250-foot long wall in D.C.

"I saw the names, and then I couldn't forget anymore. If I couldn't find my voice to talk about that, then why go on living?” said Evans.

Evans says something was still missing from the picture: none of the monuments depicted servicewomen like her. 

"The men got organized, and I thought, if they can do it, we can too. And so I started a movement,” said Evans.

The men's memorial came together in about two years, but it took Evans and her supporters more than a decade to get attention.

"It was one hearing after another, I testified at over 35 hearings," she says.

"People have asked, how could you do it, and I said, the same way I got through it in Vietnam. You get up in the morning and you do it,” said Evans.

Her vision came to fruition on November 11, 1993, Veterans Day.

Now a statue depicting three women, including a nurse tending to a wounded soldier was erected on the mall in Washington.

A lasting tribute to those women who had risked their lives and reputations, by serving their country in Vietnam.

"It probably was the best day of my life, they were crying and people were saying thank you and that's the only two words they ever needed to hear was thank you,” said Evans.

Since that day Evans has been honored many times over. Recently she received the American Legion's National Patriot Award, a prestigious honor presented just once a year.

Even though women are gaining more notoriety than ever as they transition to combat roles, Evans hopes Americans never forget the women who've been serving since the beginning.

"The message for today, for memorial day is that women have always served our nation. Always in whatever way they could possibly do it… doesn't mean it was easy, but it was worth it,” said Evans.

Diane Evans, an American hero, a Montana Treasure.

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