Lieutenant Susan M. Poppendieck US Army

As interviewed by Katelyn Durkop, March 9, 2019

Lieutenant Susan M. Loader Poppendieck US Army

This is Katelyn Durkop interviewing Lieutenant Susan Loader about her experiences as a physical therapist in the army during the Vietnam War.
I was 24 years old when I joined the army so the war had been going on for the middle half of my life at that time. No one person encouraged me I pretty much decided on my own. I was in high school and collage and was aware of the demonstrations going on in protest to the war and hearing the daily death counts both of the American soldiers, of the Vietnam soldiers, Viet Cong, and the civilians. Hearing those death counts and all the talk about the body bags coming back that really encouraged me to do something positive about the war and that’s when I joined the army, not to protests but to help our soldiers that were coming home. I was trained as a physical therapist and went directly into the army, I went to the local national guard and got sworn in and reported in January. My whole objective there was to help the young men who had been to war and came back injured. My working conditions were excellent, I worked an eight hour day and I saw a lot of things that were very very disturbing. I spent a lot of time with my patients in the clinic and outside the clinic. We would go out camping and whatnot as a support to them. Most of them were ether younger or my same age which was very very hard on me. We had approximately fifty patients in the gym where we worked and when I looked around I realized I was the only one there that had all four limbs, that was a very very sobering situation. I saw a lot of injuries, I saw a lot of pain and suffering, I saw a lot of broken marriages, I saw a lot of disrespect for our soldiers that returned, the United States did not welcome their fighting men home in a pleasant way. They were looked down upon, they did not get the medical care they needed, the emotional support they needed, it was a very sad treatment of our fighting men. Personally I feel like even though I didn't fight it did affect me emotionally in a very deep way. To this day I cannot walk the length of the Vietnam Memorial with all the soldiers names on it without crying and even thinking about it I get very emotional, very teary. There is a very deep deep emotion about Vietnam in my mind and its hard to understand because I didn't fight but I saw the results. Truthfully I was very proud of what I had accomplished.