A witness to war: Butte woman recognized for helping Vietnam vets

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-06 19:40:39-04

BUTTE –  Helen Brown was just a child when the war in Vietnam was raging. But that didn’t stop her from helping out wounded troops who returned home.

“They were fighting for us, they were fighting so I could go to school so that I could have the freedom to go to my prom,” said Brown.

Her service was recognized last month with the Department of Defense Certificate and Medal of Appreciation.

The Butte resident and member of the Butte chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution helped wounded troops who had returned from Vietnam at the Fort Sam Houston Army hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

She did this between the ages of 11 and 17.

“There would be just rows of stretchers of these soldiers, they were burnt, their legs were missing, their arms were missing, so it wasn’t unusual for me to go get bedpans, urinals, water. I never smoked a day in my life, but I lit 10,000 cigarettes,” Brown said.

The terrible injuries and trauma that she witnessed while caring for those troops back in that hospital still affect her today even after all these years.

“My brother’s widow and his children were on a trip and my ankle swelled and she wanted to put me in a wheelchair, she’s a nurse practitioner, putting me in that wheelchair, uh ah, I was right back in that hospital, I could even see the green dress with the white daisies on it I was wearing, it was like ‘no’ you never know when something’s going to remind you,” she said.

Despite the pain, it’s important to remember the stories of those who served.

“It’s the story of the Vietnam War and how horrific it really was for our young men and women,” Brown said.