Heroism extended beyond the battlefield for nurses in Vietnam.

Each day leading up to the April 14 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2012 Minnesota Finalist:

Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam
Kim Heikkila

Minnesota Historical Society Press

Category Sponsor: Xcel Energy

In Sisterhood of War, Kim Heikkila delves into the experiences of Minnesota nurses who served in the Vietnam War, exploring what drove them to enlist, their war-time experiences, and their pivotal role in the creation of a national Vietnam Women’s Memorial.


An excerpt from Sisterhood of War:

Veterans Day 2008 was chilly but sunny in Washington, D.C. As they do every November, Vietnam veterans from across the country gathered at the Wall to pay their respects to those who had served and died in the United States’ longest and most controversial war. Flowers adorned the pathway along which visitors descend into the earth swallowed by the seemingly endless listing of names of the war’s dead. A stage stood on the grassy lawn in front of the Wall. News trucks line the nearby streets as cameras captured the swelling throngs, military color guard, musical performers, and featured speakers. Filling the hundreds of chairs in front of the stage were the day’s honorees – veterans who had encountered in Vietnam the heights of human bravery and depths of human depravity and had come home to a divided, sometimes indifferent and sometimes hostile, nation. The veterans wore jackets and ties, jeans and sweatshirts, black leather vests and boonie hats. They sported clean-shaven faces and crew cuts or beards and ponytails, mellowed and graying with the passing of time. But clustered among this crowd of men were women who had also served in Vietnam, for on this day, they were the special guests of honor at the annual celebration.


Kim Heikkila is an adjunct instructor in the history department of St. Catherine University.


“Bravery doesn’t know any generational or gender boundaries. The brave men and boys who fought and died in Southeast Asia are heroes – but that’s every bit as true for the fearless ladies Heikkila centers her narrative on.”
– Minnesota Book Awards judge

“Informative. Concise. A real treat. A must read for any nonfiction-oriented book club.”
– Minnesota Book Awards judge


In this MPR interview, Kim Heikkila, along with Kay Bauer and Mary Beth Crowley, two Minnesotans among the 6,000 military nurses who served in the Vietnam War, disucss why they enlisted, what they experienced in Vietnam and at home after the war, and women’s role in various aspects of the Vietnam conflict.

Kim Heikkila, a University of Minnesota – Twin Cities alumna, and Sisterhood of War were featured recently in a piece by the institution’s Alumni Association.


Award winners will be announced at the 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel – Saint Paul Riverfront. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. New this year: a post-awards “Epilogue Celebration.” Tickets are available online or by calling 651-222-3242. Click here for more information.

Have you read Sisterhood of War? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!


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