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A Tribute to Vietnam Nurses

Diane Carlson grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, one of six children. Her working mother was a nurse and her north star. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Diane chose a career in nursing just as the country was embarking on the Vietnam War. Young men all over the nation were being drafted and dying, while every night the war was playing out on the six o’clock news in living rooms across America. In her second year of nursing school, Diane heard an Army recruiter on the radio say that nurses were needed. She enlisted immediately and volunteered to go to Vietnam, determined to save lives. “Four sons,” her father said, “and I send my daughter off to war.” Twenty-one years old, she’d nursed in hospitals and ERs, but nothing could prepare her for what she’d encounter in Vietnam.

For more about Diane’s story of healing and a tribute to all the nurses that served during Vietnam, watch the 2021 National Memorial Day Concert, Sunday, May 30, 8/7c, only on PBS.

The 2nd Rangers

Now, seventy years after the Korean War, the concert will pay tribute to the more than 1.7 million Americans sent to fight in this brutal conflict, and the over 36,000 American lives lost. No group exemplified the courage and heroism of our fighting forces more than the 2nd Ranger Company. Taking on dangerous assignments, serving with distinction and honor, this elite Airborne unit was the Army’s only all Black Ranger Company. On the cusp of our military’s integration, these trailblazing heroes changed attitudes, and opened possibilities for all African American men and women in uniform.

For more about Cleveland Valrey and the 2nd Ranger Company, watch the 2021 National Memorial Day Concert, Sunday, May 30, 8/7c, only on PBS.

Reflecting on 20 years since 9/11

The headline read, “Staff Sergeant Joseph Edgar Phaneuf II, 38, of Eastford, Connecticut, died December 15, 2006, in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his humvee during combat operations in Operation Enduring Freedom.” Left to grieve were his wife Michele, a son in high school and two young daughters, a tight extended family, and the entire town of Eastford, population 2,000.

Joe and Michele met when he was in the National Guard and she was in EMT school. A year later, they eloped and moved to her hometown of Eastford, Connecticut, where her dad was the Fire Chief. Joe became an EMT, a volunteer firefighter, and a father of three, so busy with work and coaching his kid’s teams that he and Michele decided his stint in the military was over.

Then 9/11 happened. “It hit him very hard,” Michele said, “That’s when he decided he needed to get back into the Guard to help them find the terrorists. He had a purpose. You weren’t going to mess with his America, his world — not happening.”

On Memorial Day, Americans like Joe Phaneuf are remembered. For more about this story of resilience, watch the National Memorial Day Concert Sunday, May 30, 8/7c, only on PBS.

The featured stories for the 2021 National Memorial Day Concert were video-taped on location at the Military Women’s Memorial. Dedicated to the more than 3 million women who have served our country since the American Revolution, the Military Women’s Memorial is located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery and is the nation’s only major national memorial to honor all women who have defended the nation—from the Revolution to the present.

The featured stories for the 2021 National Memorial Day Concert were video-taped on location at Arlington National Cemetery. The grounds honor those who have served our nation, while immersing present and future generations in the cemetery’s living history. This expansive landscape serves as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within the hallowed grounds.

For more real-life stories spanning the broad history of our nation’s military conflicts, please visit our Past Stories page.