|Captain Alexander's name on the|
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
She enlisted in May 1967, leaving behind her hope chest and wedding dress, and bringing a great deal of enthusiasm for the challenge ahead. Assigned to the 85th Evacuation Hospital at Qui Nhon, Vietnam, she was part of the team responsible for stabilizing seriously wounded patients, whether they be American, allied or enemy. A colleague recalled that "Rocky," as Alexander became known, was "top notch... never got rattled... even managed to look well groomed" in the chaos of field hospital work.
|Captain Alexander's D'Youville College yearbook photo, class of 61. |
A nursing scholarship was established there in her name.
After six weeks, the team was returning to the 85th when their plane encountered rain and low clouds that would prevent their landing at Qui Nhon. They were diverted to another airstrip with better landing conditions but crashed into a mountainside while attempting to get there. Alexander, the other 21 passengers and four crew members were all killed in the accident. She was 27 years old and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.
Accounts of Captain Alexander from those who served with her say much of her commitment and poise; it seems that many of the enlisted men at the hospital were enthralled by her beauty. Most touching is a letter written to Alexander in 1991 by the Army nurse whose place she seized for the Pleiku assignment. "How did you keep it together? You know, the guys really leaned on you," she wrote. "You and I triaged, organized, drove the men and prayed... I really admired your strength and envied it." The same nurse acknowledges that had events been a little different, she, herself, might have perished in the crash, and Alexander survived. She tells of the complex mix of guilt and sorrow she continued to feel, decades later, and her struggles to make a positive impact on the world in Alexander's memory.
We often think of the sacrifices men made, and the fact that but for a twist of fate, an injury that prevents a deployment, a roll call missed, one soldier survives while the one who took his place dies or is injured. Until very recently, with women being further integrated into combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of us didn't consider that the beneficiaries or victims of fate could be female.