Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with Linda J. McClenahan

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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[Interview Begins]

ROWELL: Today is December 5th, 2022. This is an interview with Linda McClenahan, who served in the United States Women's Army Corps from August 1967 to November 1970, and the Army Reserve from December 1970 to December 1979-- '76.

MCCLENAHAN: '76, yes.

ROWELL: This interview is being conducted by Kate Rowell in Racine, Wisconsin for the I Am Not Invisible Project and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. So, Linda, let's begin with where you grew up.

MCCLENAHAN: My oldest brother, myself-- my two older brothers and myself were born in Minnesot. In Newport, Minnesota, and my next sister was born in Harvey, Illinois and my next sister was born in South Bend, Indiana and then when I was about five, our family moved to Berkeley, California. So I grew up in Berkeley, California. Went to grammar school at School of the Madeleine, which was St. 00:01:00Mary Magdalene Parish, which was Dominican sisters, Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. There's different religious orders. It's all Dominican, so we're all related. And then Holy Names High School in Oakland as a high school student. So, I grew up there, yeah. I have two older brothers, two younger sisters, my oldest brother is Jack, John H. Jr., but Jack. My next brother was Mark and then me and then my two younger sisters, Margaret Anne, known as Maggie, and Jane. There's a year between the boys, a year between the girls, and two years between boys and girls. My mom had a miscarriage with what would have been a sister behind me, about 11 months behind me. That would have certainly changed the dynamic of the family and probably, you know, who I am, too. Anyway. [laughs]


ROWELL: So what prompted your family to move around so much?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, it wasn't that. My dad grew up on a farm in Illinois. The family farm was still there. And my mom grew up in Newport, Minnesota. And dad in the late '30s was a salesman, I guess. A traveling salesman. And he met my mom who was working as a secretary, I guess, or something. After they-- let me see, they weren't married until the war started. Dad joined the Navy and they were married then in March of 1942, I think. After the war, my dad decided he 00:03:00wanted to be a teacher. So he finished his degree in the Midwest at Knox College. And then Mom had always wanted to go to California. He was fine. He applied for several teaching jobs and got an interview in Rodeo, California, which is in Northern California, in the San Francisco Bay area. And he went out and interviewed and got the job. So we moved out to California. So, you know, Berkeley.

ROWELL: What was it like growing up in Berkeley?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, it was certainly exciting times. I think in the '50s it was probably like any other town. Everything's fine. But any university town was always pretty interesting. And then in the 60s once the Vietnam War really got 00:04:00going and a lot of protest started, things got very, very different there. My oldest brother, Jack, he never tried to avoid the draft. He was just one of those people whose timing was just perfect because when he was in college, being in college was a deferment. But then he got married and then being in college wasn't a deferment, but then being married was. And then he and his wife had a child, by then being married wasn't a deferment, but having a-- You know, it wasn't that he was avoiding anything. It just worked out that way. If he had been, he probably would have gone to the Air Force. That was his thought. But anyway, my next brother Mark did get drafted, but he had joined the Marine Corps. He voluntarily joined the marine Corps and the day he got on the airplane 00:05:00to fly down to Camp Pendleton was when he got a draft notice. Guess it worked out. And me, I was very active in Girl Scouts and because of my family was Midwest values and that, my dad had served in the Navy in World War Two and I had uncles in Korea and that and so I had planned to join a convent after I graduated from high school. But because of all the commotion and everything that was going on in Berkeley and that, I finally decided that before I gave my life to God, I'd give three years of my life to my country. And so when I graduated from high school, I joined the Army. I actually got accepted into the Army and the Air Force. But the Army could guarantee the field I wanted to go into and I 00:06:00could go in immediately. The Air Force, I would have had to wait three months and I didn't want to do that. So I went ahead and joined the Army with a guarantee to go into communications.

ROWELL: And so once you're done with your drink. What was your impression of your parents' reaction, your friends' reaction when the anti-war protests kind of started up, especially as they were around the Berkeley campus?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Well, my parents were not happy with it. My family has served in the military since the Revolution. It does go back to my great, great, great, great, great grandfather, John-- that was McClenachan back then, C-H-A-N. So, we've served all the way along. Civil War, War of 1812, I mean, all the way along. And then so we didn't think much of the protesters. My parents pretty 00:07:00much badmouthed them. We did, too. Pretty much.

ROWELL: And was that unique in your community, do you feel?

MCCLENAHAN: Not really. I think it depended on the age and the group and all that stuff. But it shifted. We could see the shift in public opinion as the time went on. But I graduated from high school in 1967, so I went into the service in 1967. So things hadn't quite shifted yet, but it was moving along.

ROWELL: Can you kind of talk a bit about that experience as you're a teenager watching this happen? How did you see that unfold?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, that's part of the reason why I decided to join the Army. I didn't want people on the street telling me how to think. I also didn't want the government telling me how to think. [laughs] I was going to find out for myself. And so, that was part of it. And as I said, I was a Girl Scout and Midwest 00:08:00values, and serving my country was part of the heritage. And so I felt it was the right thing to do.

ROWELL: Can you kind of define those Midwest values for me a little bit.

MCCLENAHAN: God, Country, Packers. [laughs] My dad was a Packer fan long before-- [laughs] I knew who Vince Lombardi was before I knew who the President of the United States was. But anyway, so, God, country, family, those are all very, very important things. Hard work, good work ethic. I remember my dad saying that no matter where we worked or even if it wasn't a job that we were going to have forever, it wasn't our career, it was a job, we should always work at it in such a way that if there was ever another Depression, and they could 00:09:00only keep like two people, we'd be one of the two they'd keep. So those kind of attitudes. And all of us, we went to Catholic schools, which means my parents, who both worked, with five kids, who both worked, they paid the tuition for the schools that we went to. But if we, like in high school, if we wanted a yearbook or or to go to a dance or anything, we had to raise our own money for that. So, hat kind of stuff, you know? You worked for things. She didn't just get them.

ROWELL: So Catholicism was an important part of your life as a child, then?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Well, that was another interesting thing. My dad was a Methodist. My mom was Catholic. But those in those days, Dad had to go to the Catholic classes, all that stuff. And part of what his-- see, that's another 00:10:00thing. You make an agreement, you stick to it because part of Dad's agreement was that he would make sure that kids were raised Catholic and make sure they all went to church on Sundays and things like that. And my mom went through a period where she was very angry with the Catholic Church. And so she became a Christmas-Easter Catholic. And my dad was the one who made sure we went to church every Sunday because that was his-- He made that promise and he was going to keep it. If your handshake was your-- what, commitment, you kept those commitments. Oh, you asked about joining the Army. My dad was okay with it. My mom was not. She would have been okay if I'd gone into the Air Force because she liked planes. But she wasn't at all happy with me being in the Army. And then I 00:11:00had to pull- Well, that's later, but I had to pull strings to get to Vietnam.

ROWELL: Can we also talk a bit about that early religious education, too?

MCCLENAHAN: 12 years of Catholic school. Not quite 12 years, ten years because I started at Catholic school when I was in second grade. So, that would have been first communion and then confirmation. And I just loved the sisters, the teachers, they were just-- and the Dominicans were really cool. They would talk about Saint Dominic being a joyful friar and he was known for that. They would laugh and carry on. And I remember first time I met Sister Rosalie [laughter], she was roller skating in the hall of the school. Yeah. [laughter] And then met 00:12:00some other sisters. Sister John Martin Fixa was a great person. She was teaching second grade. My dad was a teacher, grammar schoolteacher, and I would help him put up bulletin boards. I would help him cut out letters. I was a fairly good little artist. So I would draw pictures and things to help them with the board. So when I was in eighth grade at School of the Madeleine, Sister John Martin was the second grade teacher. So I would go down and help her with her bulletin boards and things and we hit it off. And by that time, I was already thinking that I wanted to be a sister. Then I went to high school and Holy Names High School was run by the Sisters of Holy Names, which is different from the Dominicans. It basically-- the religion classes and all those. It was just 00:13:00interesting. But I still wanted to be a Dominican [laughter] and Sister John Martin was going to be kind of like my sponsor, the person that was going to help me take care of that. And so, as a matter of fact, I remember it was my senior year at Holy Names, and we would take the bus from our house. We would take the bus downtown and then switch over to the busses that went right through the middle of the campus. UC Berkeley campus. 51, 58. Coming home from school one day, our bus was rerouted because the protesters were running rampant on the campus. So as we went down Telegraph Avenue, it cut down one of the side streets and started going the usual route and looking down, I saw a police car flipped 00:14:00over and on fire. And I think it was at that moment that I said, okay, that's it. [laughter] I got to do something. I got to do something else. So, I walked into it and checked it out and took the test and all that. Sister John Martin was disappointed that I was going to delay it, but I figured three years and then serve my country and then come back and do that.

ROWELL: And do you happen to remember maybe what date that might have been on? That protest that you--?

MCCLENAHAN: No, I don't. I think it was in November. I think it was before the Thanksgiving break. That's about all I can tell you. And that would have been in '66, because I graduated in '67. My brother Mark, by then my oldest brother, Jack, and his wife Jane were already married. Still are. It's been 56 years or something like that. Mark and his wife, his first wife, Berry [??], were married 00:15:00December 2nd, 1966. By then I had already-- well, I made that decision, but I didn't follow through until the spring of next year.

ROWELL: And so moving into that, can you talk about-- you mentioned communication, looking into a particular MOS [Military Occupational Specialty], and why you were interested in that?

MCCLENAHAN: Okay. When I first went into the recruiter's office and that, I took all these memory tests. There were several things that they thought I would be suited for. I was looking them over and I thought about drafting because I like to draw and things like that. But you had to be good at math. [laughter] Math was not my-- and still is not. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I can do fractions and I know Roman numerals, but anything beyond that-- don't get 00:16:00into algebra, don't give me letters, don't tell me X equals A plus B, give me the damn numbers. I can do the numbers. [laughter] So I was never any good at algebra or any of that stuff. So that didn't work. So then I was looking at other things and I thought, well, communications looks interesting. At which point my dad said, "Oh, well, you'll like communications. It's a fascinating field." It wasn't until after he died and we were going through his stuff that I found out that in World War Two, he was the communications officer aboard the ship he was on. And it was like, oh. And all he said to me was "you'll find it interesting." [laughter] Okay. So, I never knew that.

ROWELL: And can you talk about navigating that differing reaction from both of your parents when you decided to enlist? How did you tell them?


MCCLENAHAN: Well, I told them. See, I was a woman back then. A girl. And I was under 21. So I had to get their permission. They had to sign the permission slip. And my dad and I talked my mom into it. She did not want to sign it.

ROWELL: Why was that?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I think she had kind of a stereotypical idea of what a woman in the Army was. [laughs] And she just didn't want me [laughs] to be that.

ROWELL: And what was that?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, pretty much-- She knew I was a tomboy. I grew up with my older brothers. I was always following them around. Very interested in that. But I think she thought we were not very feminine. [laughs] My mom always had a problem with me being a tomboy. She hated that, you know?

ROWELL: So that was the ultimate expression of being a tomboy. I see.

MCCLENAHAN: I think there was kind of an idea out there of [inaudible] with the 00:18:00military, at least in the Army of being whores or lesbians. And it was ridiculous, but it was the way it was.

ROWELL: And you were aware of that before going in? That was a perception you were aware of?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I know that some people thought that, but it was like, oh, come on, I know me. Certainly I met people and they were certainly the outliers of the percentages and things. But most people were just other women who just wanted to serve their country. And it was just-- anyway.

ROWELL: And then so can you talk about why you chose the Army specifically?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, well, as I said, the Army, I was accepted both the Army and the Air Force and the Air Force, I would have had to wait three months to go into basic. And also they would assign me whatever my MOS was, the military 00:19:00occupational specialty. The job. But the Army could guarantee that I would get into the Signals Corps. Communications. And I could go immediately.

ROWELL: And urgency was important to you?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I was ready. I was ready to go. That was in August of 1967.

ROWELL: Can you actually tell me about that day of your induction in Oakland?

MCCLENAHAN: Not really. I remember raising my hand and feeling very proud. And once you make that oath, it's with us for life, I think. I think we-- at least for most of us, I think that's a lifelong oath. To defend the country.

ROWELL: Do you remember--

MCCLENAHAN: Defending the Constitution. Anyway, go ahead.

ROWELL: Oh, no. Do you remember having a sense for that when you did it?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. It was really cool. I got into basic. I was one of the squad 00:20:00leaders and I had the salute down pat before I went, and my brother had taught me how to march and all that stuff. So I knew how to, you know, left face, right face, [laughs], about face. All that good stuff. I was kind of a hotshot. [laughs]

ROWELL: What do you remember about those first days in basic?

MCCLENAHAN: We arrived-- we had been on the bus. I don't even remember how I got to-- It was Fort McClellan, Alabama. I'm sure I flew somewhere, but then I got on this bus with other women and we got in at some, like, four in the morning and never got to sleep. We were immediately in our barracks, assigned our 00:21:00company and all that, and so I was Bravo. It's interesting, on the back of my nametag, I still have the little yellow tag that was the Bravo tag. I remember these sergeants yelling and trying to get us to do this and do this, stow this and how to make a bed and how to bounce quarters off things and how to roll your underwear and your nylons and all that stuff. The only demerit I ever got in basic training was because I had a hair in my hairbrush, which was interesting, because I never used that hairbrush. I always used a comb. So, I think she had to make it up [laughs] just to give me something. The biggest problem [laughs] I had in basic was after 12 years of Catholic school, I kept calling the sergeant 00:22:00"sister". [laughs] Sergeant Murrow [sp??] who spoke in this monotone. I don't know where she was from. Maine, I think. But anyway, she spoke in this monotone. Yes, Sister. Sergeant. And finally she turned to me and she says, "McCallahan," she never got my name right. [laughs] "McCallahan, you call me 'Sister' one more time, you're going to be scrubbing stairs until your tooth brush falls apart. You understand me?" "Yes, Sister. Sergeant." [laughs]. So I was scrubbing with a toothbrush. I was scrubbing the stairs and the whole three floors. I was all the way up. It was, sergeant, sergeant, sergeant, sergeant, sergeant. To the point where when I came home on leave the first time and I saw Sister John Martin, I called her Sergeant John Martin. [laughs] So from there, of course, I graduated. 00:23:00I think I wasn't first in the class. I think I was second in the class.

ROWELL: And can you talk a bit about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Physical fitness?

ROWELL: Physical fitness, becoming a squad leader, all those things. Yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: Like I said, I was trying to be a kind of a hotshot and I was trying to enjoy the experience. It was another thing my brother said. He says, "Don't get caught up in the whole thing." He says, "Just enjoy it and go with the flow." And I did. The other weird thing that happened, this is a true story. People don't believe me, but it's a true story. In basic training, you get all the shots so that, you know, military people, I have to be ready to go anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. So we have to be inoculated for everything. So, when it was our time to get more shots, we would line up and we would go 00:24:00into the infirmary and they would shoot us on both sides with these guns that shot several at one time. And then we would go to physical therapy. Not physical therapy--

ROWELL: A PTA physical training?

MCCLENAHAN: Physical training, yeah, and do exercises and things that-- well, what happened was all of a sudden we got back to our barracks and several people were not doing well. A lot of dizziness, a lot of other things. And the next thing, people started fainting. And it was bad. Sergeant Murrow [sp??] came out and Lieutenant Spade came in. We're trying to figure out what's going on. And we finally realized that people were collapsing in alphabetical order [laughs], give or take. A few people [inaudible]. They went and checked and then we found out that not just our company, but two of them had the wrong dosages of something. So several of us had something we shouldn't have had. And so we got 00:25:00the rest of the day off and slept. [laughs] We had to go to bed really bad. [laughs] "Okay, you people at the end of that--" I remember Lieutenant Spade doing this. "You people at the end of the alphabet, start helping people at the beginning of the alphabet get in bed." [laughs] I mean, it was just craziness. Of course now, "We're going to sue!" You're owned by the Army. You did exactly what you were told.

ROWELL: Property of. Yeah.

Yes. Property of the US Army. You know, it was interesting because of with the COVID, I was reading-- a number of us, I was up at the VA, and we were looking at the fact that some of the military people were declining the COVID shots. And we were saying, what? Declining the shots? [laughs] We never got options. We 00:26:00couldn't believe that somebody could decline that. It seemed odd.

ROWELL: Thank you for that story. How was it handling that transition into a very structured military life? You mentioned Catholic school. Did that ease the transition for you?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, I think so. I mean, I just kind of knew what was happening. And I also knew there was basic training and I already knew that once we were out of basic training and into AIT, the advanced individual training, that that would loosen up a little bit. And then once we got to our final duty station, I knew it would loosen up a lot more. So it was just a matter of hanging in there, just like anything else. Anytime you're on probation with anything.

ROWELL: And did you develop any close bonds when you were in basic?

MCCLENAHAN: There was a couple of people that I got along with really well. Yeah. One of them, she wound up in Vietnam. She arrived in Vietnam just as I was 00:27:00leaving. Barbara. I think her name was Barbara Ashcroft. Yeah. Baltimore? She was from Baltimore. Yeah. Anyway, there was a few people, but not too much, because in basic, you didn't have a lot of time. It was very different than other times. So I remember the Jewish woman, I don't remember her name, but she and I kind of became friends. But that was interesting because one of the things that they did at the end of the evening was they sang the Our Father, which was interesting. And she, of course, had no idea what that was. [laughs] Yeah, I don't know where that came from or how long it lasted or anything else, because of course, now, there is no Women's Army Corps. It's all co-ed. Very different.

ROWELL: Right. Do you happen to remember if there were any chaplains around that maybe certain--

MCCLENAHAN: No. I mean, I went to Mass on Sunday.



MCCLENAHAN: I did do that. Regularly still. But I don't remember-- I do remember that Fort McClellan had a very nice-- The chapel. The chapel there was very nice. I do remember that. I don't remember much else.

ROWELL: Are there any other memories from basic that really kind of stick out in your mind when you think back on it?

MCCLENAHAN: Not really. I enjoyed the classes, military history as well as the physical training and an exercise called Circle O is just the only reason I didn't get 100% in physical training. I think I got a 98. [laughs]

ROWELL: What are those? Can you describe them?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, they're awful. Yeah. You had to lay on your back with your arms up to the side and lift up your legs and then roll them to the side and the 00:29:00stick them out. You couldn't touch the ground. Bring them down to here and then up, knees up, and then this way out and then bring them in, you could never touch the ground. And that for some reason, that exercise threw me off. The pushups were fine, The sit ups were fine, the chin ups were fine. I did fine with everything else. But those for some reason really, I did not do all of those. But I did manage to at least do it almost. I think I get like, whatever it was, 18 out of 20 or something. That's why I didn't graduate number one in the class.

ROWELL: Oh, I see. Okay. And then you said you don't really remember much about your graduation?

MCCLENAHAN: No, just marching with the group, the marching with the parades and all that. And that was really cool. I liked that. Learning to hit the down beat, the drum, with that left foot. We'd line up according to height and I'm short so 00:30:00I was always in the back and I couldn't see what was going on. So I discovered that if I volunteered to be the running right guide, which means I was in the front row on the far right side, and when they would say, we'd start and we'd have to make a turn, then I would run out ahead of time and post myself so that people knew where to make their turn. Then I got to be in first row so I could see what was going on. It was really cool. And one time, our basic training company won the parade for marching. And partly because my cover blew off, my hat blew off, and the group just marched right over it. [laughs] Nobody missed stride, nobody tried to step around it. They just stopped it right here. [laughs]

ROWELL: Didn't get that back.

MCCLENAHAN: Nope. I had to buy a new one. Or get a new one, a new one was assigned to us.


ROWELL: I see.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, a little odds and ends and things like that. But I did like marching in the parades. I did have that sense, very much so, of being part of something bigger than myself and being proud of that as a human.

ROWELL: Was there anything else that kind of prompted that response for you early on?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, Girl Scouts.

ROWELL: Yeah. That same kind of thing.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I think that was about it.

ROWELL: The fellowship element of it? And then so following basic, where did you go for AIT?

MCCLENAHAN: It actually was at Fort Gordon, Georgia. It was the South East Signal School. I think there was another word in there. South East something. Signal School. I'm sure is another word in there. South East something, Signal School, at Fort Gordon, Georgia. We'd march to classes in the morning and back 00:32:00and all that. And I, again, was a hotshot. On a teletype machine, I could type 70 words a minute, 75 words a minute, 80 words a minute. Because a teletype, there's only three rows. The old teletype machines, and it's not a four row keyboard. I still struggle with that. I just was really good at it. Working with the KW, the KY-7s and KW-26s, which were coding machines where you had to-- the one machine had two little wires that were off them. And every day at 2400 Zulu, we would have to change according to what the coding was, which was classified. And we had to put those little wires in different things so it would be coded, 00:33:00automatically coded. And that was interesting.

ROWELL: So it was encryption of some kind? Okay. And that was a thing you were learning to do in your Signal Corps courses?

MCCLENAHAN: Right. I was doing so well that I was being shown-- I mean, I joined the encoding and stuff like that. Not all of us learned how to do that. Certain ones of us were selected for that, to do that. And that was kind of cool. So yeah.

ROWELL: And can you state for me really quickly your MOS, please?

MCCLENAHAN: 72 Bravo. There it was 72 Bravo, when I finished later it was 72 Bravo 20, and then years later it was 72 Bravo 40, which was the supervisor. And that was what I was in Vietnam. Now, I was such a hotshot that out of AIT, I had an advanced promotion. I was a Spec 4 right out of AIT. So, so I was never a PFC 00:34:00[Army Private First Class]. I was never an E3. I just went from E2 to E4.

ROWELL: Do you know what specifically kind of led to that? What's that path for you?

MCCLENAHAN: It was acing the classes, getting into the-- yeah, performance and all that stuff. My worst experience at Fort Gordon was the mess hall. KP. KP duty. Yes. I was on pots and pans one night and of course, washing and cleaning was not a big deal. It was fine, but they had these huge pans, that big giant metal bowls. And at the end, I was trying to put them away. And I had said to 00:35:00the mess hall sergeant, I said, "I can't put this up there, I'm too short." She says, [inaudible] and left. So I basically kind of tossed it up there and it hooked. And I thought, "oh, good." And just as I said "oh, good", it fell, hit me on the nose, broke my nose and knocked me cold. I was flat on the ground and I came to with the people around and everything else. I didn't have KP anymore after that. [laughs]

ROWELL: They didn't trust you with the bowls?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Broke my nose.

ROWELL: Oh, my gosh.

MCCLENAHAN: Then a couple of other things from Fort Gordon that I remember that was really kind of cool. I do remember some of the people there. But on Friday nights, Fort Gordon was huge and it had horse stables and people would go 00:36:00riding. But on Friday night, if you went out and this friend of mine, his name was-- I don't even know if he's still alive. Calvin Richard Stool-- Steel. Calvin Steele. He was from Oregon. Anyway, he and I would go up to the stables and we would ride the horses. And then when they were done for the day, we would take the horses out for a really good ride, you know, just take off. And it was a blast. And then we'd come back and eat barbecue and whatever. I loved those Friday nights.

ROWELL: So you had quite a bit more freedom by miles in AIT. Okay. And can you talk about that adjustment, how that was for you?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, that was fine. That was fine because we still had the structure during the day and all that. So that was fine. And then at one point, we were able to write down what we would like as our next duty station. And so 00:37:00naturally, being from the San Francisco Bay area, I wrote down the Presidio, San Francisco, and I got assigned to Fort Ritchie, Maryland. [laughs] Instead of that coast, I was on that coast. [laughs]

ROWELL: The complete opposite.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. But because part of that, I think, was because of the skill set that I had been taught. Because Fort Ritchie, Maryland was also the spot of Site R. Site R was a highly classified three- or four-story building built inside a mountain. It was called the Little Pentagon. When the people in Washington, D.C., like the President and Pentagon people and all that, that's where they would go in an emergency.

ROWELL: Before we get to Site R, actually, do you mind if I ask? Do you mind if I circle back to AIT? Can you talk just a bit more about any of those 00:38:00communications courses, what you remember about them? Any of the equipment you trained on? That kind of stuff.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. The old teletype machines and as I said, the KW-26s and the KY-7s. I think you could even look those up. Five letter code groups with the rotating disc. That was amazing. Again, there were codes. There were all these classified books all over the place that would tell us what codes to put in. And if somebody sent a message, there was five letter code groups, which means the entire message had five characters, space, five characters, space, five characters. The entire message was like that. And it would have at the very beginning, it would have the classification and it would have a number and the number would tell you which coding book to use to translate the five-letter code group. And then we had these rotary discs that look like-- they're about the 00:39:00size of a CD or DVD but they were thicker and you rotated them to set the code accordingly. So they had lots of different-- like, the whole alphabet, a number-- anyway. So you kind of set them and then you put them in this machine, lock the things in and then you type exactly what the five letter code group was. B-D-L-M-C. B-D-L-M-C. And it would start to print out, the whole tape would come out with what the translation was. And the biggest problem with them is if you make a mistake, it wasn't like you could fix it. You had to start all over again. So the fact that I was a good typist really helped with those. So I think that that was part of it, too. So I learned a lot about classified things. And 00:40:00so when I also graduated, I had a secret clearance by that time.

ROWELL: Can you talk about that process for you and also what it took to get that clearance?

MCCLENAHAN: They had me fill out a bunch of forms and they interviewed everybody in the world that I ever knew.

ROWELL: How was that for them?

MCCLENAHAN: I got some more phone calls. [laughs] "Why are they asking me those kinds of questions?" [laughs]

ROWELL: And what did you tell them?

MCCLENAHAN: I told them because of the job that I'm doing, I needed a clearance. A military clearance. So that was just for the secret clearance. Later on, when I had not just a top secret clearance, but-- a top secret clearance, I believe, this has been many years now, so this could be wrong, but I think the top secret clearance was a level five. I had a level seven. I think you have to have a secret clearance to know what the name of those clearances are. And I think a 00:41:00level eight was considered the presidential clearance, which was everything.

ROWELL: So, very high.

MCCLENAHAN: Very high clearance. But of course, there is also the need to know, you had to have a clearance and the need to know. But anyway, so again, now that, they went back and really went back, I think they talked to my first grade teacher on that. [laughs] "Did she ever show signs of subversion to the United States?" [laughs] Anyway.

ROWELL: What was the timeline like for that clearance?

MCCLENAHAN: It was before we graduated. I graduated. I went to Fort Ritchie in February 14th of 1971.


MCCLENAHAN: So I called myself the Valentine's Day Massacre. [laughs] Anyway.

ROWELL: No, yeah. And so were your AIT courses mixed gender?


MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah.

ROWELL: And what was that like for you? Because you went to a girls school and then you went to WAC [Women's Army Corps] training.

MCCLENAHAN: Well, it was kind of cool. [laughs]

ROWELL: Okay, yeah. What was the dynamics like with that?

MCCLENAHAN: It was pretty good. The guys, especially the fellows, I think there was like, three women and maybe five guys that were in the special classes. We got pretty close.

ROWELL: The special classes meaning those who were meant to have that level of clearance?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Well, or they trained in the additional coding stuff.

ROWELL: Okay. And so can you kind of lay out for me the difference between someone who like you was learning that special coding stuff and the training your other cohort would have had?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, in the communications, I mean, they trained all kinds of things. People learned, some were maintenance people were they learned how to fix the teletype machines and some of the other things.

ROWELL: Receivers and--


MCCLENAHAN: Transmitters, [inaudible], and then-- which, actually, we also learned a little bit of. And then there were people who became just typist for the ticket-- you know, the tape would come out of the machines and then they learned how to send them to wherever, because you have to take the little tape and put it on this little transmitter-- the TD, the transmitter distributor, and you had to click it in there because this little tapes had little holes in them and you had to click it into-- it had a little feed in the middle and you put it down, put a little cover over it, and then push the buttons to make it go. And then it would be so you could send it anywhere in the world, depending on where you-- Fort Ritchie was very specific about it. It was much different than the training. We were not sending them anywhere, I don't think. But anyway, so it was very different. There were five holes in it and I could read the tape. An A 00:44:00was- it was one-two and then the feeder holes which would pull it along and then three-four-five. So one-two was A one,-four-five was B, C was two-three-four, D was one-two-five, E was one-- anyway, to learn how to read that. And that came in handy because again, later on, I'd have to be able when I read where the problem was and then we would stop the tape or tear it or something or we could fix, type in what the correction was and then continue to send it. So you had to be able to read the tape.

ROWELL: So you could recognize mistakes in real time and then correct them is what you're saying?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Especially on messages that were flash messages or red rocket 00:45:00flashes which were-- you had to get in and out of the station within 15 minutes or less.

ROWELL: Oh, okay. So, red rocket flashes is one. Are there any other types?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, of course, there's unclassified messages. There was what they called the BT and the BT was the break into text. And the next thing was the classification. So if it was UNCLAS, then it was unclassified. And then there was UNCLAS EFTO, which was-- I haven't thought about this in years. UNCLAS E-F-T-O which actually meant "for your eyes only". It doesn't say that but that's whatever it was.

ROWELL: That's the shorthand?

MCCLENAHAN: Right. Next was confidential, next was secret and then top secret and then top secret with coding behind it. And that was some.

ROWELL: So with coding behind it, do you mean that there was yet another layer of encryption so that even people-- so to reinforce--

MCCLENAHAN: You had to have higher than the top secret clearance in order to 00:46:00handle that. So somebody seeing that, an operator who was getting those messages would see that and call whoever the person was that had the clearance or for the flash messages, which are the ones you had to get fast, those will come in with bells. We'd be sitting there and the machines would come in and all of a sudden you hear "bing, bing, bing, bing, bing", five bells. And then you knew that was a flash message so whatever you were doing, you dropped and got that one. The Pueblo. Do you know about the Pueblo? Have you ever heard of that?

ROWELL: So, we will talk about that when we get to [inaudible], for sure.

MCCLENAHAN: Okay, because that's-- yeah.

ROWELL: And what was usually, just when you were training especially, what was usually contained in those flash messages?

MCCLENAHAN: The flash messages were usually some important information that was needed, either going to the Pentagon or coming from the Pentagon going somewhere 00:47:00else. Or Department of the Army or the Department of Defense, the White House. There was just all kinds of different places that it could be going.

ROWELL: Did you know anybody who washed out in your courses?

MCCLENAHAN: People did, but I don't remember who they were or anything

ROWELL: [inaudible]

MCCLENAHAN: And they were just reassigned to different MOSs or jobs.

ROWELL: Mm-hmm. Gotcha. Was there anything that was particularly challenging for you in terms of what you were learning or anything there?

MCCLENAHAN: Not really, I found it all fascinating. I mean, I really did. I thought it was just incredibly fascinating. And then when it started to be a real messy, just, boy, that's fascinating. Well, sometimes. Sometimes a lot of the messages were just basic confidential orders. Orders for this person going here or this person transferring there or your orders of the day or whatever, it 00:48:00was just SITREPs. Situation reports, things like that. Just your basic stuff. But every so often--

ROWELL: Do you recall any other shorthand that you may have used or been taught at that time?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh my gosh, sure. Z and Q signals.

ROWELL: Okay, what are those?

MCCLENAHAN: They were little three-digit things like ZES1 was an incomplete message. ZES2 was a garbled message. So when a message, now, again, this is not in training, but we learned them in training. If a message was received at another wherever we were sending it and it maybe was incomplete or it had garble in it like it wasn't clear, then they would send a ZES1 or 2 to us saying, "this message", and they give you the information that you needed to find it and then 00:49:00correct it and resend it. Whatever. And there was a whole book of Z and Q signals. Q signals were generally questions. Z signals were statements. I wanted to, when I came back, I wanted to get a personalized license plate that said ZBM2. ZBM2 is a problem with incompetent operator. [laughs] I wanted that on my license plate and anybody who recognized it would have to be another communications person. Oh, INT. That was what made it a question. INT. Because I once had somebody, this guy and I, now this again was at Fort Ritchie. No, this was in Vietnam. Anyway, we were going back and forth with Z and Q signals. The two of us. And we're getting to-- It was getting to be like, a whole page of 00:50:00nothing but Z and Q signals. And he finally sent back and he says he sent one message: INT ZUJ5, which was "Call me." [laughs] "Please call me." And with the number. And I called him and he said, "You are the first person," he says, "You're a girl?" He says, "This is great." He said, "You're the first person I've run into that knows these Z and Q signals as much as I do." I said, "I love them." He says, "I do, too." [inaudible] anyway, we just-- from then on, we would send Z and Q signals back and forth just to keep in touch. ZUJ5, yeah, that's "give me a call".

ROWELL: Do you know what his name was?


ROWELL: No? Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: No. No idea.

ROWELL: And how long did you talk for? Do you remember? A couple of months?

MCCLENAHAN: A couple of months. Yeah.

ROWELL: Yeah. And then is there--

MCCLENAHAN: I should point out that after the first deaths of the people that I knew, I would know people's names while I worked with them and forget them. It 00:51:00was just safer.

ROWELL: Understandable.

MCCLENAHAN: Unfortunately, I continued to do that. There are people that I work with in civilian life. Some names I remember, but there are some people that I was really close to and I couldn't tell you their name. I can see their face, but I couldn't tell you their name to save my life because it just wasn't safe to get to know somebody.

ROWELL: Yeah, that must have been difficult for sure.


ROWELL: Well, thank you for sharing that.

MCCLENAHAN: And I feel bad because, I mean, there are some people that I-- you know, I'm on Facebook. I'm on a couple of different Vietnam sites and I'm in the 1st Signal Brigade site and a Long Binh site. And I keep wondering if I recognize any names and so far only a couple have come up. I remember a few. Bill Veal [sp??], Rich Cummings, Earl Budtz [sp??], Tom Black? Tim Black? I 00:52:00don't know remember.

ROWELL: Well, we'll be sure to touch on them too, for sure. Yeah. Before we move on to AIT, is there anything else that strikes you as memorable about that time for you? In terms of what you learned, who you met--

MCCLENAHAN: No, I really liked it. I did. I thought it was funny at one point. I was there, of course, over in December. November, December. And we did have a snowstorm in Georgia. There wasn't maybe more than half an inch of snow on the ground, but you would have thought it was, you know, it cracked us up because everything shut down. [laughs] It was just awful.

ROWELL: Still happens now.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. But we'd march to school just like we did in basic and had all those sing-songy things like, [singing] "I got a guy in San Anton'," and everybody would repeat it. [singing] "We make love on the telephone. Am I right 00:53:00or wrong? You're right!" All those things.

ROWELL: Do you remember any others of those?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, gosh. Not off the top of my head.

ROWELL: That's okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Something about a heart of gold. Anyway. [laughs]

ROWELL: Hard to recall but when they do, yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. But that was just a march, you know?

ROWELL: Yeah. And then we were discussing those shorthands. Any other important shorthands that you can remember, especially that might come in handy when we're talking about your work later.

MCCLENAHAN: Well, there's the three major things in Vietnam were KIA, killed in action. MIA, missing in action, and WIA, wanted in action. And KIA, killed in action, is why I will not get a Kia car for the rest of my life. I will never, ever, ever, ever buy a Kia because I do not ever want to have KIA-- I don't want 00:54:00to be driving around a KIA. To this day, when I see them, I still get a kick in the gut.

ROWELL: Just a reaction.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I mean, it's just a car, but it's--

ROWELL: It means a lot. Especially given your experiences.

MCCLENAHAN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

ROWELL: Understandable.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. But the military loves acronyms and [inaudible] and things, so there's all kinds of things. But those are just some of them right now.

ROWELL: And then, actually, I think we'll take a pause for time really quickly and we'll come right back. So this ends segment one of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 5th, 2022.

MCCLENAHAN: Okay. Thank you.

ROWELL: This begins segment two of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 5th, 2022. So last we left off, we were discussing AIT and moving into Site R and Raven Rock Military Complex.


MCCLENAHAN: Not Raven Rock.

ROWELL: No? Was it not part of Raven Rock?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't think so. I don't know. I'm not familiar with that place.

ROWELL: Okay. You mentioned it when we discussed--

MCCLENAHAN: Fort Ritchie.

ROWELL: Fort Ritchie was attached to Site R, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, Site R. Oh, I guess it stood for-- anyway. Nevermind. It probably was Raven Rock. [laughs] We just never called it that.

ROWELL: R for Raven Rock?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. It certainly could be.

ROWELL: Was that the name of the mountain, maybe?

MCCLENAHAN: It could have been.

ROWELL: Okay, anyhow--

MCCLENAHAN: The whole thing was a rock. To hollow that out had to have been-- [laughs] an engineering feat.

ROWELL: Oh yeah. So would you like to tell me how you got assigned to Site R?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, as I said, I put in for the Presidio in San Francisco and I got orders for-- so I don't know, I assumed that I think it had something to do with the courses I was taking and the fact that I had the advanced promotion and 00:56:00that because Fort Ritchie and Site R specifically was a pretty strategical base, pretty important base. STRATCOM, I was part of STRATCOM, their strategic communications. We connected with the ASA, the Army Security Agency. We connected with various other things.

ROWELL: Can you tell me a bit about that February 14th?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Of course I just arrived, so I didn't get to get out there until a while after that. You get settled into the barracks and meet all the key people, all the barracks sergeants and the first sergeant and the XO and the CO and all that stuff. All seemed fine. And then get to know some of the people 00:57:00there, go down to the NCO club, have a-- [laughs] Well, not the NCO club, just the bar. That was the only bar. At that time, I don't think I was drinking yet. So if I did go down there, probably just had a coke or something. That's all I ever drank at AIT was Coca-Cola.

ROWELL: How old were you at that time? Do you know?

MCCLENAHAN: I was, well, 19. Yeah, 18, 19. I was 19 when I got to Fort Ritchie.

ROWELL: Okay. And that's in Maryland, correct? Okay. And the mountain itself is in Pennsylvania? Is that correct? Right on the border there.

MCCLENAHAN: The Blue Ridge Mountains. Yeah.

ROWELL: Right. Okay. So can you tell me a bit about that geography and how that works

MCCLENAHAN: When we first went out, we all had our badge. It was more than just 00:58:00a name tag. It was just a [inaudible]--

ROWELL: Just a security badge, maybe?

MCCLENAHAN: Just a badge. And we'd get on a bus which would wind through Fort Richie to the different barracks and pick up everybody that was supposed to go out to Fort-- Site R. And then we would travel. I don't remember how long it was, maybe 15, 20 minutes, half hour. And I don't know. And then we would come up to this huge gate with barbed wire and everything else. And it was between rock. Solid rock. An MP would get on the bus before they even open the gate and check everybody's badge. So then once everybody's badge was checked, then he would go back out or he would signal somebody else and the other MP would open the gates and we would go in. And go in means we would go into a tunnel and it 00:59:00had a walkway on the side of the tunnel. It was all rock. And we would go up to this dock kind of thing and we would unload. And there was this huge what they call a bomb blast door, it looked like one of those giant safes in a bank. You know, this big, huge metal thing with the big handles.

ROWELL: On the vault?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Yeah, the vault. And they would open that up, and then we would all go into this little room that was probably as big as this living room. And then they would close that. And at that point, we would turn in our little badges, outside badges, for an inside badge, which was different, and that told everybody what we had access to and what we didn't have access to. And once 01:00:00everybody had that, then they would open the next bomb blast door which went into the building. And like I said, this building was like a four-story building inside the mountain. Inside the mountain. It had its own water supply, reservoir, I could never say reservoir. [laughs] But its own water supply. It was completely self-functioning. It was in case of a nuclear attack. There was space for the President, the entire cabinet, senior Pentagon officials, all that. There was places for them to stay inside there. And it had a cafeteria 01:01:00that we would go up to and that. It was it was a 24/7 operation and we worked-- let me see if I could get the order right. We would work second shift. Is that right? We'd start second shift from four to midnight. Six days on that. And then we would have a day and a half off and then we would be on-- yeah, we would. We'd go the days. So that would be at eight in the morning to four in the afternoon and then six days. And then we would have like a day and a half off and then we would go to mids, which was midnight to 8am, which seemed so much longer than the other two 8 hours. [laughs] And then we would get three days off and then we would go back. So there were four shifts. Alpha, Alpha, Bravo, 01:02:00Charlie, Delta. And I was part of the Bravo shift. And inside, when we would sign anything, we did not use our own initials. We'd use-- like, I was BL. I was Bravo shift. Each of us had our own code inside. And that's how we'd initial everything when we do channel checks or other messages. And it was a fascinating thing. There were banks and banks and banks of machines that would just kick out tape, messages, tape. So there was no printed copy. It was just the tape. It was Ritchie Relay Center. So we would take the messages and see where it was addressed to and we would forward it on to wherever. And again, if there was a flash message, it would come out of five bells. Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, 01:03:00bing, bing. And it was interesting because a teletype machine, there was letters and numbers. Or figures and letters. And if you shifted into letters, the machine would actually kind of clunk. And when you shifted back into figures, it would clunk again. So it would be a shift, bell, shift, bell, shift, bell, so you'd hear: Clunk, bing, clunk, bing. Five bells. So you'd for sure hear them and then drop everything, go over, get the flash log, log in where it's coming from or it's going to, who the principal addressee was, and then tear it off, take it over to the machine, pass it off, and assign what time it left the office. And you didn't put down what time it started, you put down what time it ended. And all of them started-- oh, do I remember the codes it started with? 01:04:00Oh, yes. That was the priority. That was the priority. O was immediate, F was, of course, flash. I don't remember the other two codes, but anyway, that's what we would routine. RR was routine. There was another couple in there too, but anyway. And the ending was always four Ns. NNNN. So you always knew that was the end and was easy to see it on the tape. As I said, you read the tape. So as soon as it ended, then you'd log it in and go to the next thing and that. And if anything was highly classified, we had to call whoever had that clearance. It was on shift. There had to be two people on every shift that had a certain clearance. We also had a direct connection to Air Force One, which was 01:05:00interesting. So when Air Force One was in the air and messages going back and forth, we would have a direct connect to that. And we get to know the guys or the gals who are running the communications on Air Force One. One time it was in the air and I went on a lunch break. And when I came back, it said it was still in the air, and then all of a sudden I got a message. It was like, what? It had landed and somebody hadn't changed the code. So I thought it crashed from out there. It was like, no! But it was fine. Everybody had different jobs. We had the maintenance crew, we had the operators, teletype operators who would take messages, the service desk, which would take care of a garbled message or other 01:06:00messages. We knew our job and that was one of the good things about the military. You always knew exactly what was expected of you and what to do and how to do it. And if you didn't know, you knew who was safe to ask.


MCCLENAHAN: There was always some idiot that you didn't want to ever ask them. [laughs] Sergeant Witless. No, Whitley was his name. We called him witless. Which-- I don't know if I wanted to share this, but he was the only evil thing that I ever really did that I absolutely had no remorse for at all. We had a routine message coming in with orders transferring a number of people to Iceland or Greenland, one of the two. And as it was coming in, I had an idea. So I tore 01:07:00it, printed it out, stopped it and added Sergeant Whitley's name [laughs] and number into the orders. And then continued it on. So the next day he came in and said, "I don't know why I've got orders for Greenland. What the hell am I going to do in Greenland?" [laughs] Gosh, I don't know. So, he had legitimate orders because it came in on the paper and nobody ever tracked it back. I'm sure once he got there that they had orders that said that he wasn't on it, but they would never be able to figure out how it happened or where it happened because it was going through so many points of whatever. So I've never felt bad about that.

ROWELL: So that's how far it got. He left.

MCCLENAHAN: He was gone. Yeah. Yeah. I've no idea where he went afterwards or if they found a job for him there or somewhere else. But why he was there, we never figured out. He knew nothing about communications. He knew nothing about anything, actually.

ROWELL: Was he in the Signal Corps?


MCCLENAHAN: He was Signal Corps. He was assigned to Signal Corps. But I don't know what his primary job was because he really doesn't know much about what was going on in the comms center. Well, he and I got into it on my first day in there. I came in and he was doing something. He says, "Welcome aboard. Make the coffee." And I said, "I don't drink coffee. I don't know how to make it." He says, "You're a girl. You know how to make coffee." I said, "I don't know how to make coffee. I've never made coffee. I don't drink it." He says, "Well, figure it out." I don't know exactly-- I mean, now I can guess looking back, because now I do drink coffee, but I know that as soon as I filled it up and put it in and plugged it in and turned it on, I stepped away and somebody came over and put his cup under it and I said, "I just started that." And he turned it on and it was already dark brown. [laughs] So I didn't have to make coffee after-- see, 01:09:00the guys were responsible for putting all the tape and the trash and all that stuff into the bags and taking it down to be pulped, to get rid of, to shred or pulp or whatever. And the girls were responsible for the coffee. So at that point, that changed and we could declare I want to be a trash hauler or I want to make the coffee. So that was fine.

ROWELL: So speaking of that, how many other women worked in the comm center?

MCCLENAHAN: There were three of us.

ROWELL: Okay. All on the same shift?

MCCLENAHAN: No. Different shifts. So I was basically-- well, no, that's not entirely true. When I was on days, there were two of us. But the other people, because of Jenny. Jenny was a day shift person only. I don't remember what the 01:10:00job was, but she was a day shift person only. Some sort of administrative things that she would do in there. And then once a year we would have this thing that we would call, it was called Operation High Heels, and it was always called Operation High Heels, but that had a name after that and it was always in October, and we would be in lockdown for five, six, seven days, which means we would be at Site R and we would be there. Nowhere else. We never left for that time period. It was simulated war. So it was war games on the messages back and forth. And when the call would come out, we wouldn't know what day it was going to start, when the call would come out, we had to be there within an hour. 01:11:00Middle of the night, whatever, we have to be up, dressed, have our stuff and gone. So we all were ready to go because like I said, simulated war. Emergency. Boom. We had to be there. So it was a big practice and that. That was always interesting because we would be-- our bullets were three cots high. And again, the shifts, we would shift around. So it was just interesting. Just interesting. But that was simulated. Now, I was there when the USS Pueblo went down or came down. Most people today don't even know what that is. But it was a U.S. research ship [laughs] and U.S. research ship which was captured by the Koreans. North 01:12:00Koreans. And they were tortured. It was just awful. They were captured and tortured and it was awful. I was there when the message came in saying that they were about to be boarded and about to be captured. And so talk about a flash message. Boy, we got that down fast to the Pentagon, to the Department of the Navy, to the Department of Defense, to the White House. It just went broadcast to all the major places. And we got responses back and we sent them back and forth. And I do remember years later watching like a Hallmark or a GE theater presentation about that.

ROWELL: Dramatized?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Dramatized. I think Hal Holbrook played the part of Captain 01:13:00Lloyd Bucher? Was that his name? Anyway, in the thing, when they came back to the investigation of it all, after they came back, somebody was talking about the messages were sent out, the request for help, and this guy got on the stand and said, "Well, we never received them in Washington." And I jumped off the couch and yelled out, "No you didn't! I sent them myself!" I was just furious. It was like, ah! So I don't know. I can't even tell you on the dramatization if somebody was able to prove that, yes, they did get it. I mean, like I said, it wouldn't blanket out to everybody. I don't remember. But yeah, I don't remember how long they were captured either. But they were eventually rescued. They were trying to hang the captain and that wasn't right.


ROWELL: And that was December '68?

MCCLENAHAN: That was not December. Was it December?

ROWELL: I think maybe, but it's possible--

MCCLENAHAN: I'd have to look that up. I thought it was like, January or February of '68. Maybe it was December '68.

ROWELL: The winter of '68, '69.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I'd have to look that up.

ROWELL: Whatever the case. Yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, ow, ow ow ow.

ROWELL: That's okay. We'll check it out.

MCCLENAHAN: Want to pause, or-- you don't want to pause.

ROWELL: We can pause, if you want to.

MCCLENAHAN: Well, yeah, because I'd like to.

ROWELL: All right, so this ends segment two of the interview.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, I'm sorry. [laughs]

ROWELL: No worries. This ends segment two of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 5th, 2022.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, that had to be. So the Pueblo incident occurred in January of '68. I got there in February of '68. They were captured and being tortured and all that for 11 months. So I know that I was getting messages about the Pueblo, 01:15:00about rescuing the Pueblo, about all that stuff back and forth, investigations into it, all that. But I was not there when it went down. So I'm sure that one of the people I work with, it was probably Sergeant Mac. McNamara? No, I just remember a Sergeant Mac.

ROWELL: That's okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Because I was Little Mac and he was Sergeant Mac because they called me Mac, too. Last name McClenahan. But he would have told me because we were close. So it could have been him that was there the night the message went down. yeah, that makes sense. That makes more sense.

ROWELL: And you later received communications about the Pueblo?

MCCLENAHAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I know I was involved with the Pueblo. I 01:16:00know I was. That was absolute.

ROWELL: So while we're on the topic, were there any other like, five bell messages that you specifically remember receiving?

MCCLENAHAN: Um-- [laughs]

ROWELL: I know it's a funny question now.

MCCLENAHAN: I know but some of the things I wouldn't be able to-- I mean, the Pueblo was all declassified after the investigation was finished. But like when Abrams took over for McNamara in Vietnam, that was urgent and I sent the messages. I mean, his orders. I had those go out and they were important. There were other things that were happening in Vietnam that I was part of. As far as 01:17:00before I even got there. That was, again, part of the reason I wanted to go.

ROWELL: Is there anything related to the Tet?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, certainly. Tet was also January of '68.

ROWELL: So it was during that period in which you were at Site R. So you would have processed things related to that.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. And afterwards. Afterwards, follow up stuff. There's all kinds of things that were probably critical at the moment, but later turned out not to be that big a deal. A lot of it, like I said, routine orders and some not so routine. Some of the messages we're sending, remember, we were a relay center, so not only-- we weren't only going to Army bases, we were also sending to ships 01:18:00at sea. We had a connection to the Enterprise. Enterprise? Was that there then? Anyway, we had connections to--.

MCCLENAHAN: Important vessels.

ROWELL: I kind of remember KMJ. That was one of the call stations for something. It's just it's so long ago that I just remember pieces of things and I'm right at the moment. I'm not trusting my memory very well. [laughs]

ROWELL: That's okay. We figured it out, though.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, we did figure it out. Yeah. Like I said, I just sort of stopped and thought, wait a minute, something's wrong here. I just know that it was an interesting job, fascinating things happened. I loved talking to Air Force One or to the people who ran Air Force One, some of the ships, Air Force bases.


ROWELL: Yeah. What did you like about it?

MCCLENAHAN: It was just, again, being part of something bigger than I was and something reasonably important, I thought. Really important. We had connections with people. There was like a group who had gone through the language school.

ROWELL: Oh, [inaudible]--.


ROWELL: Intelligence people. Like, language intelligence.

MCCLENAHAN: Right. The language school at Fort Ord in California. They spoke Russian and they were in Turkey and we would send messages back and forth there with their findings and things. So, there's a lot of different things that were going on. Germany-- yeah, I don't remember too much. I remember Turkey, Germany, 01:20:00of course. England. They were English. [laughs]

ROWELL: Were you communicating always with American forces or--

MCCLENAHAN: Sometimes, what do they call them, expeditionary forces? Where they were like-- joint. Joint Forces.

ROWELL: Joint Forces.

MCCLENAHAN: Joint Forces. Yeah. And that was true in Vietnam, too. Well, Vietnam was mostly Army, but we did send things out to the Department of Defense and it did include other other military people, especially the casualty reports.

ROWELL: In Britain, do you recall if Chicksands was the name of the place that you were contacting at all? Out of curiosity, Chicksands Base?

MCCLENAHAN: That has a vague recollection, but I couldn't tell you.

ROWELL: An offhand question, yeah. So, in addition to that, can you also state 01:21:00the unit with which you were serving at this time?


ROWELL: STRATCOM? Okay. And was there anything more granular than that?

MCCLENAHAN: Not really.

ROWELL: You have your--

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. My STRATCOM patch. [opening a box]

ROWELL: Yeah. And this is original to your uniform.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Well, Signal Corps. That's not it. Medals. Okay, come on, I know I got a STRATCOM [inaudible] here somewhere. [looking through the box] Unless I [inaudible].

ROWELL: We can find them on a break.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. It would have been easier if I had just found it at a different time.

ROWELL: No, that's okay. We can also find them on a break. But take your time, if you'd like to.

MCCLENAHAN: STRATCOM, it was orange. Like most Signal Corps stuff was orange.

ROWELL: Uh-huh. Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: It had a-- it was a world thing that was-- Anyway, I'll find it 01:22:00later. I know I'v got them. [closes the box]

ROWELL: That's all right.

MCCLENAHAN: All right. Yeah.

ROWELL: We'll come back to them. So, can you describe for me all the various places from which you are receiving a lot of these messages? Was it just all over the place?

MCCLENAHAN: All over the place. Because we were the last relay point before Washington, D.C. We were it. Again, Site R was where if anything disastrous had happened, they would all come up to Site R and be there. So we were the last spot and we had a war room downstairs which I found by accident one time. [laughs]

ROWELL: Can you tell me about that?

MCCLENAHAN: During the lockdowns, the war games and that, it got really nutsy with everybody constantly around everybody, there was no time to--


ROWELL: Inside a mountain.

MCCLENAHAN: Right. So I sometimes would go down the back stairs just to sit on the stair steps and write a letter or read a book or something. And one time I walked down the stairs and there was a door there that and I thought, I wonder if that's a supply room. Maybe I could hide in there. And I opened up the door and I was in the war room. [laughs] I looked around. Nobody was there. But the map of the world and it had all this stuff stuck all over it. And I was standing there staring at it and somebody came in the other door and said, "Who the hell are you and what are you doing in here?" And I said, "Well, I just came in this door here. I thought this was a storage room." He says, "It's not a storage room. Get the hell out of here." So I left, and I assume that they took care of that security problem. [laughs] Yeah, it was pretty impressive. It was 01:24:00interesting. It was fascinating.

ROWELL: Can you talk a bit about-- Can you also just state super clearly for me what your position was specifically in the relay center?

MCCLENAHAN: Okay. I became a sergeant in March of '68. No, March of '69, but I was the assistant-- we call them trick chiefs. The trick chief, the shift supervisor, which they call the trick chief.

ROWELL: Which is a trick shift? For the trick shift?

MCCLENAHAN: Trick Chief. Yeah. And I was the assistant trick chief. So I was second in charge of who's assigned where, who's doing what, tonight who's taking care of this process and that process and keeping the daily-- the log of pertinent information to pass on to the next shift. Sometimes we would get things ahead of time about coming at 2330 GMT will be this information and that 01:25:00kind of stuff. Tech control. That's another thing. Tech control is another part of it. Tech control is the one who did the-- reset the codes, encoding things and stuff and also made sure that the signals on the different connections that we had were working properly. I would work in there sometimes too. But mostly I was just the assistant trick chief on the floor. It was at Fort Ritchie on my first overnight shift that I found out I could fall asleep standing up. [laughs] I was logging something in and just fell sound asleep. [laughs]

ROWELL: Sounds very demanding.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, yeah. I like Fort Ritchie, actually. And then from there, I got orders to go to Germany. Kaiserslautern, Germany. K-town. Germany. But they 01:26:00were rescinded because I was considered to be an operational necessity. And then came home on leave, and I don't remember when, what time of the year or anything, and my dad said to me, he had this really good friend who was a sergeant at the Oakland [inaudible] base who could give me any job I wanted anywhere. And I said, "Well, if they just pull back my Germany orders." And he said, "Yeah, well, he can overrun everything." I said, "Really?" So I went down the medium. I used to know his name and I can't remember his name, but his wife worked with my dad. That's how come I even know him. But went and talked to him and Dad. He says, "Okay, where would you like to go?" And Dad thought I was going to say the Presidio and I said Vietnam. And my dad said, "What?" [laughs] 01:27:00I said, "I want to go to Vietnam." And the sergeant said, "Oh, I don't even know if there's non-nurses over there. Hold on a second." So he called a friend of his in Washington, D.C., got a call back a while later and said, "Yeah, there's a WAC detachment in Long Binh, Vietnam and at USARV headquarters, they have some women that are working on the comms center up there. So we can do that." And I said, "Great." And he looked at my dad and my dad just shook his head no. [laughs] He said, "No, we can do that. We can do that." I was 20 at this point. 20 years old.

ROWELL: Under 21.

MCCLENAHAN: I'm still under 21. So in order to make a year there, I would have gotten out in August of 1970. And in order to make a year there, I would have to 01:28:00extend for three months to get through November. And my parents had to sign for that. Again, women, different than men back then. Again, we had to talk my mom into it. But my dad understood the reasons that I wanted to go. He was not happy about it. He never talked about his World War Two experiences. We know it wasn't pleasant but I really wanted to know what was really going on, and I found out. So, I was off and going. [to Rowell] Yes, you're stopping me again. What? What did I forget?

ROWELL: [laughs] I was going to ask, if you don't mind, a couple more questions about Site R before we moved to that because I have more questions about that, what you just talked about as well.

MCCLENAHAN: Okay, sure.

ROWELL: Because you mentioned some things when we had our pre-interview discussion. You talked a bit about some of the dynamics between men and women in 01:29:00the comm center there.

MCCLENAHAN: At Fort Ritchie?

ROWELL: At Fort Ritchie a bit. And you mentioned that initial period in which there were some expectations about the duties that women have in the office and also how you could be treated as a woman coming in.

MCCLENAHAN: Well, Fort Ritchie was okay. I didn't run into any problems there. A couple of inappropriate MPs, but that was about it.

ROWELL: Was that when they were searching the bus?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, no, no, no, no. After hours, down at the club. "I'll give you a ride home" and then not driving back to the-- come on, you know. Things like that. But it all seemed to be things that I could handle. And it didn't seem out of line. I mean, it's a little out of line, but everybody was putting up with it 01:30:00in those times and nobody ever-- Anyway, it was fine. I didn't hear-- I only heard of one woman being attacked when I was at Fort Ritchie and she was actually attacked by a civilian off-base. So it was not there. So, yeah, I don't recall too much else there. Not there.

ROWELL: Yeah. Later. You did also make some friends while you were there, is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. Sure.

ROWELL: Do you want to talk a bit about them and also maybe some of the adventures you went on with those people at Site R or around Site R in the mountain?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, well, let me see.

ROWELL: Because I think they [inaudible].

MCCLENAHAN: Laura Sayer was the barrack sergeant. And again, I was the assistant barrack sergeant and she was terrifically good friends there. Penny was a good 01:31:00friend. I just heard recently from-- I can see her, again. Hyatt. Jackie Hyatt. I just saw her. Jaqueline. She doesn't go by Jackie anymore, but she actually sent me a message on Facebook and I checked in with her. Jenny Beeheimer [??], Larry Gluck [??]. Well, Larry and I-- [laughs] Camp David is right Site R and Larry and I, one night we were out driving around and it was a beautiful night, nice and warm and that, and we drove up and we went down this old dirt road and we parked. And it was beautiful, clear night, everything was nice and beautiful. And we threw a blanket on the ground and we were just kind of kissy-face, just 01:32:00enjoying ourselves. We were a couple of kids, teenagers. Well, 20 years. And all of a sudden we started hearing helicopters and then all this noise and all these lights started shining on the ground and they were sweeping and they hit us and we both rolled under the car, grabbed the blanket, and I said, "What the hell's going on?" Well, no, I didn't say that because I didn't swear at that point. Anyway, "What's going on?" And he didn't know. So we came out from under the car and got in the car and were waiting and just then some red lights and MPs pulled up and the helicopters were still overhead shining on the car and it was like, what the heck? Well, turns out we had found a back way into Camp David. Again, another security problem that they didn't know they had. And we sure as heck didn't know. There was no signs about no trespassing or federal property or anything. We were just on an old back road. And [laughs] so they realized we 01:33:00were not a security threat and let us go. And I'm sure they-- we did check it out later and there were fences and things up, but it was a back in way to Camp David, of all things. And also a couple of things like that.

ROWELL: When you were briefed about Site R, what everything was, firstly, did you know what you were getting into in that instance or was it kind of a shock to hear all this?

MCCLENAHAN: It was a little bit of a shock. And we did have problems where some people would arrive and not know what it was who were terribly claustrophobic. And even though the building seemed open and just like a normal building, there were no windows because you were inside a mountain. They couldn't do it. So they were either assigned other jobs or transferred to other locations for things because it was pretty close. I had the opportunity to go down with, again, 01:34:00Sergeant Mac, we actually got on a little boat out on that lake.

ROWELL: The reservoir. The underground reservoir, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, with the rocks maybe it's no higher than that [pointing at the ceiling], maybe not even that high. We were just on the boat, on the water, and he just took me around the water. And then we came back and then they had this huge paper pulper, this huge paper pulper where we'd take these rolls of tape, the ticker tape that we'd use, and the papers and throw it into this big machine. And it would just mulch it all up, soggy, it was wet, it was gunky and it would turn it into globs of nothingness and then we would haul that out to the dumpster and various other things. I did get into some other places because of the friendships that I made. I got to see places that other people didn't.


MCCLENAHAN: Paper pulper was kind of cool. Definitely, though, being on the 01:35:00water was cool. It was like twilight down there, you know, at the end of twilight, just before night. It's so dark but not, you know, whatever. Sergeant Mac. What was his last name? I wish I could remember. He was a nice guy. He was definitely Irish. He says, "Yeah, I'm one of those hard headed shitass Irishmen." [laughs] He was cool.

ROWELL: Yeah. That pulper, was that for classified material?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, actually, we put everything in there.

ROWELL: Everything? Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: We put everything. We didn't take any chances with anything. Because even the routine stuff had a certain codes on it of, like, destination points. Each station had its own five letter code. Like there was the KMJ, I don't remember whether it was in front of it or behind it, but there was certain codes. Even simple stuff like that could give somebody a clue to something. So 01:36:00we'd destroy everything.

ROWELL: And how many people who are at Fort Ritchie knew a lot of the stuff that was happening over at Site R? Was there a clear delineation between those people there?

MCCLENAHAN: They just basically knew that there was a lot of classified communications and stuff going on, and we all knew that that was the backup from the Pentagon and White House and that but not everybody, like most of the women, they worked in other administrative jobs around Fort Ritchie. At the headquarters there, you know, downtown.

ROWELL: So you lived with other WACs at Ritchie, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. They're a good bunch. Sharon [??], Sharon Hogan, Jan Zimmerman, Karen [??], a lot of really good people. Laurie Horner. Anyway, lots 01:37:00of good people. And the guys that I worked with were all pretty cool for the most part, except for Witless. [laughs]

ROWELL: Who keeps his nickname to this day.

MCCLENAHAN: To this day, yes.

ROWELL: Do you have any sense whether he would have ever found out what happened?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't know and I don't care. [laughs].

ROWELL: That's fair, yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: I have absolutely-- It was an awful thing to do and I have no remorse whatsoever.

ROWELL: Right. Did he continue with that pattern of behavior as you knew him? Just from the beginning through the end?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, the whole time, yeah, he was-- Women were all second class. They shouldn't be in the service and they were paid on the keister. He was derogatory talking about his wife. He was just a bad guy.

ROWELL: I see.


ROWELL: Right. Is there anything else?

MCCLENAHAN: You know, I don't recall, I don't know if the order sent his whole family or just him. [laughs]

ROWELL: That's a good question.

MCCLENAHAN: Irrelevant. [laughs].


ROWELL: But a good question nonetheless, actually.

MCCLENAHAN: [laughs] Mm-hmm.

ROWELL: Is there anybody else who is memorable to you or any other events that were memorable to you from Site R that you can recall?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, one of our women, Jenny, tried to commit suicide one night by jumping into the lake that was on Fort Ritchie's property. Sharon and I jumped in, swam to her, pulled her out, fighting and screaming all the way. But we got her calmed down and taken care of and reported to the CO. And they did send her down to one of the hospitals. Fort Meade, I think. No. Walter Reed. So she got the help she needed.

ROWELL: Do you know what brought that? Brought that on for her?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, she was just struggling with-- I wouldn't be surprised if she hadn't been attacked by some of the people she worked with because she didn't 01:39:00like where she worked. I think she was working in supply and she didn't like the guys that she was with and all that stuff. I don't know that, but I'm guessing after the fact as I'm now thinking back on it. She certainly had a lot of the characteristics of somebody that was in a depression.

ROWELL: With trauma.

MCCLENAHAN: Traumatized, yeah.

ROWELL: How was that treated?

MCCLENAHAN: And she was--

ROWELL: You were going to say something about her, though, sorry.

MCCLENAHAN: I was going to say there was another Jenny, Jenny Beeheimer, another one, and she was the one who-- Larry and I had been seeing each other for months and Operation High Heels came up and so I was going to be gone for ten days. So Jenny was off, the other Jenny, was off site somewhere and I asked her just to keep an eye open for Larry. And she said she would. And by the time I got out, 01:40:00they were married. [laughs]

ROWELL: Oh, okay. You want to say more about that?

MCCLENAHAN: No, not really. [laughs] Actually, as I think about it, it was Larry [??], and I just assumed, I think I'm glad I'm not Linda Gulock [sp??], you know, not that it's a problem name, but it was-- [laughs]

ROWELL: For yourself, yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: It's just a different--

ROWELL: Life would have taken a different path.

MCCLENAHAN: Absolutely.

ROWELL: Was that quite common for any of your friends? Other WACs getting married?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, getting married. Yeah. That happened. The other thing that happened was, of course, back in those days, if a woman became pregnant, she was immediately discharged from the service. So if somebody became pregnant, they were discharged and other women would go up and say, "Here, pee in this cup for me," and claim that they were pregnant and then use the urine and get out that way. Because they weren't very careful about that. But that changed later, which is, you know, fine, because there's no reason a pregnant woman-- they were still 01:41:00thinking the pregnant woman couldn't do things back then. It was just awful.

ROWELL: Do you know why some women would opt to try to leave that way?

MCCLENAHAN: No. Just didn't like the military or want to go home or something, I don't know. It's not for everybody. In some ways it's like anything else. When people say, I mean, there's people who join a convent and then leave. [inaudible] people stick around. I think there are pros and cons to everything. Pros and cons are everything. And when I was counseling, I used to say to people, "There are pros and cons to everything." And I said, "I want you to make a list," when they were trying to really struggle with something, about the pros and cons. And I said, "And when you're done, don't say, 'Well, this has more pros.' Don't do that. Instead, look at the cons. What cons can you live with? If you make this choice, these are the cons. Can you live with those? You make this 01:42:00choice, these are the cons. Can you live?" Because that's what you really want to know. What cons can you live with? And that's how you make a decision. I think. I think it makes sense. It's easy to say, "Well, this has more pros." What cons can you live with? Because everything's got cons.

ROWELL: Did you ever have periods of time in which you discussed those cons with friends of yours that you perceive for yourself?

MCCLENAHAN: No, not them. No, no, no. It wasn't until after-- Vietnam changed everything. I mean, it changed everything.

ROWELL: And on that note, actually. So I think it's about time we circle back around to that.


ROWELL: Talk about seeking deployment to Vietnam. So do you have to remember--

MCCLENAHAN: Back then we didn't call it a deployment, it was a tour.

ROWELL: Tour, thank you.

MCCLENAHAN: A tour of duty. [laughs]

ROWELL: So, seeking to go to Vietnam, could you remember the name of that 01:43:00connection that your father had?

MCCLENAHAN: No, I was trying to remember that. Again, somebody that I remember his face, but I do not remember his name. It might have been something as easy as Sergeant Brown, actually. But I don't know that for sure. He was at the Oakland Army base and he was an E8 and knew everybody in Washington, D.C. The friend that he called in Washington was a general. "Hey, Charlie," you know, that kind of thing. So he knew everybody. Personnel.

ROWELL: Do you think you would have been able to to get that assignment had that--

Probably not.

--had he not been able to connect with him? Okay, I see.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Because there are only certain MOSs that were being assigned. 01:44:00Women had to volunteer. Nurses didn't but we did. So different women for different reasons. Mostly women who were planning on staying in the service as a career who wanted all those extra ribbons or the experience so they could feel that they were more completely members of the military.

ROWELL: And you mentioned, part of your--

MCCLENAHAN: Part of my reason was that I had a brother who was a Marine.

ROWELL: Yes. So can we talk about Mark and his time in Marine Corps and how that influenced your decision to go to Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, the Sullivan Act, which I think most people know about, but maybe they don't, said that members of the same family don't have to be in a war zone at the same time. I was thinking, here in Wisconsin, Michelle Witmer, is that her name? Who was killed? Her sister, I think, was over there in Iraq at 01:45:00the same time. And they knew that she didn't have to be, but she had said that she would go ahead and do that. I think that's-- I have to look that up, too. Anyway, my brother Mark was Marine Corps and he was a Marine Air Rescue meaning that he was trained to when planes would crash or whatever, he was trained to go in. He actually pulled a couple of guys out of a burning plane and things like that. That was part of what his job was. And of course, Mark being Mark, did he put on his safety gear before he jumped in the plane? No, of course not. So I knew for a fact that if he went to Vietnam, the guy was going to wind up dead because that was the kind of guy he was. Frankly, if I had been an infantry person, I probably would have been dead, too, because that's the kind of person I am, too. But we were not in those kind of situations. But I wanted to go for 01:46:00myself but I also wanted to go knowing that as long as I was there, that if he got orders, he wouldn't have to go. And I found out years later that he, in fact, did get his orders and didn't go although he was ready to. This was about five years before he died. I was back visiting and he said to me, he says-- I said something o him about him not getting orders. He said, "Well, I did get my orders." He says, "But the major called me in the office and said, 'McClenahan, I got your orders for Vietnam here.'" And Mark said, "I told them I'm ready to go." And the major said, "You know, you've got a sister over there. You don't have to go." You've got a family over there is what he said. You don't have to go. And Mark said, "Yeah, I know that, but I'm still willing to go." And then 01:47:00the major said, "You do understand you don't have to go." And Mark said, "Yes, sir, I understand that, but I'm willing to go." He said that the major slammed his hands on the desk, stood up, and he looked at him and he sa0ys, "McClenahan, I've been there twice. I'm telling you, you don't have to go!" And Mark said, "Oh, okay, sir. I'll refuse the orders." "God, you're dense!" Sat down, he said, "God, you're dense!" Because apparently he was not allowed to say, I'm telling you, don't do it. So anyway, so that's what the story Mark told me. So I assume that's accurate.

ROWELL: And it took a long time to talk about?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Well, sure. Like I said, he was a Marine in that time when people would say, "Oh, you're a Marine, so you go to Vietnam." No, my sister did? You know, this is not something a Marine would want to chit chat about.

ROWELL: Not easy, yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: But he realized later, he says, "You probably saved my life." I 01:48:00said, "Yeah, I think I did." [laughs] Couldn't do it the second time, though. But that was fine. I came across the name on the wall that was not the same as our name, but it was awfully close. It caused me to start-- I can't imagine seeing his name on there. I can't imagine not having my nieces and my nephews that I knew from his first marriage or second marriage, for that matter. Or the grandkids that he's got. You never know. So, [inaudible].

ROWELL: Did your parents understand that that was part of your reason to go?

MCCLENAHAN: Again, I think Dad did-- actually, Mom, I think that might have been what finally said, she probably agreed there. And then when we were at Travis 01:49:00Air Force Base ready to take off, I was in my greens and there was all these guys ready to go. They were all in fatigues. And Mom said, "I'm so glad you're going and not your brothers." And at first I thought, "Well, great, it's fine if I get killed." But I knew what she meant. We would be-- a woman, I'd be behind the lines. Of course, there was no behind the lines. [laughs].

ROWELL: As you found out quickly.

MCCLENAHAN: That's one of the things I found out. But yeah.

ROWELL: And how did you feel kind of leading up to your departure? How were you feeling at that time?

MCCLENAHAN: I was a little nervous, but I think I was ready. I think I was prepared. I talked to-- at Fort Ritchie, there were a number of guys who had come back from Vietnam. I talked to all of them and they were all communications 01:50:00people. They weren't infantry, so a couple of them were radiomen. One was a radio man with the infantry. So he was in a different boat. But the guys who climbed, set up telephone poles and towers and guys who worked in the vans with the telecommunications in the van that had the antenna, you know, all of those things. And guys who worked in fixed stations. I talked to different people and I figured, yeah, right.

ROWELL: And can you tell me exactly when that was that you left?

MCCLENAHAN: I arrived in Vietnam in November--

ROWELL: '69?.

MCCLENAHAN: November '69, I'm trying to think if I remember the exact date, I don't because I actually came back like, two weeks early, so it would have been the end of November. Yeah, it would have been like the 28th, 29th, something like that because yeah, it was the 28th because I remember we lost a day. It 01:51:00went from the 28th to the 30th to the international date line or something, so we completely lost a day.

ROWELL: Other side of the world.


ROWELL: So can you actually talk a bit about that trip that you took to get there, what you remember of that?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, the plane was very quiet because all of us were going. In the front of the plane, there was one other woman and she was a nurse and me and then some officers and I was sitting next to an officer and he had been there before. He was not crazy about going back, even though he was working in Saigon, which was, again, quote, a "safer area". There was no safe area. And the plane, it was quiet.

ROWELL: Somber mood?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Going over. When we came in, he said, "We're going in, we're going in." He says, "We've got word that the Bien Hoa 90th Replacement area is 01:52:00under fire," he says, "It might be hot when we go in." And they were still going to go in. [laughs] But as it turns out, when we went in that day, it stopped at that point. However, after we unloaded and we were sitting on the benches at the 90th Replacement and people were getting on busses and various other things, and we did come under attack again. Of course I hit the ground and I always made the joke, I said I was, because I was like, 110 pounds and I said I was so glad I was a 32 no cup, because I could get really flat to the ground, you know? [laughs] But the captain who was with me was still sitting next to me and I said, "How come we're under attack here? Isn't this behind the lines?" And he's the one who said to me, "Lady, this is Vietnam. There are no behind the lines 01:53:00here." And I know that hit me like, uh-oh. [laughs] Uh-oh! This might be different than I'm thinking. And then it settled down again a little bit later and we got our assignments and I got up on a bus that was going to Long Binh to the WAC detachment and the bus had no windows, but it had a mesh except it wasn't mesh, it was metal crossbars. Yeah. I actually have a picture somewhere in here of the--

ROWELL: Do you want to take a moment to grab it?

MCCLENAHAN: No, because I'm not sure where it is. I don't want to do that and--

ROWELL: We'll come back.

MCCLENAHAN: So when we got into Long Binh, me being who I am, while I was doing that, I shined up my shoes a little bit and and I cleaned off my brass a little 01:54:00bit and dusted off the dust a little bit and so I can make a nice-- So when we got there and I walked into the headquarters-- I mean, the WAC detachment, which had-- WAC detachment had four billets. Four two story billets and-- four or five. Anyway, it was surrounded by a fence which had barbed wire on top. And the front gate had MPs there and there wasn't like a gate or anything, I mean it was open, but it was the spot. And apparently those MPs that were there were people, infantry guys who had been wounded but not serious enough to go home or whatever 01:55:00else so they were assigned to guard the women. [laughs].

ROWELL: Interesting.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Anyway, that's, again, the story I heard. So I get off the bus and I walk in and I walk into the office and Sergeant Hammond, Sergeant Manning, Captain Oda, Shirley Oda, who had just gotten there herself like a week before me, was there. And so I met them all and was assigned what room I was going to go to. So hauled my duffel bag down there and I stopped at the supply room so that Sergeant Crowley--? Might have been Hurley gave me my fatigues and boots 01:56:00and my helmet and my-- [laughs] All that stuff. My canteen. [laughs]

ROWELL: Can you actually describe for me what your greens looked like? What they were like to wear, also.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, well, they were extremely comfortable.

ROWELL: Okay. Not the fatigues, but what you were wearing when you got there.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. No, that was dress. That was nylons and--

ROWELL: Skirt?

MCCLENAHAN: A green skirt and--

ROWELL: Sent you to Vietnam in a skirt?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah and the brown blouse and the green--

ROWELL: [inaudible] cover, as well.

MCCLENAHAN: Right. Right. I'm trying to think, did I wear a [inaudible] hat? I think I just had the green thing. We could wear black low heels or we could wear the [inaudible] shoes which was what I had on because it was a lot easier to travel in. So that's what I was in, it was the nylons and all that stuff.


ROWELL: And you said when you had that moment where you realized that there was no definitive behind the lines or not, that this was different from maybe what you were expecting, right?


ROWELL: That's a big shift. Can you describe to me what those expectations were in your head before you got there?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't know that I was even aware that I had any until that moment. I guess I thought that I would be in a communications building, much like Site R, except outside. And it would just be a communications building, but it would be back in a safe area behind the lot. It didn't occur to me that it would be right smack in the middle of the USARV headquarters which was U-S-A-R-V, United States Army and Republic of Vietnam. U-S-A-R-V. USARV headquarters. And the 1st Signal Brigade was right there, too.

ROWELL: So you were a-- what--


MCCLENAHAN: And that was up on the Hill. A WAC detachment was down right across the street from the 24th Evac Hospital.

ROWELL: Okay. So were a lot of those WACs kind of attached to or worked with various units, but they were just all billeted with the detachment?

MCCLENAHAN: Right. Most worked, again, administrative offices at USARV headquarters or they were in the finance office, which was just up the road, or they were with personnel, which was at different places, different things.

ROWELL: And was that all within the compound? The Long Vinh compound?

MCCLENAHAN: Long Vinh was huge. Long Vinh had like 50,000 people.

ROWELL: How big do you think area-wise? Any sense?

MCCLENAHAN: I have no sense at all. It was huge.

ROWELL: Just enormous.

MCCLENAHAN: It was huge. I mean, it was possible for people to be at one end and never go to the other. There were certain-- and there were all these little 01:59:00annexes, they called them. They were little bars. Little annexes. We were Annex 11, was the closest one to us. But there were all these little annexes all over the place. All these little bars. Our drinks were like, I don't know, a quarter. [laughs] Who knows? And all of them were these little shacks, basically, that had outside-- they had the same thing with the WAC detachment. Again, I've got pictures, but they had these--.

ROWELL: A bar, maybe?

MCCLENAHAN: No, no. Just like from the door there was a cement walkway. And then there was this thing about this wide. [approximating size with her hands] And it was about this tall that was just wooden, that was full of dirt, sand, and sandbags. And basically, when we came under attack, we were supposed to put our 02:00:00heads down below that. So we went to the bunkers, because if any shrapnel came in, it would hit that thing, not us. I forget what they were called. [inaudible] But they were all over the place and all the little annexes had those outside, too. All the way around.

ROWELL: And those were, you described them as kind of bars or clubs, but there were also official clubs there. Is that correct? Any sort of NCO club or anything--

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, I guess there was an officers club somewhere. I don't know if there was any NCO clubs. I think most of the annexes were just the little--

ROWELL: You just created your own?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. We did at the WAC detachment in my last few months there. We actually, with the help of some of the engineers or whatever, we built a club in the back of our WAC detachment.

ROWELL: And that was Annex 11?


ROWELL: Oh, no. Different.


MCCLENAHAN: This was our little club. Just the WAC club where we play poker and drink and talk and play music and various other things. We built that ourselves. And the ceiling of it was Styrofoam packing that was actually-- that held the detonator for 50 ton bombs. [laughs]

ROWELL: Oh, my gosh.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. [laughs]

ROWELL: Who scored that material?

MCCLENAHAN: The engineers.


MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, that was interesting. The walls were all wood and all of us had-- They had blowtorches and we could put our initials in the wall. But anyway.

ROWELL: Did you do that?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I did. And I did pretty well playing poker. I did not drink. I was drinking by then, but I did not drink when I was playing cards. My day OP, if memory serves me correctly, gave us our allowance for the week and then 02:02:00taught us how to play poker. And we learned early on not to bet what you can't afford to lose because he wouldn't give it back. So I was very-- and I also became a very good poker player. [laughs] So I did all right supplementing my income with that. And the other thing is I was drinking by then, but I didn't smoke. So like my friend Linda Brackett, she was a smoker, but not a drinker. So she would get me an extra bottle, I would get cigarettes and we would trade. So that's how we did that. I still wasn't 21. I turned 21 over there. I turned 21 in Vietnam,

ROWELL: Right. What a place, right?

MCCLENAHAN: My dad sent me a birthday card that said congratulations, you're 21. You can now do what you been doing the last three years anyway. You can now legally do what you've been doing in the last couple of years anyway.

ROWELL: So thinking about those first few days that you were there, adjusting, 02:03:00can you kind of tell me anything you recall about that?

MCCLENAHAN: It was hotter than hell and it stunk. Mixture of, of course, the sanitation. There were burn--

ROWELL: Burn pits?

MCCLENAHAN: It burned the shit. And then, of course, the heat. But there was also in the air, there was also the diesel fuel and cordite from--

ROWELL: What is cordite?

MCCLENAHAN: Cordite is like when ammunition has been fired, it has that smell.

ROWELL: Was it a sulfury sort of smell?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, kind of sulfery. Yeah. So, different kinds of smells which I don't recall continuing, but I think we just get used to it. But it was very hot. And when the monsoons hit, it was weird because the rain would come sideways and it would just feel-- I walked from the WAC detachment up to USARV 02:04:00headquarters one time because I missed the bus and the whole front of my fatigues was just drenched. The back was dry. [laughs] So it was weird. Very weird. And Vietnam was the only place I've ever been in my life where my knees sweat. [laughs] I have these rings around my knees. [laughs] So anyway, yeah, it was quite hot.

ROWELL: And you were wearing your fatigues the whole time, is that correct?


ROWELL: Immediately changed into those.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Yeah. And the only time I think if we had some special occasion where somebody was getting a reward or something, they might ask us to change into our-- But then it was not our dark greens, it was the summer greens that we would wear the the pinstripe greens.

ROWELL: Pinstripe? Okay. Were you issued those when you were in Vietnam already or before?

MCCLENAHAN: No, I had them. Yeah. I just took them with me. [looking through photographs]

ROWELL: There's maybe a photo over here. Easy access somewhere.


MCCLENAHAN: I'll find it. [laughs] All those things we got.

ROWELL: Yes. We'll come back.

MCCLENAHAN: And when I got to Vietnam, they had sent me-- [showing certificate] Oh, here's the STRATCOM symbol.

ROWELL: There it is.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Because here is the Certificate of Appreciation from STRATCOM for my work at Fort Ritchie, Maryland.

ROWELL: Oh, excellent.

MCCLENAHAN: Fort Ritchie, Maryland. US Joint Support presented to Sergeant McClenahan. Outstanding service. Cited for outstanding performance of duty while assigned as the Communication Center Specialist, Relay Division, U.S. Army Joint Support Command during the period of 15 February, 1968 to 23 October '69. Sergeant McClenahan constantly displayed a desire to learn and a willingness to work and improve her overall value to the service because of the unique mission assigned to the Relay Division, many of the procedures are of a complex, classified and transitory nature of this presented, no handicapped, as Sergeant 02:06:00McClenahan who readily adapted to them, mastered them, and effectively coped with them. Sergeant McClenahan's initiative, devotion to duty and application of professional skills reflect great credit upon herself, this command and the United States Army.

ROWELL: Excellent.

MCCLENAHAN: Colonel Hall. Yes.

ROWELL: Would you like to show that to the camera one more time again?


ROWELL: And we can even get a little bit closer if you want. If your shoulder permits. All right. Excellent. Thank you so much. I'm glad we pulled that out.

MCCLENAHAN: That's one I got. I also got this.

ROWELL: Let's talk about it.

MCCLENAHAN: This, and I kept [inaudible], I can't believe you're more excited about this than this. [laughs] [reading a certificate] This is the Loyal Order of Moles. Known all men by these presence that one sergeant Linda J. McClenahan has successfully endured all hardships, inconveniences and obstacles, passed all 02:07:00tests mental and physical, including estrangement from loved ones, acute indigestion, mountain climbing and excavation and nightclub suntan, lost weekends and sleepless nights and having been recommended for recognition of these great achievements, loyal service and stubborn perseverance, we the elite Loyal Order of Moles do hereby acknowledge-- it says "him" but that's, you know-- Mole tried and true award the certificate and confer upon him all rights, honors and privileges of the Loyal Order of Moles from this day on. And the grand master mole was Lieutenant Colonel Signal Corps C Henderson. The reason that was so special to me? No woman had ever been a member of the Loyal Order of Moles until me.

ROWELL: Really?

MCCLENAHAN: I was the very first woman to be part of the Loyal Order of Moles. I 02:08:00was so excited. That's why I was excited. [laughs]

ROWELL: I would bet. How did you find that out?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I got this.

ROWELL: Wa it just commonly known that there hadn't been no women in this--

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I was just known that the Moles didn't have women in it. And so these two came at the same time.

ROWELL: In Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, in Vietnam. So the sergeant or captain [inaudible] read this and then she said, "Oh, there was another one there too, but I don't understand it." And I picked it up and I said, "A mole! I'm a mole!" I was so excited. [laughs] She said, "You're more excited about that than this?" I said yeah.

ROWELL: Where did you keep them when you were in Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: I just have a-- yeah, I had a special envelope with things that I kept.

ROWELL: Handled the humidity pretty well.

MCCLENAHAN: You know, I'm wondering if I might have put it in a protective case or even sent them home. I'm not sure.

ROWELL: Did you do a lot of sending back and forth while you were in Vietnam with your family and friends?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, yeah, I probably was sending letters about every three days. 02:09:00And of course, I wasn't receiving letters every three days. I hardly ever received mail. Our family doesn't write. We still don't. Maggie does, but the rest of us don't. But I wrote very faithfully over there until the summer of '70, then there was three months where I didn't write anything. And then I was very different afterwards. So, yeah, and I forgot that was in here so I could show you the STRATCOM badge. [showing certificate]

ROWELL: Yeah, I know. And we'll find the patch as well.


ROWELL: All right. So actually, we're getting about to time, so let's take a break really quickly.


ROWELL: Yeah. So this ends segment three of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 5th, 2022.

[Segment ends] [Segment begins]

ROWELL: Today is December 8th, 2022. This is a continuation of the interview with Linda McClenahan who served with the United States Women's Army Corps from August 1967 to November 1970 and Army Reserve from December 1970 to December 02:10:001976. This interview is being conducted by Kate Rowell in Racine, Wisconsin for the I Am Not Invisible Project and Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. So we left off discussing your first days in Vietnam. What was your rank when the war started?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, when I got to Vietnam?

ROWELL: Mm-hmm.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. It was a Sergeant E5.


MCCLENAHAN: Buck Sergeant. Also known as the-- yeah.

ROWELL: And then you got the nickname Mac the Strac WAC.

MCCLENAHAN: [laughs]

ROWELL: Can you talk about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Sergeant Mac the Strac WAC. Well, it was just kind of a-- anybody with the last name that starts out "MC" were automatically Macs. A lot of people have nicknames. There's all kinds of nicknames. Like anybody with Polish that ended in "SKI" was always Ski. Things like that. And so, Mac, and I was a WAC, you know, Mac the WAC. And somebody said, are you kidding? You're always pressed and shined to the [inaudible]. So you're very stracked. Mac the 02:11:00Strac WAC. [laughs] And then I made up this little thing of "faster than a horny G.I., more powerful than an electric typewriter, able to leap two stairs in a single bound, it's Super WAC!" [laughs] Which is really stupid. But that's all right. Anything to lighten anything, to keep it going.

ROWELL: Can you actually define STRAC for me real quick?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, STRAC just means very put together. Pressed.

ROWELL: Shined.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, the whole thing. Spit shined. When I arrived, I remember Sergeant-- I want to say Hammer? Hammond? Sergeant Hammond. Anyway, she said to me when I arrived, she says, "You're the first person I've ever seen arrive here with your brass shined in your shoes. Not all dusty." And I said, "Well, I cleaned them off on the way in." And she said, "Okay." [inaudible] [laughs] Yes. 02:12:00And I believed him. And yet, I'm going to say this, too, when I was in my dress greens, I had a little tiny Snoopy pin. Snoopy and the Red Baron. I had a little tiny Snoopy pin that I always had pinned to my waistband. So it was my one kind of rebel [laughs] piece.

ROWELL: It seems that Snoopy shows up in a lot of iconography from Vietnam. Can you kind of talk about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Just about everybody that was there, because the fact that it was very different than other wars, everybody was there for 365 days or variations thereof. I think the Marines were 13 months so they could prove that they were better than everybody else. So a lot of short timer calendars had Snoopy on 02:13:00them. Short timer calendars. And it was just a very popular character to use for all kinds of things. And there was lots of useless [inaudible].

ROWELL: And instantly recognizable.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, absolutely. Like World War Two was "Kilroy was here". So we were a lot of Snoopy things. But we also had a lot of other things too. Some that were less family friendly.

ROWELL: Would you actually like to talk about those a bit?

MCCLENAHAN: No. [laughs]

ROWELL: That's all right. So you shared a mess hall with the 24th Evac Hospital, is that correct? Can you tell me a bit about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, the WAC detachment where we were located, if you went out the gate and then crossed the little street there, and then there was a dirt path that went through a very small woods. It was only like about 20 feet. And then we were on the landing field for the helicopters of the 24th Evac Hospital. And 02:14:00then we walked up to the mess hall and the bus that drove around to pick up people, our bus, the sign in the front said "the girls. It was a red sign with white and it just said "the girls" because it would come and pick up the WACs and then take us to our various working points. And that, when it went to the mess hall, would go around and come in and it would pull up the front where the mess hall was and-- oh God, one time Andy and I, that was Adrienne Schamp, who has since passed, but Andy and I were heading over to the mess hall and we were on the bus and it was a new driver. And as we pulled up, some helicopters were landing and he started to go and Andy went running up there and said, "Stop, stop!" And he wouldn't stop and she slammed her foot on top of his-- or not on 02:15:00top of his, onto the brake, and stopped the bus. And she says those helicopters take priority. You stop and wait until they're done. And it was people were pretty badly hurt as they were coming off the helicopter. The 24th, I believe, I'm pretty sure that it handled mostly burn victims and head injuries. So, people coming off were in bad shape and the driver was looking sick. But anyway, finally we went and only Andy and I got off the bus. The other women who were on the bus were all new, the driver was new, and they didn't get off to eat. And they pulled around it. Now this was like, I had been there maybe four or five, six months and I remember as the bus pulled away, Andy looked at me and said, "Have we been here that long?" and I said, "Yeah." And we went in to have a nice lunch. Because it didn't faze us anymore.


ROWELL: You were kind of desensitized to the sight of those injuries?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I remember hearing about the thousand yard stare. And I saw enough guys with that. I think it was there about the same time, maybe four months in, five months in, that I was combing my hair one day and I stopped and I realized that I was looking at that thousand yard stare in the mirror.


MCCLENAHAN: And I thought, meh. [laughs]

ROWELL: Kind of just moved on from it?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. You know, we keep on [inaudible].


MCCLENAHAN: And things hadn't even gone weirdly haywire by that time. It was just the normal crap of war. Do you know what the last-- I think I'm pretty sure, you know what the last line of the Bridge on the River Kwai is?

ROWELL: Actually I was going to ask you about this because there's a bridge near the WAC detachment that says "Bridge over the river. Don't Kwai."


ROWELL: So I was hoping to ask about that.


MCCLENAHAN: Yes, it's over the River Kwai, yes. And ours was the bridge over the River "Don't Kwai". [laughs] But in the last line of the Bridge on the River Kwai, the bridge has been blown up, the train has gone into the water, people are dead all over the place and the doctor is standing up on the hillside. And I believe what he says is, "Insanity. It's all insanity." And it wasn't until I saw it after Vietnam, and I had seen it beforehand, then I realized how significant-- I mean, how right on that was. Yeah, war is insane.

ROWELL: Yeah. Could you actually talk about taking shelter routinely during attacks on Long Binh?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. When we came under attack, the sirens would go off, or sometimes we would just hear the [whistle, explosion sound] come in. And so we went into the bunkers and the bunkers were basically fortified wooden structures 02:18:00that had sandbags all around them. And we went in and they had benches inside and we would just sit and wait until the all clear. My first experience was that when I first got there, we came under attack and went running in and I was sitting next to this woman that I had met, Linda Brackett, who became one of my absolute best friends. She also is no longer with us. So we're sitting there and people were yelling, "Hit the bunkers, hit the bunkers!" And other people who have been there a long time were saying, "Hit the bunkers, grab your cigarettes, hit the bunkers, grab your cigarettes!" Because we never knew how long we were going to be in there. So we're sitting in the bunkers and I'm kind of nervous. And Linda says to me, "What do you got in your canteen?" I said, "Water." And she said, "Well, I got scotch. Let's mix them." [laughs] I was like, what? [laughs] So I found out that people kept different things in their canteens for 02:19:00different reasons. And I didn't smoke but everybody did. She also had a deck of cards so we started playing gin rummy for any point. And there's a long story with that. But when she died, we had reconnected about 15 years after Vietnam, and that was a whole other story, too. So I flew back to Massachusetts and we continued our card game. She had the same deck of cards and the score card and we continued the game and I was down like, 13 bucks by that time, penny a point, and I was down like 13 bucks. Well, when she died, I was down $3.85. So I put in her coffin 385 pennies and the deck of cards and the scorecard, because that was the end of the 35 year gin game. [laughs] You ever try to carry 385 pennies 02:20:00through security? [laughs]

ROWELL: I have not, no.

MCCLENAHAN: It was fine. Yeah. Linda was-- there's more about her later, but she was pretty-- it was interesting. In Vietnam in war time, we talk about the friends that are made in wartime or in the service, but especially wartime, are closer than any other relationships. And I can't really-- why is that? We don't know. Maybe it's the fact that we're life and death and we know it. But that was one of the things. When people meet each other and we get to know each other, we usually throw something out and see how people react and then they throw something out and we see what clicks and what doesn't and we kind of go from there. You know, in war time, there's no time to do that. So you get to the core 02:21:00of a person real fast. So Linda and I realized that we had very little in common and it didn't matter because I would have died for her and she would have died for me and we knew it.

ROWELL: So that actually brings me to a related question. What other close friendships did you develop while you were at Long Binh?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, my gosh. Oh, okay. Adrienne Champ, Barb Bacon, who is also no longer with us, Linda Brackett--

ROWELL: Linda Grasso? [??]

MCCLENAHAN: I'm sorry?

ROWELL: Linda Grasso, you mentioned her--

MCCLENAHAN: Linda Brackett-Grasso. Grasso was her married name. Yeah. Sky. Susan Commins. She was called Sky because she was like, 6' 3", 6' 4". Skinny as a rail. Anyway, Lee Gail Nelson. Oh, my gosh. Just, you know, a lot of people. 02:22:00Nikki, Joyce. Just about everybody that I served with, that was all-- I was talking about not remembering names, but some of those names, I will not-- you know. And of course, as we are meeting again, that helps a lot, too. Barb Bacon was the youngest woman over there. I think she was 19 and Andy was about 19, but she was a couple months older. Barb Bacon was from a little tiny town called Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Often the coldest place in the country. Later she stayed in the service and all that, but she later retired to Colorado. Died of a 02:23:00brain tumor suddenly. Suddenly. We were talking about going to the next reunion and she was gone. I'm sure that was an Agent Orange thing, too. And Andy died from complications of diabetes, heart trouble related. And again, that was also Agent Orange. And actually, that was verified as Agent Orange. And Linda died of urinary sepsis. She didn't need to die. The VA screwed that up. She had called and said there's a problem. They said, well, come in Monday and Tuesday she was gone. She should have gone in immediately. They should have called her in immediately.

ROWELL: So you had mentioned that Linda saved your life in Vietnam.


ROWELL: Do you care to discuss that event?

MCCLENAHAN: Okay, here we go. [laughs] The summer of 1970, four traumatic things 02:24:00happen in a very short period of time. I want to point out at this point that I was writing home probably two or three times a week. Just chit-chatty letters. I didn't ever get serious at all. And I signed all my letters "love and prayers, Linda." Even though everybody there called me Mac or Sarge or whatever. I don't remember the exact order of this until the [inaudible]. But somewhere in late June, July, we had the orphans. A lot of the orphans would come in from other places and we would get donations from churches back home and other things of clothes and that. So we would take these orphans and I was part of the bathtub crew that was washing. We had like five kids in the bathtub at the same time and 02:25:00trying to soap them up. And they're splashing and playing and having a great time. But this one little girl was very sad looking and it looked like she was crying. But I realized she was making very little noise. And finally I picked her up and I realized she had this scar on her neck. And I guess somehow her vocal cords had been injured in that somebody had actually tried to slit this kid's throat. This baby's throat. And I was just-- in a war, it's not just soldiers fighting each other and all these civilians and this little kid with this-- somebody had tried to kill her by cutting her throat. Somehow she had survived. But anyway, that hit me really hard. We continued washing them and 02:26:00getting them out and then people would put clean clothes on them. And then we have people playing with the kids and chase games. And we didn't speak the same language, but it didn't matter when got [monster noises]. Kids will run and we'd giggle and all that. We had a great time. Some of the kids were looking familiar because I realized they were taking off their clothes and jumping back in the bathtub because it was so much fun. The next one was I was used to a lot of injured people coming in on the medevac choppers to the 24th. But this one day I had gone over there and I was writing letters for-- helping some guys write some letters. And as I came out and was walking down one of the inside walkways, out from surgery came this guy who was totally naked and burned. His entire body was 02:27:00all third-degree burns. I mean, he looked-- there was no way he was going to make it. And they had a sheet over-- He was like in a rack, and they had the sheet over the top of the rack, but not over him. And as we passed, one of the nurses realized that I was-- and they covered him up a little bit better. But it wasn't the naked body. It was the burns. I've seen a lot of bad injuries. I'd seen some pretty bad injuries, but that really bothered me. I've always had a fear of fire. I suppose that had something to do with it. So that was another real bad thing. I'll skip the third one because it wasn't as bad as the others, 02:28:00and then--

ROWELL: We could come back to it as well.

MCCLENAHAN: In August of 1970, I mentioned the annex, or maybe I didn't.

ROWELL: You [inaudible]. The Annex 11?

MCCLENAHAN: The annex was all the clubs. Wooden floors. And sometimes we were lucky enough to have bands that came from like the Philippines or China or Taiwan who would-- a lot of them couldn't even speak English, but they would sing English songs. So they would just mimic the songs that they sang. So they would do rock 'n roll songs. Sometimes their translation was pretty funny, but it didn't matter, you know? You haven't really danced until you've danced in combat boots and fatigues and combat boots with eight guys at once. There just weren't that many women. There were like 50,000 people on Long Binh and the 02:29:00nurses of the different evac hospitals and we were like 125 women in the midst of all these things. Most of the guys were great. But I had this one guy came over to ask me to dance, and another guy was sitting there and I saw him just kind of pull his ring off, which was ridiculous because the tan, you could see the-- [laughs].

ROWELL: Just as distinct as the ring.

MCCLENAHAN: I said, "We're just going to dance. You can put your ring back on." [laughs] And he did. He kind of got embarrassed. He was gun shy. And I said, "Really, it's fine. We're just going to dance." At the Annex 11, there were some of the guys from I believe the 212th dog handling group of the MPs down that were at Long Binh. Some of this, especially with what happened with the Pueblo, 02:30:00I'm questioning myself here, but if I'm remembering correctly, the 212th had just been-- was being disbanded and they were reassigning the MPs to other places in the 18th MP group. And one of these guys was Tony that I knew, I'd see him around and that, we were dancing back forth. And again, it was interesting. I don't know if his first name was Tony or if his last name was like Tonnelli and they called him Tony. I really would like to remember. Well, there was a time when I wanted to know his real name. So Tony was there and one time he said to me, "Hey, listen, a bunch of us are having a party down at the hooch. You want to come on down and join us?" And I said, "Sure." So we get in the Jeep and he hands me a bottle and I drank the bottle. Hand it back. We get down to that 02:31:00area and it's pretty much empty. There's a few lights on here and there, but we went into this one area and I didn't hear any noise. If this is a party, you know, it was awfully quiet. I said, "Why is it so quiet?" He says, "Oh, they're probably in between sets." So we walk in and then he says, "Well, come over here." And we went into this door of this little room and it had a cot, a bunch of beer cans all over the place and two other guys were there, and there was a reel to reel tape playing Elvis' greatest hits. And I knew right away this was a problem. And I tried to turn around to leave and Tony grabbed me from behind and I started to yell and he put his hand over my mouth and said to me, "Nobody's here and nobody's going to hear you anyway." And that night, this little 02:32:00Catholic girl who always did the right things and followed all the rules, I was gang raped. Everything I believed in and everything that I honored and valued was gone. They sold my high school ring. Probably sold it on the black market. They had cut my underwear off. I still have a scar from where they cut my underwear off. And they kept my underwear. They ke[t my bra, my underpants, and I struggled to get dressed again afterwards. And then Tony was driving me back to the WAC detachment and we've just passed USARV headquarters. And he stopped and he says, "I'm going to be late for curfew. Get out." So I got out of the 02:33:00Jeep and he flipped a U-turn and went back. And I felt like garbage that had been dumped by the side of the road. It was awfully quiet. There was a few perimeter flares popping up and down and all that. And if I had had a weapon at that point, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But I got back to the WAC detachment, I was late for curfew, and immediately the NCO knew something was wrong. I asked to see the captain. The captain wanted me to go to the hospital. I wouldn't. Too embarrassed and upset. And then the next thing is, I went back to my hooch and took a shower for as long as we had not exactly hot water, but it was warm until it ran out. I couldn't get clean. And I went to my room, my hooch, and Linda Brackett was there and Julie was there. I forgot Julie. Julie 02:34:00was a great friend. Anyway, we were there, and I asked what they were doing there, and they said the captain said that I needed people around. She didn't tell them what had happened, which was good. They had no idea. I wasn't going to say anything to them. They were just going to stay. We just played cards all night, the rest of the night, and the next day I actually went to work. And I was sitting at the service desk at the comm center and one of the guys came up to me as they did like a million times. He put his arm around my shoulder and he put some papers in front of me and I whacked his arm off and I said, "Get the fuck away from me." Now, I had not even said "damn" or "hell" up to this point. [laughs] And he jerked back and looked at me and everybody in the place got 02:35:00quiet and looked at me because this was just definitely out of character. And I yelled, "What the fuck are you all looking at? What are you all looknig at? Leave me alone!" And I looked to the trick chief and I said, "I'm leaving." And I left. I walked out of the comm center on my shift. I just walked out and I walked over to the 16th med detachment, which was not too far from us and had been rebuilt after it got blown up back in March. Went in there and met with a doctor who put me on [inaudible] and wanted me to come back in a couple of days. Then I went back toward the WAC detachment but I decided to stop off at the chapel because I knew the priest. He was a good guy. Well, I got there and he had [inaudible] out, he was gone and there was a new guy. And I figured, well, 02:36:00what the hell. So I started telling him what was going on and the next thing I know he's hugging me as I'm crying. And then he started kissing the top of my head [laughs] and I pushed him away and I asked him what the fuck he was doing. And he said, "I'm comforting you like Jesus comforted Mary Magdalene." At which point I yelled, "The prostitute?" But we have since discovered that Mary Magdalene was no such a thing, but at the time, that was still the belief. So I walked out of there and that was the last time I ever went to church. I mean, from at that point. So I went back to the WAC detachment and the next day, Captain Oda sent me and Linda down to Saigon to a special envoy to deliver some things to MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] headquarters. And while we were there, after we delivered the stuff, we also went to the Saigon Zoo and 02:37:00wandered around like that. And I was really pretty much in a daze and Linda was with me and keeping [inaudible] and all of a sudden these little kids came running up and they had a basket full of peanuts and they shoved it under Linda's neck and while one of them was doing that, the other two started going through her pockets. And I went running over. I yelled at the kids and I pulled them away and pulled away and jerked them and pushed them and stopped and realized I was pissed. I was highly angry and I had energy. All of a sudden I had a feeling because I'd been numb for a while and I was just-- it was interesting. And I don't remember exactly what caused it, but I just suddenly felt like I was going to be okay. But I had to be angry. [laughs] And thus began 02:38:00a whole new person. But Linda, spending that time with me that night and being with me all that day, because I was out of it completely. And she was very helpful and supportive, even though she didn't know what was going on. Although she said years later she had a pretty good idea. So then we went to another place and I bought a jacket and actually I have it in the back room and I don't want to get up in the middle of this.

ROWELL: Okay, we can bring it back later.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, but you got to see it because if you notice the names engraved on the jacket are Lin, L-I-N, and Mac, M-A-C. And the Lin, L-I-N. I mean, that was the first time I used that instead of Linda and I didn't want anything to do 02:39:00with that naive, stupid kid. I was now Lin or Mac, the hard drinking, angry, swearing sergeant that didn't take crap off nobody. Everything changed. Everything changed. When I got into work again-- well, when I went back to the doctor, he said to me, "How are you doing?" And I said, "I think I'm going crazy." And he said, "Actually, I'm glad to hear you say that, because that means you weren't." So we talked a little bit and I left. I was doing better because I had discovered this new side of me that was going to make it.

ROWELL: Mm-hmm. Did he continue to prescribe you Librium?

MCCLENAHAN: I think I was on it for another couple of weeks, but I think it was it.

ROWELL: Yeah. How was that for you?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't know. I have no idea. Yeah. People were very aware of the 02:40:00fact that I was different. And I mentioned the letters. I had stopped writing home even though I'd been writing them. And then I started writing again at the end of August. And my mom saved all my letters, which actually helps with my post-traumatic stress case. And the letters then were all signed, "Take care, see you soon, Lin." And it was clear that something had happened and the letters were very different. The whole tone of the letters was different. Everything was different.

ROWELL: Did anyone else reach out to you, apart from from Linda, noticing this change in you?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, a few people did, but I want to go back up a little bit. I knew Tony and I knew his unit and I didn't know the two guys. So I told the 02:41:00captain this. The next day she had called the CO of their unit, and he later called her back and said that his guys said that it was that getting together was my idea and they paid me. And then he said to Captain Oda, "What did you women expect trying to push your way into a man's war? If you want to pursue this, we will ruin her". So the captain said, she says, "I hate to say this, but the best thing you can do," she says, "You've got a perfect military record. The best thing you can do is forget it." And I actually did for 14 years. I had no recollection. I just knew that from August 16th, I think, August 16th to the 28th, I got mad every year and got upset every year and I never knew why. 02:42:00There's one other traumatic event that happened right after this.

ROWELL: Right after. Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Right after.


MCCLENAHAN: One of the things that Julie had said to me was, "Come on, there's a guy coming in and we're going to go to a stand down." Now, stand downs were where the guys would come in from the field and they would be home for a few days, three or four days, and then they would go back out in the field and they would have like a get together or party or whatever. And they always invite the women, but we couldn't always get away or whatever. Well, Julie and I, we snuck off Long Binh that night. We got off. [pause] You know, I don't think I really want to--

ROWELL: That's okay.

MCCLENAHAN: A guy got off the truck to take a leak and stepped on a landline. 02:43:00Some sort of device. And I felt guilty about that because he wouldn't have gotten off the truck if we hadn't been there. Julie and I. And then, I don't know, I think I'm getting a lot of things confused right now.

ROWELL: That's okay. We can also pause if you would like to.

MCCLENAHAN: No. Also, you know, that was a different time. That was a different-- that happened, that third thing in July.

ROWELL: Mm-hmm.

MCCLENAHAN: Because that was Ski. Sergeant Ski. That happened earlier. That was a big one. And then the rape and then the next thing that happened was, okay, so I was alone with them on that truck. Julie and I were in a different truck. And 02:44:00as we were driving out, one of the guys got hit by a sniper in the neck and dropped his M-16. I had seen the flash. I pick it up and I'm firing out there. The guys in the Jeep behind us were firing out there. Our truck went immediately to the hospital. He survived. And I remember thinking afterwards-- see, killing somebody-- one of us killed a guy. They went back and found the sniper. He was dead. We don't know who. Was it me? Maybe. Maybe not. But the truth was, I was so angry at that point, and so I didn't give a damn at that point. If he had been sitting right there [points off camera], I would have had no problem. Just 02:45:00blown him away. And again, here is this good little Catholic girl who is going to be a Sister who had no problem with the idea of killing somebody at that point. Things were so crazy from June, July and August that, like I said, I'm a little bit fuzzy on things. I know what happened. I just am not sure of dates.

ROWELL: Yeah, that's okay.

MCCLENAHAN: All those things happened. But I'm not sure when. And that's awful. Maybe we better just take a few minutes.

ROWELL: No problem. So this concludes segment four of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 8th, 2022. Thank you, Linda. This begins segment five of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 8th, 2022. So we were going to look at the jacket--



ROWELL: --that you described.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. [holding up the back of a jacket] Here's the-- I don't know, I can't see what you can see.

ROWELL: Oh, that is perfect, actually. Absolutely perfect.

MCCLENAHAN: Long Binh, which is where I was in Vietnam.

ROWELL: '69 to '70.

MCCLENAHAN: Right. [Showing front of the jacket] And then the front I added these two things later. But if you can see the Lin and Mac, I think.

ROWELL: Yes, absolutely.

MCCLENAHAN: And that was all I had that done. So that along with my boonie hat.

ROWELL: Yes. This is your second boonie hat, is that, correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Right, right. The first one was kind of falling apart. So I got another one when I was still in Vietnam and then I brought this one home. I would wear that periodically at different times.

ROWELL: What's the patch towards you say?


ROWELL: What does the patch that's towards you right now say?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, it just says Vietnam 1970. I put that on later, obviously.


ROWELL: Thank you. All right, so let's talk a bit about the comm center. Right? So can you describe for me specifically your role at the comm center?

MCCLENAHAN: Okay. The comm center had lots of different areas. When you first came in the door, the administrative office was on the left, all the teletype machines where people would type up the messages. And what we handled were troop movements, surveillance reports, just routine messages back and forth, and all the casualty reports went out through our office. So that was all typed up there and checked out there. And then when they would type them up, they would type up, again, with the tape. And so you come out from that room and then to the 02:48:00right of there was the maintenance office because the machines would break down all the time and those guys know how to fix them. Most of us did anyway. And then outside that office was a desk. And behind it was two teletype machines. And that was the service desk. That was my primary thing, but not exclusive. And then I had was the trick chief's podium and space and then the 1004 computer. And the computer was where they would send all the messages and that's when they would take the tape. And it was a little bit different because it would pull it a lot faster than the old machines would. So we could send a lot of messages very, very quickly. To the back were a lot of M-16s that were lined up in case of emergency. And then to the left again were the tech control machines and then 02:49:00to behind the service desk on the one side was the-- that's where the classified stuff was. The KY-26s and the the KW-7s and five [inaudible] code groups and all that stuff. So when certain things came in, I would go back there and do whatever I had to do. And there were a couple of guys that worked in there all the time who also had high clearances. Not quite as high as mine, because they couldn't handle those things. They would call me for that. So I would do that. The tech control space, the guys, we had these cords, I used to have one and I got rid of it. I really wish I hadn't. But they're just basically the old-- they would look familiar to anybody who remembers seeing pictures of those old operators when they would plug in [inaudible]. And I could actually take one of 02:50:00those and flip around and tie a knot in the thing without tying a knot. I mean, I could just flip it up and catch it and tie a knot in it. You know, you use those things enough. And that was interesting to do that. Periodically I'd come over with them and they would just-- the tech control, they would listen to signals to make sure that all the different-- a lot of the communications guys who worked out in the field in the vans or who were putting up things, the tech control area was able to somehow listen to make sure that the signal was still clear or if it was breaking up, they could send somebody out to do something with it. But anyway, so that was basically what it is.

ROWELL: And can you kind of talk me through any other kind of daily responsibilities that you had at the comm center specifically?

MCCLENAHAN: Not really. I mean, I would trade off with-- in the room where they would type, we would get messages through a window from intelligence or other 02:51:00places, and an NCO would take those messages at the desk and give them to people to type up. So sometimes I worked at that desk. Sometimes I would work the 1004 computer, sometimes I'd be over tech control, just trying different things. One time, we would send a lot of things down to what they called the Russell Relay Center. And one time we had a problem where-- I don't remember if it was our-- probably our machine that broke down. So we rolled all the tapes up and had them in this big, huge bag and we had to get in the truck and take them, or a Jeep and take them down to the Russell Relay. And we needed a NCO and I was the only one available that day. So I had the M-16 [laughs] and of course, the only time 02:52:00that women were not trained in the use of weapons was during the Vietnam War. You can put that up to the, what do they call that, oxymoron? Military intelligence. It was like, jeez. Really stupid. But anyway, so I had the M-16. My training on the M-16 at that point was if anything goes wrong, the cartridge was just in the thing. They said if anything goes wrong, you flip this switch and pull the trigger and make sure you're behind it. [laughs] And that was my training on the M-16. So I had the thing pointed down, I knew that much. And we had to securely get these messages down to Russell Relay. And as we were loading things up, this officer came by and of course I saluted and we were-- [laughs] 02:53:00Can do, sir, because that was our motto. He said to me, he says, "Sergeant, you're holding an M-16." I said, "Yes, sir. We're protecting the classified messages." He said, "Do you know how to use that?" And I said, "Sure. Would you like a demonstration?" And he smiled and said, "No, that's quite all right, Sergeant." [laughs] And went on his way. Now I have no idea what a demonstration would have looked like, but I never had to use it at that point. Years later, when I was in the Reserves, I trained on-- I was an expert with a .45 and a marksman. There's sharpshooters with an M-16. So, it was one of the responsibilities. I think, I don't know, basically was that sometimes we'd answer the phones, work in the administrative offices. I was one of the few people that had the combination to the safe that was in the admin office. And 02:54:00one of the things they had in there were these grenades and they weren't like [explosion sound] grenades. I forgot what they were called, but they were a kind of grenade that if we became overrun, the highly classified messages would all be put in there with one of these grenades. And it was like it would disintegrate or smoke or dissolve. I don't know. But anyway, we had instructions about doing that. I really don't remember too much about that because we never had to use it. When we would come under attack, the comm center had no windows, so we were very secure in our area. We were double secure because outside of the walls of the comm center, there was a big, huge concrete wall that had Medal of Honor recipients on it. It was like a double protection for the comm center. 02:55:00There was, I think, ASA or one of those other classified areas. There was an underground communications center as well. I was there a couple of times, but don't remember much about that other than the fact that it was right there. And they did a lot of different kinds of things. A lot of classified stuff going on.

ROWELL: Right. So what was your clearance level, if you could recall at the time?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, top secret I'm pretty sure was like a level five. And I had a level seven and a level eight was known as the presidential clearance, which was everything. So I had pretty high clearance. You had to have a secret clearance to know the names of those two clearances. [laughs]

ROWELL: So those in the underground bunker, they were--


MCCLENAHAN: They were up there.

ROWELL: Even higher.

MCCLENAHAN: They probably had six, sevens, and eights.

ROWELL: And almost all the communications is, is this correct, came through that comm center?


ROWELL: In Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Like I said, all the casualty reports went through there. So we would send those out to the Department of Defense and then either to the Department of the Navy or Department of the Army because the Marines were in with the Navy to notify people if they needed to be notified if it was KIA or WYA or MIA. And so we had all of those. I think one of the things that I became aware of, and this was a real problem for me, is the Stars and Stripes, which was the military or government newspaper, would report casualties, numbers and 02:57:00things like that. And I became aware of the fact that it didn't seem to match all the time. And I was kind of confused by that. And then I realized, I actually did some checking and followed up some things. We one time had a [inaudible truck, big truck, that was loaded with GIs, that the driver was shot by snipers and killed and as a result, drove the truck off a cliff. So everybody was killed. It was reported as one casualty due to war. And I think it was like 22 lives due to vehicle accident. And I got pissed. [laughs] I was like, no, they were casualties of war, you dipshit. [laughs] Anyway, so things like that. 02:58:00I know all of those people are on the wall, which is a good thing, but it pissed me off about the way it was being reported.

ROWELL: So a lot of people sometimes don't necessarily know the big picture of what is happening. Right? But you had a sense for that. How does that impact you, do you think?

MCCLENAHAN: I went over thinking we needed to be there and it was the right thing to do. I came home not with that viewpoint. We shouldn't be there. Helping is one thing, but what was happening was something else. Some of the guys, some of the casualties, they'd be on like, killed 43. I don't even know if there was a [inaudible]. They would be up on Hill 43 and they took it. And instead of, you 02:59:00know, they'd be up there for maybe a week and then they would go to some other hill. Well, then the Vietnamese or the Viet Cong would take that-- not Cong, but the Vietnamese, North Vietnamese regulars, would take that hill again. And the next thing I know, six months later, we got more guys dying on the same hill. You know? It wasn't making sense. A lot of things were not making sense to me. And I was already, at this point, after the traumas and that, I was getting pretty much angry at everything. I came home a bit of an isolationist. We should just take care of our own country and screw everybody else. [laughs] You know, basically. I don't have that view anymore, but I did for a long time. Things just weren't okay. And a lot of the Air Force guys, the ones that were bombers 03:00:00or whatever, they were told there were certain areas they weren't allowed to bomb. I mean, were we at war or not? This was one of the things that happened. As far as I'm concerned, all war is immoral. All war is immoral. Since the bottom line is to kill and destroy each other until one side or the other says, okay, that's enough. We quit. And so that makes it immoral. Now, it can be justified. It can be justified. Certainly the evil of Hitler was worse than the evil of war. So that made sense. But I'm not really sure that Vietnam falls into that category. So I was kind of in that mode. I was going to say something else and now I've lost that thought. Anyway, that's a political comment. Justified is 03:01:00a thing. And the other thing is war should be a last resort. War should be a last resort. It should be the very last, you know, we can't do anything else. We have to do it. But then if you're going to go to war, go to war. This idea of you can't bomb this, you can't bomb this, you can't-- you know, they couldn't bomb Highway One, for Pete's sake, and that was the major thoroughfare for the North Vietnamese regulars. If you're going to do it, do it. Don't try to keep it in this nice little neat box that will keep people from asking questions or something. I don't know. I do feel strongly about some of that stuff. I still do. If we're going to put our people in danger, our soldiers and our military 03:02:00people in danger, give them what they need to do the mission. To do the job. Don't play politics with it. It shouldn't be a political thing. And that's one of the things, of course, we Vietnam vets were caught up in this political mess. And that's why we came home to the mess we came home to.

ROWELL: While you were working, did you ever discuss this with any of the guys you worked with at the comm center?

MCCLENAHAN: A little bit.

ROWELL: Mm-hmm. What was their take on it?

MCCLENAHAN: Was kind of the same. Like, what are we doing here? One of the guys that was working on the comm center, one of the messages that he got, as it turns out, one of the casualties was his brother. So we had a real mess with that. And he eventually transferred out and became a infantry radioman. He 03:03:00wanted to make up for his brother's time and we couldn't talk him out of it. I don't know if he made it home or not. Some guys transferred to other places, some didn't. People that stayed in DEROSed out to-- DEROS, Date of rotation out of service. Date of expiration? I don't know what the DEROS stood for but it was something about that was when you went home. And when they would DEROS out, they would go to other military bases or we would get out of the service completely. It depended. Everybody just wanted to go home. [laughs]

ROWELL: Yeah. Did you ever consider transferring out of the comm center?




MCCLENAHAN: I really liked working in communications. I really like being part of the Signal Corps. I wouldn't mind being in the group that was underground, but [laughs] I was fine up where I was. Yeah.

ROWELL: And you also handled things like itineraries, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. Like, for instance, the two, as I mentioned before, the two highly classified things that I worked on, one was when General Abrams took over for Westmoreland, I had his orders of what he was supposed to do. That was highly classified. And the other highly classified thing was Bob Hope's itinerary, which was, you know, and that made sense because you're talking about thousands of people in this arena. It would have been an easy target if they knew where he was going to be and when. There are people who will never 03:05:00understand how significant and important Bob Hope was. He really loved the soldiers. By soldiers I mean airmen and Marines in there. But he really loved military people and he did the best he could to make sure we were taken care of. So did Martha Raye. I don't know if you know about Martha Raye. She actually had a lot of flack from a lot of people in Hollywood because of her work in Vietnam, all that. That's all she became known as Colonel Martha Raye. The Green Berets adopted her. Colonel Maggie. She would do shows, she would fly in to places that people weren't supposed to go at all. And she would do shows from the door of the helicopter. And she was wounded, I think, once or twice. But she was amazing. A lot of people don't know about that either. But those things matter.


ROWELL: Did you ever see any USO shows?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, well, of course, I saw the Bob Hope show, which was great. This was interesting. I know what they were showing on TV back home, but things got a little rowdier than sometimes it showed. But one time at Long Binh, we were waiting and guys were climbing up the post to get a better view and all that stuff and Bob Hope's bus arrived and all the people got out and busses got out with all the equipment and the [inaudible] and they were in the back getting ready for the show. And this officer came out and he stood on the thing and said, "You guys that are up on theose posts, you're going to have to get down because you're interfering with the signals to the--" or whatever. And Bob Hope came charging out from the side. He had a towel around his neck and it was like he was in the middle of makeup. And he grabbed the mic from the officer and he 03:07:00said, and and he pushed him away and he says, "You guys stay right where you are. You're not hurting a fucking thing." The crowd went nuts. I mean, we went nuts. And then he put the mic back and he grabbed the officer and he was upset. Somebody said it was probably a set up, but I don't think so. There was entirely too much-- and the colonel looked really embarrassed, or the officer, I don't know if he was a colonel. He was probably a [inaudible] [laughs] is what he probably was. They're all idiots. Well, I shouldn't say that. And the show was really funny and it's just good people. I also saw the Christian Minstrels. New Christian Minstrels. I'm trying to think. You know, other shows. Those are all I kind of remember.

ROWELL: Were they at Long Binh?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. There was a kind of an amphitheater sort of thing there.


ROWELL: Was there a separation in the crowd between the WACs and the nurses?


ROWELL: No? It was all together?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I went up and sat up in the area where the 1st Cav was. I saw later that the WACs and the nurses and the wounded were down below us. So I could have had a better seat, but I was fine where I was. I liked it. And of course, the guys were harassing each other. The 199th was over there and they were yelling things like-- because the 1st Cav patches, yellow with the--, "What's the yellow in your patch mean, guys? Ha ha!" [laughs] So there was that kind of stuff back and forth, but it was all good natured.

ROWELL: Was that part of the rowdiness that you mentioned?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, but that was before the show even started. That was just getting ready for the show and as they were bringing people in. There were a whole lot of people, of course, that never got a chance to see any of those 03:09:00shows. But these guys were infantry. So it was good.

ROWELL: Yeah. What were some of those ways that people were letting off steam at events, things like that?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't know. Drinking. [laughs] Probably drugging. There was more drinking and marijuana, I think, than anything in my time, although I do know that in the '70s, the beginning of the early '70s, that we were beginning to see heroin and other stuff come through. I had a guy in our group, Bill Veal [??], who had been hooked on heroin, and I helped him get off it beforehand. I actually helped him find a place that he could hide when he get into the office, sit with him when he would go through the withdrawal and all that. So he went 03:10:00home clean. There was a lot of different guys with lots of different things. But mostly, at least anywhere I was, it was mostly drinking and marijuana. Now, I again, was very self-righteous. I was a drinker and. I'm not one of those druggies. [laughs] Totally oblivious to the fact that I was [laughs] slowly on my way or already on my way to being a full-fledged alcoholic.

ROWELL: Yeah. So what else did you personally do to kind of cope with any number of these experiences you had? I know you had a guitar.

MCCLENAHAN: I had a guitar and when we had events at the WAC detachment, I would play the guitar, certain songs that I would play. I did at Fort Ritchie, too. 03:11:00Just being with people. There was a Chinese restaurant down the street called Loon-Foon, so we'd get down there. Eventually, I learned how to eat with chopsticks. I got forced into it. The people I went down with said, "You've got to learn to eat with chopsticks. You're from San Francisco, for Pete's sake." [laughs] Because I would always ask for a fork because-- anyway, I did learn to eat with chopsticks. And now anytime I have Chinese food, I always eat with chopsticks. But there just wasn't that much to do. I had pretty much stuffed everything down as most of us did.


MCCLENAHAN: I go out to these stand downs with people, when we were allowed to go out, or when the women would legitimately accept a [inaudible] and go out places and we'd see, get to know some of the guys. And the next time we'd go 03:12:00out, we wouldn't see them and we'd hope that they'd gone home. But we didn't know that for sure. War is really a fucking mess.

ROWELL: Do you happen to remember any of the songs that you played while you were over there?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I made up a few.


MCCLENAHAN: Like Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues was very popular, so I changed it around to Long Binh Blues. "I hear the planes a-flying somewhere overhead, and I've been here so long I swear I must be dead, I'm stuck on Long Binh Post and now I can't get free, and the freedom birds keep flying high over USARV." I started that in the wrong key. "When I was just a baby my mama said to me, always be a good girl or behind some bars you'll be, well by name this ain't 03:13:00no prison, but still I can't get free, and the freedom birds keep flying high over USARV. When they free me from this prison, when my DEROS time has come, I'm heading straight for home, I'm gonna have myself some fun, far from Long Binh Post, that's where I want to be and on that freedom bird high over USARV." So that kind of thing.

ROWELL: That's great.

MCCLENAHAN: We were writing songs. We rewrote Christmas songs, too. You ready?

ROWELL: Please do.

MCCLENAHAN: Okay. "Bouncing o'er the roads in a Jeep that should be junk, laughing all the way, most of us are drunk. They bomb holes on the road, they make our asses sore, god, I'd sooner go to hell than finish out this war. Oh jingle bells, Santa smells, girlies in the grass. Take your merry Christmas wish and shove it up your-- Christmas time is here, the folks back home are gay, 03:14:00we're stuck over here--" I can't remember the rest of it but you get the idea.

ROWELL: Absolutely. Thank you.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. That was kind of a fun thing to do.

ROWELL: Yeah. Creative pursuits.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughs] Creative outlets.

ROWELL: Some people paint signs, you wrote songs?


ROWELL: And did your guitar, did you bring one over?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. Well, when I landed at Long Binh, when we came into Bien Hoa to the 90th replacement, our gear was in the back and I had my duffel bag and my guitar and we came under attack. I mentioned that earlier, back and all that stuff. And when we got our gear back, my guitar was destroyed. It had been destroyed. So I bought a Vietnamese guitar and I know there's pictures of it. 03:15:00Vietnamese guitar, which worked, but I didn't bring it home with me. I left it here and that was one of the first purchases I made when I got back home. I went and got myself a really nice Yamaha, which I still have.

ROWELL: Oh, okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I still have it.


MCCLENAHAN: I don't play too much anymore because the little finger doesn't work right anymore. So I can't. There's some notes or some chords I can't yet.

ROWELL: Can't reach?


ROWELL: I see.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I missed playing it, actually.

ROWELL: I bet, yeah. What was the difference between, you said, a Vietnamese guitar? What was the difference between that and the one that you had from home?

MCCLENAHAN: It was kind of twangy and it just was cheap. [laughs] I suppose they had some nice ones somewhere, but that was it.

ROWELL: That was what you could find.

MCCLENAHAN: It worked.


MCCLENAHAN: I just had to constantly tune it. [laughs]

ROWELL: Ah, I see, I see.

MCCLENAHAN: Because it would go out of tune all the time.

ROWELL: Right. Well, if you were out of tune, nobody would notice, right? [laughs] All right. So, talking back about the comm center. So you mentioned the 03:16:00maintenance guys-- off camera we discussed a workplace kind of tiff over something they had posted on the wall.

MCCLENAHAN: There were two women in the comm center, me and Gail. Gail was on days all the time. I was on shift.

ROWELL: Trick shift.

MCCLENAHAN: No, not trick shift. Shift. The supervisor of the whole [inaudible] was called the trick chief. He was the head of the shift, and I was an assistant trick chief. But it was a shift. So Gail was days all the time. I was six at night to six in the morning for 30 days and then six in the morning to six at night for 30 days. So I was back and forth, rotating back and forth. So it was just the two of us, the two women. And the maintenance guys, on their walls, 03:17:00they had all these calendars because they were maintenance and tools and everything else. They are all these calendars of pinups of girls and some of them were pretty lewd. I had complained about it at one point and didn't get very far. Well, thank goodness, Cosmopolitan magazine at that time came out with their first issue and in it was a full page centerfold of Burt Reynolds lying there, all together, and smoking a cigar. And I cut that out and hung out that by the service desk. And the guys, you know, "Hey! Take that down!" I said, "Nope. You take yours down, I'll take mine down." [laughs] "That's different!" "No, it's not different." It was a big thing back and forth. They did take them down eventually. Yeah. [laughs] Well, another funny story of the comm center. Toward the end, this was in probably September-- no, it would have been October. 03:18:00My sister-in-law, Jane, was pregnant with her second child, and, I know that the Red Cross would send out notifications to people. So I asked my brother if he would just contact the Red Cross and let them know that the baby was born. And I came in the next day and there was this huge sign over the computer and it said, "Linda is expecting". Little tiny letters. "A message from the Red Cross about the birth of her [inaudible]." [laughs] Hey, guys, come on. [laughs] Anyway, she's my godchild, too. Larinda. The "Inda" part is for me.

ROWELL: Oh, I see.

MCCLENAHAN: Larinda Jane. LJ, just like me. LJ. But that was kind of a funny thing.

ROWELL: Absolutely.


MCCLENAHAN: The other thing is people had figured out how to type like X's and O's. So for Christmas time, we would have these pictures that would come all from things-- I wish I had saved some of them because some of them were really wonderful. You know, Christmas trees or Santa Claus or a manger scene or whatever, all done by just people typing characters and setting them up. So around Christmas time there would be a lot of those. And we always had orders not to forward them on or send them on, but we always did. Everybody did. We got those at Fort Ritchie, too. All the comm centers had them. And of course, now with computers, I'm sure they don't have any of those, although they're different kinds of things. But those took a lot of talent to put together and 03:20:00they were really amazing.

ROWELL: I bet. Did you know anyone who put them together?



MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I tried once and it was like, no, this is not going to work. [laughs] I got too frustrated. Because it had to be just-- anyway.

ROWELL: Was there anything ever super unexpected that came through that you can remember?

MCCLENAHAN: Unexpected?

ROWELL: Yeah. You know, anything that-- or anything that stands out in retrospect, other than what we've discussed already?

MCCLENAHAN: No, I think we've pretty well covered most of that. If there was anything else, I probably don't recall off the top of my head. We're talking about a year, 12 hours a day, with incredible information. And like I said, I knew more about some of the battles that the guys in the infantry were in than they did because we were getting the information from all the sources. All the sources.


ROWELL: Do you actually recall any of those operation names by chance? [McClenahan shakes head] Okay. That's fine. So you were the only woman on your shift. What was that like in terms of working dynamics and how did you--

MCCLENAHAN: Well, see, my guys were great. They were all like, brothers, I guess. Matter of fact, I realized later that when I was having time after I'd gotten raped, if I had told the guys that, oh, they would have done something. They would have done something. But at the time, I didn't, you know, again, feeling embarrassed and all that, and I didn't need to be. I had been attacked and it was-- But no, those guys would have been-- they were great. They were wonderful. They really were. I never had an ounce of trouble with any of them. We were all there to do a job and we did it. And we did it well. In an 03:22:00impossible situation. The guys in the comm center, Dick Black, Rich Cummings, Bill Veal, Charlie Rose, Frank Shack.

ROWELL: So can you tell me about your promotion because you had your pinning ceremony at the comm center, is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, yeah, I was put in for E-6, Sergeant, you know, but I didn't have enough time of service, so that didn't go. But then I was also put in for an Army-- or no, actually they put me in for a non- combat Bronze Star because we had a couple of times where we were like 48 hours on duty, a shift, and just incredible, doing pushes and pre-Tet. Now, Tet was the year before, but they were worried that there was going to be another one. So, there was a lot going 03:23:00on. So I was there for that. But apparently I was told that the commander of whatever the chain of command was at that time, said that he wasn't going to give a Bronze Star to any fucking woman on his command. So it was downgraded to an Army Commendation medal, which is fine, that is still valuable.

ROWELL: You have it here, is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I have it here. But it's interesting because-- I don't know. [Showing medal certificate] Here it is right here. I want to read the citation.

ROWELL: Mm-hmm. And that's the original one.

MCCLENAHAN: The original one. "Citation by the direction of the secretary of the Army. The Army Commendation Medal is presented to Sergeant Linda J. McClenahan," it has my service member and all that stuff, "who distinguished himself," himself, "by exceptional meritorious service and support of military operations 03:24:00against communist aggression in the Republic of Vietnam. He astutely surmounted extreme adverse conditions through diligence and determination. He invariably--" you know, so it's all "he" and "his". All the way down. And that's kind of the way it was. I don't know how many guys are named Linda. Sergeant Linda. But anyway, that's what happened. Years later, a woman who worked in the field, I mean, in Washington, D.C., heard about this, and she sent me a new one.

ROWELL: Oh, okay.

MCCLENAHAN: So the new one says, "For distinguishing herself by exceptional--" so it's all "her unrelenting loyalty," yeah. Long working hours, Sergeant McClenahan, she contributed-- so that's very nice to have.

ROWELL: Would you like to show that to the camera, actually?

MCCLENAHAN: Which one?

ROWELL: The new one. But actually both would be great.


MCCLENAHAN: That's all right. [showing medal certificates] But that's that's that one. Yeah. And there's my honorable discharge. One of them. I have several because I was in and out, in and out.

ROWELL: Right. Yes.

MCCLENAHAN: [laughs] And then the citation, I think I showed that, didn' I? [shows citation paper] I don't know if you can see that.

ROWELL: Down a little bit. Perfect. Thank you.

MCCLENAHAN: Okay. Yeah. Oh, it's also when I found out that we had a Meritorious Unit Commendation. So I had an extra unit ribbon when-- Unit ribbon's the one on that side. [points to right shoulder] [laughs] I keep the other one because it's important for people to know and understand.

ROWELL: Right.

MCCLENAHAN: So when we left, I don't know if any of these pictures or--

ROWELL: I think a couple of them we pulled out. There was one that showed the 03:26:00foam packing on the ceiling of the annex.

MCCLENAHAN: Right. Yeah.

ROWELL: Do you want to pull that one out? And we can have a moment where we just go through photos as well.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, we will. I think that would probably be better, and especially since I'm not-- oh, here it is. Here was the one about the packing. [holds up photograph of room] Can you see that okay in there?

ROWELL: Yes. I can bring it closer as well.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, go ahead. So the ceiling was the packing cases for the detonators for the 50-ton bombs that they were using in the Fishhook region of Cambodia

ROWELL: Are you in this photograph?

MCCLENAHAN: Am I in that photograph?

ROWELL: Let's find out.

MCCLENAHAN: No, I'm not.

ROWELL: Other friends?

MCCLENAHAN: That's Nikki, Sergeant Hurley. I don't recognize the other two.

ROWELL: Okay. And that's you in the pinstripe at the top of that pile?

MCCLENAHAN: This pile? Yes, that was me. [holds up photograph of herself]


ROWELL: And that's the summer--

MCCLENAHAN: That's the summer uniform.

ROWELL: --summer green pinstripe uniform. Do you know what year that would have been?.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, that was 1970, because that was when I just came home.



ROWELL: Thank you.


ROWELL: We'll certainly go through those.

MCCLENAHAN: At a different time. Sure. [looking through photographs] I was just talking about Bill Veal.

ROWELL: Yeah. Do you want to--

MCCLENAHAN: [holds up photograph of male] You know, I don't even know if he's still alive.

ROWELL: This is the--

MCCLENAHAN: Guy who I got him off heroin.


MCCLENAHAN: William Wesley Veal. Garden City, Georgia.

ROWELL: There's some content written on the back. Do you want to talk about any of what's on the back or no?

MCCLENAHAN: I might, yeah. He wrote down his hobbies. "Alcohol, dope, women." Not necessarily in that order. [laughs] [looking at back of photograph]

ROWELL: You don't need to share it, but if you wish to, we can.

MCCLENAHAN: Well I got to read it first. All right. At the ending, "Be cool, 03:28:00chick." [laughs] "I know it makes you upset, but I'm going to say it anyway, that I really love you and love you just the way you are. Keep the faith and you'll come through it all and come through it on top. Love you, Bill." Yeah. I mean, we never dated or anything.

ROWELL: No, but you were close.

MCCLENAHAN: We were close, yeah. Him and Rich. Rich was his hooch mate. And then when I left Vietnam, I think-- [showing piece of art] That probably won't show because it's too--

ROWELL: Here, I can try to bring it closer so it shows some of the details here.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Each of us were given that when we left. So I left--

ROWELL: Do you mind if I ask you a couple of more questions?


MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

ROWELL: No worries.

MCCLENAHAN: You're trying to keep me in country and I'm trying to get the hell out of there. Just like a real thing. [laughs]

ROWELL: I completely understand. I won't dwell. I won't dwell. Talking about Bill really quickly, to your knowledge, did anybody seek treatment at the evac hospital for any of their--

MCCLENAHAN: Not that I know of.

ROWELL: Yeah. Any withdrawal or anything?


ROWELL: Yeah. More of an open secret kind of deal? Okay. And you actually gave blood at the evac hospital, is that correct? Can you talk about that a bit?

MCCLENAHAN: Some of us would go over there periodically and just donate blood because they needed it. It was important. And I continued to do that until I got cancer and now they won't take my blood anymore.

ROWELL: Oh, okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Which I find frustrating because it's been over 20 years.


MCCLENAHAN: You know, I don't know why they can't take it now, because that's something I could do and do it fine.


ROWELL: Yeah. And I realize I didn't ask you specifically. Can you state the unit that you worked with in the comm center?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, sure. I was part of the 1st Signal Brigade, 160th Signal Group, the 44th Signal Brigade, so that was-- yeah. Can do, sir.



ROWELL: United States Army [inaudible]--

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, RV, yeah. USARV. I'm sorry.

ROWELL: Sorry, yeah. The phonetics pronounciation--

MCCLENAHAN: The United States Army in the Republic of Vietnam.

ROWELL: Yes. Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Sorry.

ROWELL: No, thank you. Thank you so much.

MCCLENAHAN: The military loves acronyms and mnemonics. [laughs]

ROWELL: Yeah. What was your perception of the-- you mentioned questioning the judgment of some of the officers. What was your experience with that? Like kind 03:31:00of across the board at Long Binh but especially at the comm center?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I liked the officers that we had. We had a good group all the way around. The one odd thing that happened was an order came out that all and NCOs had to have a license to drive a deuce-and-a-half. Those big trucks. I was an NCO, so I had to learn how to drive it. And when I was on the night shift from six at night to six in the morning, it was not unusual for me to go with the guys down to the dinner break at the 44th Signal, which is where they were. I was at the WAC detachment, which is where most of us were, even though we were assigned to other players.

ROWELL: Because you were billeted there, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Right. [inaudible] But I would go down and eat with them sometimes. And one time I drove the truck down and the [inaudible], "What that fucking woman doing in my truck?!" [laughs] He took my license away. Tore it up. [laughs]


ROWELL: Wow. Had to get a new one.

MCCLENAHAN: No, no I didn't. I just let it go because that would have been the only place I would have ever had to usually drive a truck, you know? It was there. But [laughs] he didn't realize he forgot that [inaudible]. I'm sure Gail had one too, because she was an NCO.


MCCLENAHAN: But I don't know. I never asked her. I should ask her. [laughs] Anyway, I stopped going down-- the mess hall at 24th Evac Hospital was much better than the one at the 44th Signal.

ROWELL: Really?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, of course they would talk about the mystery meat. [laughs] "Hey, I think I know what happened to that monster that they killed in the movie last night." [laughs] "I think we're eating it." So, it was really bad.

ROWELL: You mentioned doing night shifts for a month and then off and on.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, 30 days.


ROWELL: Yeah, 30 days. How did you cope with that big kind of time difference?

MCCLENAHAN: At Fort Ritchie, I had three different shifts. So, shift work was just part of the thing. The only thing that was weird is I come home at six in the morning and everybody's gone to work and I just got off work and I'd have a beer. "It's a little early to start, isn't it?" "Don't you have a beer when you get home from work?" [laughs]

ROWELL: Was that a little bit isolating for you?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. But it was okay. I mean, I was fine. There was enough people around working at the detachment and then I just go to bed. Of course, the mama-sans would wake me up because they coming in to clean and take the laundry. Each of us had a mama-san.

ROWELL: You have a photograph up there, don't you?

MCCLENAHAN: I do. I do. Yes.

ROWELL: You can grab it now if you want to.

MCCLENAHAN: And this was my mama-san and no, I don't remember her name. I wish I did. [shows photograph] Hold on a second, do I have a name on the back here? 03:34:00Nope. [laughs]

ROWELL: That's perfect.

MCCLENAHAN: That was my mama-san.

ROWELL: Do you want me to hold it?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I can't stretch. She took care of me. It was interesting. She was younger than I was, but she was a mama-san and I was a baby-san because I wasn't married.

ROWELL: Okay. I see.

MCCLENAHAN: You're a baby-san--

ROWELL: Until you were a mama-san.

MCCLENAHAN: --until you were married or until you reached a certain age and I think they called them [inaudible]. I don't know how that was spelled or whatever in Vietnamese, but she is [inaudible] whatever and that was her name and that meant she was an old maid. [laughs]

ROWELL: A spinster.

MCCLENAHAN: Their equivalent of our old maid. So I'm calling her mama-san and she called me baby-san and I was older than she was. But that's the way it was.

ROWELL: Yeah. Can you talk about how you met those women, how you hired them, 03:35:00how that worked?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, they were assigned to us by whoever assigned the-- you know.

ROWELL: What were some of the other ways that you interacted with the community, the Vietnamese community, around Long Binh?

MCCLENAHAN: Not too much.


MCCLENAHAN: The mama-sans were about it. I remember mama-san Mop Top was the only name I remember. She was a heavyset Vietnamese woman and she was kind of in charge of all of them, I think. But everybody knew mama-san. sorry, It's just interacting was limited, I think. And then up at USARV headquarters, there was like a little cafe during the day. That was the first time I ever had a fried baloney sandwich, but they were really good. [laughs] We interact with the people there and there's a little store for magazines and odds and ends and 03:36:00things. In the PX [Post Exchange, a retail store]. Now, none of the PXs and none of the stores had any feminine needs. Menstrual supplies, we had to get those from home. We discovered at some point that sometimes the guys would steal the tampons because they would use them to clean the barrels of their weapons. That's what we heard. I never found out if that was true or not, but that was what we heard. And of course, years later, they would even use them to plug up bullet holes. Which actually makes sense.

ROWELL: And they're sterile.

MCCLENAHAN: Of course, for the first three months, I think sometimes when women are stressed out, their periods stop. So for the first three months I didn't 03:37:00have a period, and I know it wasn't because of anything else, because I was a good little Catholic girl.

ROWELL: Right. Were there any other ways that you felt you were being bodily affected by that stress that you were constantly under?

MCCLENAHAN: I [inaudible] had headaches and stomachaches and things like that.

ROWELL: Was that a common experience?

MCCLENAHAN: I think so, yeah. Yeah. And Monday morning was the malaria pill which caused terrible diarrhea for a while.

ROWELL: Any other treatments or anything that you got while you were over there?

MCCLENAHAN: No, not that I know of. I just remember the malaria pills. Big orange thing, I think. I don't know. [laughs] I don't trust my memory anymore. [laughs] I really don't. [laughs] Go ahead.

ROWELL: Yeah. So you mentioned those orphanages. Who who ran the orphanages, to your knowledge?

MCCLENAHAN: Vietnamese kids whose parents were either killed or Amerasian kids 03:38:00because they would not be accepted in their families. Apparently, I heard this somewhere, apparently the United States government is the only government in the world that will not take responsibility for children of military people.

ROWELL: Interesting.

MCCLENAHAN: Australia, some of the Aussies that I met were startled that-- "Amerasian children, aren't you guys taking care of those kids? Doesn't your government take care of those kids?" "No." "You're kidding. We do." [laughs]

ROWELL: How is that perceived? Did you know anyone who ended up having a child over--

MCCLENAHAN: No, no. I'm sure there were but I don't know.

ROWELL: Didn't talk about it. I see.

MCCLENAHAN: I know there was a lot of STDs and that. Actually, from my 03:39:00experience, I came home with three of them, actually.

ROWELL: Really? I'm sorry. Was that something that you went to the VA for later?


ROWELL: Elsewhere?

MCCLENAHAN: I went elsewhere.

ROWELL: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you know who ran the orphanages?

MCCLENAHAN: Nope. A lot of them were run by sisters. Real religious communities.

ROWELL: Yeah. And were they Vietnamese nuns?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, they were all Vietnamese sisters.

ROWELL: Catholic?


ROWELL: How did you feel about that, given that you were kind of anticipating becoming a sister?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, it was fine. I thought it was a good service. And after I didn't believe in God anymore, they were still nice ladies.

ROWELL: Right.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Oh, it's nice to have my Sunday mornings free. [laughs]

ROWELL: You stopped going to church?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I stopped going to church.


ROWELL: Did you ever talk explicitly to anyone about that loss of faith while you were there?

MCCLENAHAN: Not while I was there. Hell no. It made perfect sense there and for years afterwards. No, I didn't.

ROWELL: Yeah. Couple last questions. You were on a softball team, I think.


ROWELL: You want to talk about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Well, that was one of the things that we would do is--

ROWELL: Recreation. Yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. We would just play against other group teams. Sometimes the nurses from the hospitals or sometimes some of the guys from different units. It was just a good distraction.

ROWELL: Well, you have a passion for softball and baseball, is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I've loved baseball since I was seven years old. I went to my first game in San Francisco with the Giants. Had the great joy of watching Willie Mays, one of the greatest all around ballplayers ever. Among 03:41:00others. I love the game. I love everything about it. And of course, years later, as I was a coach for a Catholic school team, I played on co-ed and all- women's teams. And the Army at Fort Ritchie, I was on that team.

ROWELL: Oh, you had a team at Fort Ritchie?


ROWELL: Do you remember the name of either of your teams?

MCCLENAHAN: It was just Fort Ritchie. And we would play against other or, you know, Indian Gap and Fort Monroe and Fort Dix. So we would travel over playing.

ROWELL: Who would you play against in Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: In Vietnam it was the other units.

ROWELL: And they were there, the other units at Long Binh?


ROWELL: What were those units? Can you recall some of them?

MCCLENAHAN: Force Logistics, and of course, the infantry units. The 199th, the 4th Division, 1st Cav-- I can see the patches, I've can really see the patches 03:42:00more than anything.

ROWELL: We can describe them if you want to.

MCCLENAHAN: Well, that's all right. I don't really want to do that.

ROWELL: That's fine.

MCCLENAHAN: There are just all kinds of different groups. There's engineers, there was-- anyway. Construction, all kinds of different things.

ROWELL: Okay, yeah. Thank you.

MCCLENAHAN: The motor pools. Yeah. I was once doing a talk at a high school about this and this one guy, he says, "I'm gonna fix trucks when I go in the Army so I don't have to worry about war." And I said, "What, you don't think we have motor pools in war?" And he suddenly got this big, big wide eyes. "Oh." [laughs]

ROWELL: Yeah. So we talked about you being denied the Bronze Star. We talked 03:43:00about you almost getting promoted. Would you like to discuss when you did get promoted?

MCCLENAHAN: I got promoted when I was in the Reserves.


MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I was in the Reserves maybe six months when I got the promotion. it was fine.

ROWELL: Did you have a pinning ceremony at the comm center?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, well, that was for the Army Commendation Medal, I did.

ROWELL: For the medal, got you. Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Actually, [laughs] the captain started to pin it on me and he stopped. He just wasn't sure. Couple of guys volunteer. "I'll pin it on, I'll pin it on." Because, you know, of course, it's-- [laughs]

ROWELL: Right on the pocket.

MCCLENAHAN: So he just handed it to me and I pinned it on. [laughs]

ROWELL: Did it yourself. All right, Let's see here. Actually, we're kind of coming up on time. Would you like to pause for a moment and end the segment and then we'll come back?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, that'll be fine. We have about another hour?


ROWELL: Yeah. Sounds good.


ROWELL: All right, so this ends segment five of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 8th, 2022. This begins segment six of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 8th, 2022. So we're going to do a short section here talking about coming to the end of your tour. You went on R&R while you were in Vietnam.


ROWELL: Would you like to talk about that a bit?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, Adrienne Champ, Andy and I, went to Japan on R&R. It was wonderful. That was a great, great trip. Good break. We stayed-- I used to have the pamphlet for the hotel. It's interesting because it's in Japanese, but the one part that shows the lobby and it says, it's in Japanese, and then in 03:45:00parentheses it has the English and it actually said "Robby." R-O-B-B-Y. instead of lobby. Robby. [laughs] Among other things. We went to a few bars, we went to the Kabuki theater. We didn't understand it, but it didn't matter. It was beautiful. Up and down the Ginza, I bought my mother an incredible two point pearl ring which disappeared some years later. But they think that's because in her later years of dementia, a lot of things got thrown away including all my letters from home. I wanted to take those from her but she wanted to keep them, and then she wound up kind of losing it. But the ring disappeared, too. Somewhere. That was when I bought a beautiful, hand-carved ivory chess set, 03:46:00which I still have. It was just a really good week. Great food, great time. Relaxation on that. A funny story was that Andy and I had never had sake in our lives. So we're at this one restaurant and we sit down and we both say, Well, we'd both like to try some sake." And it came in these cute little carafes and these cute little cups and we must have drank five of those. [laughs] And we couldn't understand why the staff was kind of watching us. We were just having a very nice time. Well, at the very end of the meal, we paid for everything and we were sitting there and we finished the sake, and Andy says, "Oh, can you get up?" And I said, "No, I can't." [laughs] She says, "Well, I can't either." Then 03:47:00we both started to laugh and laugh and laugh. We were so bombed it wasn't even funny. But it went down so smoothly and it was so good and it was like-- So we sat there for a while and finally we kind of staggered up and staggered out and staggered back to the hotel. It was a little funny, but no, it was a good week. I don't remember too much more than that. [laughs] Good week.

ROWELL: Good week.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I wanted to originally go to Australia or somewhere. Of course, Hawaii, Australia, those places, those fill up. But Japan was fine. Japan was very nice. And we saw The Great Daibutsu, we traveled up north and saw The Great Daibutsu. The Great Buddha that's up there that has survived 03:48:00earthquake after earthquake without a single bit of damage, among other things. But it was beautiful.


MCCLENAHAN: Very, very holy place.

ROWELL: And how did that feel for you at the time?

MCCLENAHAN: It was fine. Yeah.

ROWELL: And what was it like coming back off of that?

MCCLENAHAN: I was pretty much counting the days at that point. I really was down. I think I was a two digit midget by that time. Under 100 days, so 99 or less. And I was definitely less I was just counting the days. I probably was just anxious to get home and had expectations of what being home was going to be like. I just was ready to get out of there. Anyway, that's all. When we took 03:49:00off, of course, as soon as the pilot came on and said we have cleared Vietnam airspace, the plane just erupted in cheers. Whereas the plane going over was so quiet, this one was very, very noisy, at least for a while. And then everybody was asleep. [laughs] We were all so tired. I'll tell you, I was so tired all the time there. For all kinds of reasons.

ROWELL: Difficulty sleeping for sure. Yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: And a lot of work, a lot of tension, a lot of stress, a lot of-- yeah. The thing about stress is we know physically the body is tense most of the time.

ROWELL: Yeah. Just at rest, nevermind in a war zone and serving. Are there any 03:50:00other kind of events or stories or anecdotes that you remember from that time of your tour that you want to share?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't think so. I think just winding down. I just don't recall too much of anything.

ROWELL: Yeah. You mentioned--

MCCLENAHAN: I was drinking a whole lot at that point, too. So that's part of the reason, too. I may not recall much. My whole entire time in the service, I never lost anything. But I was very disappointed that my raincoat, my military raincoat, got swiped like a week before I left, because I really liked that. I mean, it was a great raincoat. [laughs]

ROWELL: Was it a monsoon season when you were leaving or no?

MCCLENAHAN: No. But I still was looking forward to having it back in the San 03:51:00Francisco Bay area. Fog and mist and all that stuff. It was a perfect coat for that. Anyway, no, I don't recall too much. The final days, I had this wonderful bamboo room divider, three piece room divider that was made out of bamboo and and colored bamboo pieces. It was gorgeous, but sold that to one of the other women that was there or sold the refrigerator to somebody else. Just getting rid of stuff. And then boxing stuff up to send home. And trying to keep the cockroaches out of the box. Although a few of them did make it back. My mother was not-- she said, "Open up your crate." I said, "No, outside. Trust me. Outside." "Well, why do we need to put it out?" "Mom, just trust me." And sure enough, all of them were dead. But still, roaches were-- insects, roaches, and 03:52:00they were airborne. I mean, they were huge suckers and they were airborne. We didn't even talk about that.

ROWELL: No, yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: Snakes, insects, cockroaches. It was a lot. In my hooch with Gail, we had a lizard and the cockroaches, I mean, they would eat cockroaches. We didn't bother with that too much. Even though the lizard and the cockroach were about the same size. But the cockroaches didn't like the lizard, so they would take off.

ROWELL: Were there any pets that you remember anybody having?


ROWELL: Dogs, lizards, anything?


ROWELL: Do you recall any other than maybe the chess set, the jacket, your regular issued stuff, other than the raincoat. Do you recall taking anything else home with you? [McClenahan shakes head] No? No other souvenirs?


MCCLENAHAN: You know, I may have had the headband or some stuff like that, but no, not really.

ROWELL: Did you head anywhere else during your tour of Vietnam other than Saigon and Long Binh?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, if we had occasionally the opportunity to go to a different-- We went to Cam Ranh Bay one time. When we would be invited to different things, we would get around a little bit, but not much. I did get a couple of helicopter rides from people that I knew. And so I was up in the helicopters. Have some pictures you could see, like this one picture of this road. There's a lot of these-- you can see the bomb holes and the rocket-- that thing. So, yeah, that's all that. And I do have pictures of USARV headquarters from the air. That's about all.


ROWELL: Yeah. So what date did you leave Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: I left Vietnam on November 12th, 1970. That was my DEROS date. I was actually discharged from the Army on Friday, November 13th.


MCCLENAHAN: [laughs] Friday the 13th. So, Doris, I forgot her last name, but Doris and I checked in, and then at the airport, yeah, this is our first-- at the airport after we left the [inaudible] base, I drove her back to the San Francisco airport. Because we had gone to my home first, and that's where I got the car and whatever. Drove her back to the airport and I was walking through 03:55:00the airport when somebody yelled, "Hey, look, there are a couple of Uncle Sam's whores." Yeah. So I was never spit on or called a baby killer but we were not-- military people were not taken care of, not looked fondly upon, the USO wasn't even open at the airport and things like that. So anyway, yeah, it's was a tough time to be in the military. It really was. And that's why I say to people, if you were in the military during that time, you didn't have to go to Vietnam. It just anybody in the military at that time put up with crap.

ROWELL: Yeah. Other than maybe the transmissions, the messages that you were receiving in the comm center, how did you receive news while you were in Vietnam?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, the Stars and Stripes newspaper was it and we had a radio station. [laughs]

ROWELL: Oh, okay.

MCCLENAHAN: A radio station. Armed Forces Radio Network. It started in the 03:56:00morning and they would do different things. They would do like an hour of country music, an hour of rock 'n roll, an hour of, you know, different things. They would sometimes do baseball games and stuff like that. And we were getting news from that. But again, it was Armed Forces news. So the news that we got was not without a bias. That was for sure.

ROWELL: Right.

MCCLENAHAN: I wasn't there on the days of Adrian, I think it was Cownauer [Cronauer] or whatever his name was. "Good morning, Vietnam!" I wasn't there during his days, but I can certainly see how he'd start out and be very, very popular with people. Beause he was-- [laughs] Anyway.


MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, we had some pretty good DJs and that.


ROWELL: Hopping back to the comm center for just a moment, I meant to ask you, there were those long, long pushes where you would pull double shifts if not longer. What precipitated that often?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, if there was a special, you know, if there was a push by the enemy, if there was a special attacks going on, like I said, at one point they thought there might be another Tet. So they were prepping for that. So there's just a heavy volume of messages in and out. And we needed everybody on deck to handle everything because there was just no break time. And as far as sleeping or taking a break, eating, you'd pretty much sleep in your chair, roll it over out of the way and sleep for a while and someone would wake you up and on we go. So it was just military pushes either by our side or by the enemy that would cause a lot of heavy volume of messages and a lot of them were classified so I 03:58:00had to stay on deck to handle them.

ROWELL: Right. Was there anyone else with comparable clearance on your shift?

MCCLENAHAN: Not as high as mine. The guys in the crypto room, they had a clearance, so they would have a lot of it, but then certain things I had to handle.

ROWELL: And the crypto room is different from the underground?

MCCLENAHAN: The tech control, yeah. I think I mentioned it. Next to the service desk, there was this room that had the crypto stuff, the KYWs-- the KY-26s and the KW-7s and the five letter code group stuff and that was the crypto room.

ROWELL: Which you worked on a bit when you were at Site R, as we talked about?


ROWELL: Yeah. Okay. And so you were at the service desk a lot of the time, right? The tech desk?

MCCLENAHAN: Most of the time, yeah. Or as the assistant trick chief I would sometimes take the head there.


ROWELL: Yeah. What was the view like from that desk?

MCCLENAHAN: The view? There was no view.

ROWELL: Well, what did you see when you looked up?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, well, I would see the trick chief and I would see the 1004 computer and I would see the M-16 and the tech control.

ROWELL: Okay, so all that was in the same--? Okay.

MCCLENAHAN: And then on this side was the maintenance area. And to the right of that was the teletype room.

ROWELL: Thank you.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. I could probably still draw you a picture of that place because I spent so much time there.

ROWELL: We could do that later, if you want you. [laughs]

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, no, I don't want to.

ROWELL: That's fair.

MCCLENAHAN: Not really. [laughs]

ROWELL: That is fair. All right.

MCCLENAHAN: I'm sure Gail could, too. Gail Nelson.

ROWELL: Are you still in contact with her?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, she didn't come to this last reunion, but she was at the one before that, and it was good to see her. Yeah.

ROWELL: Did you happen to keep in contact with any of the people who were still over there that you knew once you left?


MCCLENAHAN: I wrote a couple of letters to a few people, but pretty much wanted to leave it behind me. And I lost contact with my friends that already left. Skye, Linda, Andy-- Andy and I kept in touch because she was in Sacramento and I was in San Francisco, and I would go up to Sacramento a few times and we get together a little bit for a while. It didn't last too long. And that was, you know, most of our time together was just out drinking and whatever. [laughs]

ROWELL: Recreation.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, right. Which wasn't too much different than other people our own age.


MCCLENAHAN: And I turned 21 in Vietnam, so I was old enough to drink when I got home.

ROWELL: You said your dad sent you a letter about it. Is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: No. Well, he sent me a box of canned goods, and that was [laughs] for my 21st birthday with a note that says, "Congratulations on turning 21. Now, 04:01:00you can legally do what you've been doing the last few years anyway." But the canned goods was all those canned cocktails that were popular for a while. So it was all kinds of different drinks.

ROWELL: Where did you get your drinks when you were-- so you got them, I mean, of course at the bar, but the annexes, but you had bottles and stuff like that, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Yeah. We could get those at the PX or whatever and we were restricted to how much we could do. And like my friend Linda didn't really drink, she smoked, so I would get my bottle and cigarettes and she would get her bottle and cigarettes and I would give her the cigarettes and she would give me the bottle.


MCCLENAHAN: And then when we built our own NCO club behind the WAC detachment there, we would get drinks there and that's where we'd keep the bottles. And we'd play a lot of poker and just spend time over there hanging out.


ROWELL: Right. I'm going to just ask you again, just for fairness sake, is there any anything else that you want to cover that you want to make sure to remember about that time

MCCLENAHAN: Not right now. I think anything else that may come to me is probably not that significant that I can remember from. It was a lot. It's just a lot.

ROWELL: While you were there, did you have a sense for the-- did you anticipate the level of hostility that you perceived from civilians when you got back?


ROWELL: That was not depicted really?

MCCLENAHAN: No. We know there were protests and things, but it didn't occur to us that they would protest us as individuals. That they would attack the 04:03:00veteran. One thing to be angry at the government, it's another thing to get mad at us. I think that's why that group started up, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I think that's why that started. I wasn't part of it, but I mean, I do know about it because I think they wanted people to know that not all of us were-- And why were you mad at us? We were just doing our job. And so many of the guys were drafted. They really didn't have a choice.

ROWELL: Did you have any feelings about that when you were over there or after that you had chosen to be there and others were drafted. Did that have any significance for you at all?

MCCLENAHAN: No, not really. Because other people volunteered, too. And sometimes some of the draftees would re-up and re-enlist and stay in and go regular Army, from draftee to regular Army.


ROWELL: And you were all there regardless.

MCCLENAHAN: We were all there regardless.

ROWELL: Right. Okay.All right. I think that finishes up today.


ROWELL: I think that finishes up today, if you're okay with that.

MCCLENAHAN: That's fine. That sounds good to me.

ROWELL: All right. So thank you very much for your time today, Linda. This concludes segment two and section six of-- yeah, six of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 8th, 2022. Thank you so much.

[Segment ends] [Segment begins]

MCCLENAHAN: Today is December 12th, 2022. This is a continuation of the interview with Linda McClenahan, who served in the United States Women's Army Corps from August 1967 to November 1970, and Army Reserve from December 1970 to December 1976. This interview is being conducted by Kate Rowell in Racine, Wisconsin, for the I Am Not Invisible Project and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. So, Linda, you wanted to start talking about how you're 04:05:00doing today, how you're feeling?

ROWELL: Oh, yes. This has been quite a journey of recollections and stirring up lots of memories so positive as well as negative. And it's just a reminder, I mean, I'm a little nervous about this last piece and I'm not really sure why. And it may or may not have anything to do with the surgery I am facing tomorrow. But I think part of me is just kind of amazed that I'm still alive. Things were so crazy. And, um, not just crazy. I mean, totally insane for, for a while. And, uh, I guess I'm just kind of, uh, um. I don't know, it's been, it's been an interesting recollection. These interviews and questions and times and trying to 04:06:00find pictures and trying to find papers and and looking through things. And, um, and as I said, sometimes when I tell a story, I'm just telling a piece of it. Whereas in my head I've got the whole entire movie and that has made for some sleepless nights and some weird dreams. But that's okay. It's okay. I know what to do with those now. I didn't when I first came home. But anyway, so I guess that's how I'm feeling. And I'm a little as a as we're coming to this piece of coming home now, and I'm not really sure how it's going to go. So let's get, mind as well start it.

ROWELL: Okay, as long as your ready. Thank you for sharing that.


ROWELL: So we did leave off discussing the end of your tour in Vietnam, and we touched on some of your expectations of coming home.


ROWELL: Mm-hmm.

MCCLENAHAN: Do you wanna talk more about the homecoming?

ROWELL: Well, you know, I knew that there were protest about the war and that 04:07:00especially with me coming back home to Berkeley, you know, with that, uh, so, however, I. It seemed to me that veterans had always been appreciated and, and that. And so I kind of expected at least some acknowledgment of that. Oh. And I guess I, um, uh, also figured that I would kind of get back into the routine of, you know, being a civilian and all that. You know, I can figure all that out. So I was quite astonished to find out that that was all untrue. [Laughs] So. It started with when we first came home, we landed at Travis Air Force Base, and it was a warm day and got off the plane and my, uh, my family was just going to be 04:08:00there. And one of the guys actually got off the plane and kissed the ground. And I thought, yeah, I understand that. And it was I mean, people were walking around shorts and sleeved shirts and it was like 80 degrees and we were cold. The Vietnam was pretty much, you know, in the hundreds and tropical heat, too. So it was like that. So. But, uh. Family met and, uh, you know, and Doris and I have to go to the local army base to, you know, finalize the ETS. There was DEROS which was the date of. There was something about rotation and out of the zone, but there was also ETS, which is expired time in service. So we had to go to the Oakland Army base to finish out. And when we got there and we had to go through all those tests and things and, and, um, it was it was fine. But then 04:09:00Doris had to catch a plane, so I drove her. No, I picked up a car when I got home, and I drove her over to the San Francisco airport. I think I mentioned this already, did I tell you that story?

MCCLENAHAN: We can go through it again.

ROWELL: And we got to the airport and we're walking down the way to the gate. And somebody yelled "Oh look, there go a couple of Uncle Sam's horrors." And you know, at the time we were both we looked at each other like, what? That, you know, what's that about? But, uh, if it had happened now, I'd know exactly what to do. But back then, like. But so it's certainly not being respected in the uniform at all. And in fact, being taunted and insulted. And I know guys have a lot of the problems with that, too. Anyway, so off we went. She got safely off. I went home and oh, I forgot to mention that before we went off. I was driving in the car with her and I was showing her my hometown. Where to high school 04:10:00where I went to grammar school, things like that. And Berkeley. And so we're driving down Telegraph Avenue and people are staring at us and we suddenly realized we're in uniform driving down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, in 1970. And so we both slipped our, our cover, our hats off, you know, uniform hats and kind of slunk down to and I got out of there and went somewhere else or something else. But it was just it was uncomfortable. It was really, it felt it was like, something's wrong here. Anyway, so got her off and and taking care of and that. And it was it was interesting. I threw a party at my house, a welcome home to me, and invited all my high school friends who are now all in college and one of my best friends from high school, Margaret. And she arrived she, she 04:11:00was at Santa Clara University at that point. And I, she came in and she said something like, I have to get up early for a protest tomorrow. And I thought, oh, great. So I started telling her and all of them some stories that I thought would help because I was, you know, war is really nasty stuff. And, and that and all of a sudden she stopped me and she says, "Listen, I don't want to hear any of your glory stories, Anything that happened to you, you deserved. You wanted to go." At which point the party ended and everybody was out and it was like, oh, you know, so here are all my high school bodies and it's like, crap. Oh, so there was that. And knowing, you know, of course, for all the different things that have happened, it was like, yeah, anyway, it was, it was tough. It was very tough.



MCCLENAHAN: The, the only good thing that I can recall is that I had to pay my taxes that April and I went down to a little shop on Solano Avenue in Berkeley to this little tax guy and gave him all the stuff. And when I went back to pick it up, he was sitting there and he says, "I see you were in Vietnam." And I thought, "Uh-uh, here we go." And he said, "I was in Korea." And I said, "Oh, geez, you know, are you okay?" And he says, "Yeah, but he says, but I understand." He says, "I'm not charging for the taxes." And so that was like, "Oh, that's nice." And then we talked a little bit about things back and forth. Oh, but prior to that, now, that was in next March, actually. But when I first got home, I did buy a car, which I paid cash for, which I should have realized later I shouldn't have done that because I needed to establish a credit rating. 04:13:00But at the time I didn't know that. So I paid cash for it because, you know the money I made in Vietnam with the, uh, you know, the hazardous duty pay. And there is really not much to spend it on. So, I was able to do that. So I bought this car and I drove back to the family farm in Illinois, where I worked with my Uncle Jim, driving a tractor for two bucks an hour. And now Lafayette, Illinois, has about 200 people in it. You know, it's just a little tiny farm town. Anyway, that was good. But some odd things happened there, too. But that was not, I was having some nightmares and I guess I was shouting things out at night and I scared my [inaudible] a couple of times and, and you know/ Uh, um, anyway, uh. So and then I would, I would drive tractor all day, and then I went into to the tavern at night and I worked as a bartender and then, you know, for a little 04:14:00extra money in that. But I also went down to Galesburg, Illinois, and bought my guitar, which was in the other room, still the same guitar to replace the one that got smashed when I landed in Vietnam. And then I drove up to Minnesota to spend time with my uncle Roger and aunt Pat and the kids. And that was interesting too. Um, I was a very angry person and I was either numb or angry. And I thought being back at the farm would help. And I guess it did a little bit and being with uncle Roger and that was helpful, now he was also a Korean vet, Corp of Engineers and that and he seemed to understand where I was coming from. 04:15:00So did my dad when I got back home, 'cause he took me out drinking on one night, the two of us went. [Laughs] But 'cause he never talked much his, you know, World War II stuff. So then, but I didn't talk about Vietnam either. I mean, we just went on [drinking??] Oh, one time I was standing in the living room and, oh, my younger sister, you know, blew up a bag and popped it. And I dove under the table and and she she thought that was funny. And Dad said, "Don't ever do that again." So I so things like that. But I was just, so, I mean, I anger like jees and it was it was very intense, very intense. And I was drinking a lot. I mean, you know, my poor mother, she didn't know what to think. When I left for Vietnam, I didn't swear, if I was drinking, it wasn't very much and I didn't 04:16:00date much. You know, I was kind of an ugly duckling, but, of being suddenly to go from, you know, having boys bark at me, which I did in high school, to suddenly being one of 125 women on a post with 50,000 guys. And suddenly I was very popular. It was like, wow, that's different. Anyway. But, uh, so I didn't date much, I didn't drink and I didn't swear. And yet the first time I was home, my favorite expression was goddamn son of a bitch. And I drank a fifth of booze and then went out and was gone all night. So my mom, you know, was pretty confused, but I don't know. There was just a lot happened. And all that time back and again, as is the case with some other things I don't have, my time 04:17:00frame is exactly right for a long, long time. Oh, I do recall that at some point I started seeing a psychologist and oh, first thing that happened was, oh, yeah, was at first? Yes, there was a, uh, I went to a vet center. These new vet centers that were out there.

ROWELL: You were prompted to do that by your boss at Bechtel, is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I'm trying to. Not exactly. They they were concerned with my anger issues.

ROWELL: At the VA or who or friends or ?

MCCLENAHAN: No, no, no, my boss and personnel and that. Okay. Oh. Oh, I forgot something very important. My mom thought I had malaria because I was having trouble of chills and fever and that. So I went to the new VA out in Martinez, 04:18:00which was brand new at that point. And of course, I get there and it's like, what's your husband's service number? No, I'm the veteran. And, you know, going through that, heaven knows, I never thought we'd still be at, you know, 30 years later. Still be struggling with that a little bit. Not struggling, but still have that problem occasionally. But anyway, so I get in to see the doctor and he walks in and he's looking at my chart and he says, "You just got back from Vietnam, huh?" And I said, "Yeah." He said, "You make some good money over?" I said, "Well, yeah, with hazardous duty pay and, and the proficiency pay, because I was really good at my job and that with no place to send it, you know, I did. And he says, "No, I meant whoring around." The doctor said that.


MCCLENAHAN: And I just looked at him and got up and left and I swore I would never set foot in a VA again the rest of my life.


MCCLENAHAN: And it did take a lot of years before somebody convinced me to try it again. So I can now see I'm bouncing around again.


ROWELL: That's okay.

MCCLENAHAN: I forgot where I was. Oh, yeah. To the vet center. So at that point, I had been seeing some other vets, at different events, and somebody mentioned these new vet centers. So when I went out there, I met the director of the vets in Concord, whose name was Rose Sandecki, and she had been a nurse in Vietnam. And so I became part of the first group of women Vietnam vets. And it was not just military. We had nurses. We had USO, Red Cross and me, non-nurse Vietnam vet. And it was it was a good it was interesting. And then what happened was, oh, one day we were in this group and one of the women had said that she says, I 04:20:00know a lot of women, you know, were with you know, spent time with a lot of the guys. But she says, I'm really proud of myself. I went over as a virgin and came home as a virgin. And I'm really proud of myself for that. And apparently, I said out loud in a whisper tone, I didn't, but it wasn't my idea. And Pam White, sitting next to me said, "What did you say?" And I said, "Oh, my God." And the whole rape all came back to me 'cause I literally had stuff that down so far I totally forgotten. And boy, it came back with a vengeance. And so then one of the people who was helping Rose Sandecki that day was a psychologist by the name of Carol Howard, whose husband was also a Vietnam vet. And she, so I started seeing her in an individual way. She was the one who said that I couldn't drink 24 hours before she came to see her, and which I, that proved to be quite hard. 04:21:00Which was interesting. I eventually got into a group called the Woman's Alcoholism Center in San Francisco, and, uh, I was signing to be part of it. It was a 30-day program, outpatient program, and I was, you know, signing the papers, and then I came to one and said, I promised I wouldn't drink for 30 days. And I took it and I threw it back and said, "No way. I'm out of here." And so I left. About a month later. I really it was right on Memorial Day, which was a big time. I binged like crazy when I finally cleared my head and I went back. And so I was part of that program, and that was the first time I quit drinking. So, uh, but then I would have to face a lot of things and that I wasn't necessarily ready to face. But then I'm not I'm not sure what was the last M.A.S.H. show? The last M.A.S.H. show. The final show. Goodbye, Farewell, Amen. 04:22:00I'm watching that. I was all ready for it. I was in my Hawaiian shirt. I had my dog tags on. I was, you know, all set to go. And with Hawkeye in the you know, being at the hospital with the psychiatrist that I started to cry and I started to sob and I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop. And my roommate at the time kept saying, you know, and I couldn't stop. So she went and called Carol Howard for me. And Carol tried to talk to me on the phone, but I couldn't talk. And she finally said, "Come tomorrow to see me." So when I got there and on the way, driving looking at, you know, overpasses and things that I could slam the car 04:23:00into, oh, I did get there. And for 45 minutes I sobbed. And the only thing I could say, the only thing I could say was "It wasn't supposed to be like that. It wasn't supposed to be like that. It wasn't supposed to be like that." And she said "The TV show?" and I said "Everything." And I realized that I was actually talking about the Vietnam experience and the after experience. It wasn't supposed to be like it was supposed to be something different. I seem to be having a problem.

ROWELL: We can pause or we can keep going. It's up to you.

MCCLENAHAN: Umm no it's all right.

ROWELL: Take your time.

MCCLENAHAN: It wasn't supposed to be like that.


MCCLENAHAN: Um, you know, it it. You know, I guess that was the beginning of me finally discussing, um, things I had to discuss. You know, uh, I was, you know, I was over there in support of the guys, and they turned on me. And while some 04:24:00of them did, most of them were great. And, uh, I was supposed to be respected when I got home, and there were supposed to be. I don't know. It just. It wasn't supposed to be like that. None of it was supposed to be like. And so that was part of it. And then almost, almost at the same time, another key moment was I was working here at the Bechtel Power Corporation at the time, and my boss. Carolyn [Hellright??]. One day we were coming back. We had lunch every day or almost every day together, depending on what was happening. So we were coming back and we were on Market Street at Mission. Actually, I think, goes around [Ferrell??], so it would have been Beale Street.

ROWELL: In San Francisco?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, in San Francisco. So at the Market and Beale Street, anyway. And I was asking her some questions about something and she wasn't answering. 04:25:00And I finally said, "You know, Carolyn, I need your input. You're my best friend." And she stopped, grabbed my arm 'cause we were walking side by side and spun me around. And she said, "How dare you call me your best friend?" And I was startled. And she says, "I don't know anything about you. You talk all the time, but you never tell me anything." She says, "I don't know if you have family. I don't know if you like to travel. I don't even know what your favorite color is. So don't you dare say I'm your best friend." And she walked off and left me. And I stood there for a minute and I realized, no, I don't talk about anything that matters. I mean, anything personal. I you know, I was trying my best to keep everything hidden. And apparently I was doing a very good job. So I went back to the office and I stopped and I went by her door. I knocked on her door, "Come in." And then I opened it up and I said, Green, Kelly Green. That's my favorite color. And I closed the door and went back to my desk and sat down. And she came 04:26:00out a while later and said, "Would you like to go to supper or dinner tonight? And maybe you could elaborate a little bit, you know." And that was the beginning of of me starting to break through that wall a little bit. So with those things happening in a short period of time, things were starting to break out. And then as I said, so the vet center, meeting Carol Howard, working with Carolyn, uh, those things started to come out. Oh, gosh, I forgot something important. Just before I may have said this already on the tape, but just before I went to the the first meeting of the vets.


ROWELL: At the vet center?


ROWELL: At the vet center?

MCCLENAHAN: At the vet center. The woman I was living with at the time said to me, "Well, you're probably the only person there ever had a good time in Vietnam." And I looked at her stunned, and then I realized the only stories I had ever told her were the funny ones or the, you know, kind of, you know, 04:27:00whatever. And again, that was part of the whole thing. It was part of that, that the wall that was shutting everything down. So meanwhile, as I had mentioned earlier, I came back not believing in God anymore. So that idea of wanting to be a sister was wwwhhhttt. That ain't happening. And so there was a lot of, you know, those kinds of struggles going on. And it was during that time that I kind of realized that it really wasn't that I didn't believe in God anymore. I didn't believe in the God of my childhood, which kind of was a Santa Claus God. You know, if I do all the right things and I follow all the right rules, then good things will happen and God will protect me. And then when push came to shove, that didn't happen. So I was blaming God for that and realized, No, I'm going to blame the people who said that that was an absolute. 'Cause it isn't. It isn't 04:28:00at all. Anyway, so that freed me up to trying to develop my own new relationship. And that was when I really began to realize the difference between religion and spirituality. That religion is a set of rights and rituals and traditions that a group of people agree to and come together to praise the God of their common understanding. Whereas spirituality is each person's individual relationship with the God of their understanding, whatever that is. And so that was kind of their it looks like you want to ask a question.

ROWELL: Oh no, I'm no just listening, but, you know, um, uh.

MCCLENAHAN: I know I'm bouncing around that's the only way I can do this.

ROWELL: That's perfectly fine. Um, so just for to kind of place it in time about what, if we can? If we can?

MCCLENAHAN: [Laughs] If we can.


ROWELL: Do you remember when you started working at Bechtel?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, I started working at Bechtel in. Oh, gosh, what's that '74?

ROWELL: Okay. And what was. And do you remember about when you stopped working there?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I stopped working there in '88.

ROWELL: Okay. And you had cited that time as when you, as '88 is the year that you your recovery really started to kind of begin in a real strong [way??].

MCCLENAHAN: Well yeah. All right. There are several things that happened my last year at Bechtel. Well, a lot was happening at Bechtel. So.

ROWELL: And there were a lot of women vets there, is that correct?


ROWELL: Yeah, you [inaudible]?

MCCLENAHAN: No, there were two other women vets.

ROWELL: Oh, okay.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Chris, Chris and Linda. Both in the communications department as well. Uh, both have been army, and so they were both, you know, so it we kind of all got along and, you know, could talk the same lingo and all this stuff. 04:30:00Uh. Anyway, the, uh, God lost my track again.

ROWELL: '88, 1988.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. And then the California I don't remember. See my years are all messed up.

ROWELL: That's okay.

MCCLENAHAN: When the state of California finally decided that it was going to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial because of the 58,000 that were killed over there. More than 10 percent came from California. California had the highest number of casualties of killed in action, uh, than any other state. And among other things. And when we, a group of us went to when they were going to announce this group of us women vets from there, from the vet center, and we all 04:31:00had little buttons that said Vietnam vet on it. Anyway, uh, at one point when Senator, not Senator, um, Representative Floyd said something about, uh, he was talking about the commission that would be appointed, and I, I yelled out. Will there be a Vietnam veteran woman on this commission? And he said, "You bet your sweet bippy, sweetie." [Laughs] And I was--and you know, that was, that was deployed. Anyway, so I wrote a letter to, uh, Governor Deukmejian at the time asking that a woman be appointed. And, uh, I was surprised when I got a call from the governor's office asking if I would be willing to take the job or to be appointed, and if there was anything that would embarrass the governor. And I said at the time, I said, "Well, I'm a recovering alcoholic." 'Cause I was at 04:32:00that point. And he said, "Oh, they said, no, that's that's actually a good thing. That's fine." So they did. They appointed me. Um, they appointed me. So the--now I was still Lynn at this point. Remember the story of Lynn and Linda?

ROWELL: Yes, I do indeed.

MCCLENAHAN: I was still Lynn at this point, Lynn McClenahan. Everybody from my Bechtel days, they still call me Lynn. So, you know, when I'm in touch with anyone, they all call me Lynn.

ROWELL: You actually you identified yourself as Lynn when you interviewed for a Piece of My Heart, the book.


ROWELL: When you gave your interview.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, that was the that was the very first interview I did with anybody. And it was became a do a book. Yeah, a Piece of My Heart by Keith Walker, who was a Korean veteran. Anyway, and everything in here says, I think says Lynn. [Laughs] Spelled different ways. Some of it is L-I-N. Some of it is L-Y-N-N. But it's all Lynn.

ROWELL: I did see that. Yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: So I was I was still Lynn and when I went to the vet center I was 04:33:00still Lynn and all that stuff. So um, so the first meeting of the commission of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, um, it was I was, you know, we were talking about who is going to be the chair and I got nominated and I said, "Are you crazy? You know. No. I know you don't want to do that." And Dick Floyd, again with the cigar in the mouth, "Take it lady, it is either that or secretary and I know I hear from every goddamn feminist in the state. So, I did accept it, but I didn't want to. But I found out years later that the reason they all had talked ahead of time and decided I was the one to be the chair is because nobody knew me. I had no political baggage because like B.T. Collins, I. Definite political baggage. Leo [Thorstners??] definite, you know, all of the 04:34:00rest of the commission members. And people knew and they were, you know, they didn't want this thing to be political, which we didn't either. But, you know, so that was why they wanted me, because I was about as neutral as they could get. So nobody knew my politics. I had to keep those kinda to myself. But the thing about it is, because of the formality of the commission, I had to. I had to go back to using my whole name, which was Linda J. McClenahan. And so they were all calling me Linda again. And even though it still didn't feel right, I kind of got back into it a little bit. So I was now, Lynn, Linda, depending on what was going on. And remember, I think I said earlier that Lynn was a hard drinking, hard swearing, old, you know, Army sergeant. And I really didn't want to be Linda again. But but I had already done enough work that that this new 04:35:00version of Linda was at least tolerable in my mind. So. So that was part of it, too. Originally, the the memorial was supposed to take about three years and be about $50,000. It turned out taking, I think, seven years or eight, and it was 1.2 mil. I think it is second only to the Wall in Washington as far as memorials go. I was very proud to have been a part of that. And there are some interesting stories that could take forever to get to. But when we we had a contest for a design, we had, I think, 112 entries. Oh, and Phil Hitchcock from Sacramento State, who was the art director there. He set us up, in a, I don't know if it 04:36:00was a warehouse or in a building that had this empty floor. And they he and his his classes, they put all 112 designs and things around this room. And we this was and what we did was each of us went around, we didn't talk to each other. We each individually had our own notes and papers on that. And so we were going along. Oh, yeah. Yes. We were supposed to say absolutely no. Yes. Or maybe, you know, with different ones. And oh, at one point this was funny. And B.T Collins was well known in California, I don't think is known anywhere else. He was a Green Beret outrageous man, a Green Beret who wound up losing an arm or a leg when he was throwing a grenade and it went off prematurely. He lost his arm and 04:37:00his leg and he said he said, "It ruined my whole day." [Laughs] But anyway, so he had a hook. He was also known as Captain Hook and, of course, a prosthetic leg. But so at one point he was standing ahead of me and I'm looking at something and I'm trying to figure out how high this is. So I said, "B.T., how tall are you?" And he turned around, "With or without my leg?" [Both laugh] I said, "Aren't you the same height either way?" He says, "No, if I take my leg off, if I fall over, I'm only about two feet." [Laughs] Okay, wise guy with your leg. So, you know, he told me about I had six, you know, two or whatever it was anyway. He was always doing stuff like that. He was he was just oh, and he loved it when people would throw it back at him. At one of our meetings, we were doing 04:38:00something and he was trying to interrupt me on something. And I said, "B.T. when I need a can opener I'll call ya." And he laughed. He said, okay, you know. But he also loved to make people feel uncomfortable. We were at this meeting with somebody who was looking to either donate money or offering to do something. And he walked over to the coffee. Big production had come into the coffee and he started banging things like that. And he says, in his big voice "Obviously, this was designed for somebody with two good hands." And of course, the, you know, they all jumped up and they were all nervous and we all just looked at each other. You know. [Laughs] I'll tell you one other quick story about B.T. well, you know, and I might tell you lots of stories about B.T. Collins. Anyway, he, uh, at one point we were at a bar and I was now having a beer again once in a while, but he, uh. And I'll go back to the design in a minute. But we were at this bar and we walked up to the bar on this guy came over and he put down a 04:39:00pack of cigarettes in front of him, you know, brand new pack. B.T. looked at it and he at the guy and I could tell had done this before. So he picks it up with his hand, takes his hook, undoes the top, shakes out a cigarette, puts it in his mouth, puts it down, picks up a match with his hook, match it, lights it, puts it down with the hook, pulls the cigarette out, and it turns to the guy and say did I pass your fuckin' test. And the guy said, "You sure did." "See give me the 20 bucks." You know? [Laughs] You know, he had to put up with that kind of crap all the time. Okay. So we're at this thing and we're looking at all the designs and we came back down and we sat down and, you know, out, out, in, out, in. And each one of us had the right to if somebody said if, if, if most people said it was out and somebody really liked it, they could they could advocate for that particular design. Anyway, so we get down to maybe 50 of 'em and Phil says, 04:40:00okay, this time I want you to go around and list your top five. I just want to see if we're anywhere near each other. And the design that was chosen with the eight of us. Seven of us had the same one as number one. Which was that one. The other guy, had as his number two. And the only reason he had something different with number one is because even though we didn't know whose design was so he knew that that one was a friend of his. And so he he chose it for number one. Anyway, so that was decided. So and that was a big deal. That was a very, very big deal. And then we went through just tremendous problems with fundraising and, uh, uh, for a while, you know, eventually, of course, it all worked out and 04:41:00we wound up with an incredible memorial that's just, it's beautiful. And please, if anybody's listening to this look up the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Facebook, I mean, on Google, it's it's beautiful. And the centerpiece the centerpiece is the great--

ROWELL: He's right--right there, I think.

MCCLENAHAN: Ah, here it is. This is the centerpiece. And it is a soldier sitting at the base of the flagpole and he's sitting reading a letter from home with his M-16 between his knees. And you can read the letter. And I wrote the letter. So the letter says, it's page four and it says, "It was really funny, son. And your father and I thought of you immediately when we saw it. I wish you could have been there. I know you would have laughed yourself, silly. Well, I'll close now. The president said you might all be home for Christmas. Well, that would be the 04:42:00best. The best present of all. But regardless, you will be home in time for your 20th birthday. And your father's already planning the barbecue. Uh, yeah. Take care of yourself, Shawn, And don't be a hero. We don't need a Medal of Honor. We need our son. All our love, mom and dad.

ROWELL: Wow. You penned that.

MCCLENAHAN: I penned, that, I wrote the letter, but I also actually wrote it in the clay or, you know, like, five times for the the guy who was doing the construction because he he in case it broke in the in the in the kiln for whatever they were doing. So I wrote it a lot. That's part of the version I can remember. But I actually what I did was I took the lines from different letters. Real letters. Real letters. And then because all of the base reliefs on the California memorial are taken from actual pictures of Vietnam, except two we 04:43:00went through thousands and thousands of pictures to come up with. Yeah, I can't reach.

ROWELL: Yeah the in your shoulder. Yeah.

MCCLENAHAN: Thousands and thousands of pictures to choose wants to be the the on the four freestanding walls. There's a niche and those are full size statues. Uh, first one's the medic wall. Second one is the combat wall. The third one is the at rest wall. And the last one, what we call the POW wall. But it also, since most of the POWs were Air Force and Navy, they're it's all shrouded with Navy and Air Force base reliefs, small base reliefs, the only two that were not pictures were the POW in the cell. And that was done by the designer calling Leo Thorsness, who was the vice chair of the commission, who was not only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, but he was also a POW at the Hanoi 04:44:00Hilton for six and a half years. His comment was always something like, "Oh, you know, it wasn't too bad. The the torture stopped after two or three years." Yeah. But anyway, he talked with the designer and Michael Larson, who was one of the designers, Tom Chytrowski and Michael. But Mike called me afterwards and he said, when I hung up the phone after talking with Leo for an hour. He says, I throw up. He says so. So anyway, so. So the picture it's interesting because he's still wearing his wedding ring on the there. And Leo said they tried to take it off him, you know, and he wouldn't do it. And they were going to cut his finger off and he said he didn't care. He was not taking that ring off. And they finally gave up. And so he was one of the few that still had his ring on there. And um, they talked about the tap code. So if you look at the POW, if you're 04:45:00ever go there, the back wall has all kinds of things etched like the tap code, it has counting down days, it has, you know, different things that that that he told us about. So that was it. And then the other one on the medic wall is the nurse in triage and it the nurses actually Rose Sandecki's face, it is my fatigues that had been bronzed, Pam White's stethoscope and Pam White's boots. Pam White and Rose were both nurses in Vietnam and then I of course, was there. So my fatigues are on the statue there. And there's on the at rest panel. There's a picture of me and Penny Evans. She was a Red Cross gal in a jeep with a bunch of guys hanging all over the jeep. Alright, it's called Round Eyes In the Compound. And it's it's part of there to, so I'm I'm also my face is on 04:46:00there. It was interesting because I said to Ralph who did all the statues, I said to Ralph I said [inaudible]. Anyway I said to him, I said, "You took my glasses off." And he said, "Well, yeah, it was just easier." I said, "Well, if you took my glasses off, couldn't you have given me boobs." Because back then I was like 105 pounds and flat as a pancake. And he laughed. He said, "Well." Anyway. So, uh. And the triage we were trying to figure out, we had [Winny??] Smith and Rose and Pam as we were trying to figure out how to do this, because they said that they were behind the thing and that Ralph did not want the nurse behind the the the gurney that the, what are those things called?

ROWELL: A stretcher.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, the stretcher. I'm sorry. Anyway, so we were talking out and I said to I don't know if you can get this, but I said to oh I said when I said 04:47:00"Wait a minute, if you were out doing triage and there were a bunch of people laid out and you were working with this guy, but he needed an I.V. and somebody was bringing you the I.V., what would you do?" And she turned around and she did this. Yeah. You know, boom. And that's the that's what you see.


MCCLENAHAN: So she's in front of the stretcher with a guy who's a double amputee. And I love the fact that they did him with his head up off the stretcher, because when those guys came in, if they were conscious at all, they were trying to see what was going on. Yeah, it was. So yeah, it's it's an incredible memorial. It really is. And it was something else to be part of. I almost committed suicide during that because at one point B.T. was all mad about something and he was going to resign from the commission. And I was talking with the governor's office and I was talking with I don't know, we were just anything 04:48:00try to get them to not do that because he was such a well known name that if he had resigned, people would stop giving and the whole project would have fallen apart. So you know, anyway, we talked him into staying.

ROWELL: Was that project really parallel to your personal recovery and transformation into the new Linda?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, yes. There was a lot of things that that roll right along and are part of the reason that that I was able to, you know come home. I think you know on the dedication day, which was December 10th, 1988. I was. It actually wasn't finished until '91. But uh, anyway, but it was far enough along that we could dedicate it. I'm sorry we didn't turn it over to the state until December '91, but it was finished in '90. But we had other things we had to finish up. But yeah, and the day of the dedication there were several things. One, we did a 04:49:0021-gun salute and it was a full 21 firing with 16 inch howitzers. We warned everybody. We warned everybody. And it was it was powerful. And then we had the double taps, you know, the echo taps anyway. But there were like 80,000 people there that day. And so, like I said to somebody, people ask me how I'm able to be such a calm public speaker. And I said, "Listen, when you've talked, when you've made a speech in front of 80,000 people, everything else is a piece of cake." But I was very, very nervous. I mean, you know, if you ever watch the old video, it's like you can tell I'm extremely nervous. But one of the things that I said there is, is I talk about being the chairman of the commission and and keeping the view of women's service, you know, the forefront and how it was wonderful traveling up and down the state, meeting so many vets and families of 04:50:00vets. The Gold Star Mothers were wonderful all the way through. Vets were amazing. I talked about Dave Spencer in a wheelchair, down just lots of things. And and then at the end I said, "So that's how I feel. As you know, the chairman of the commission. And then I put my hat on my boonie hat and I said, "But as a Vietnam veteran who put up with all that nonsense that we did when we came home, I look at this memorial and all I can say is, thank you." Yeah, I remember that very clearly because that's where it was. And it was yeah, it's an amazing memorial and it was amazing to be part of. It was extraordinary to be part of. But there were so many difficult times. I came home one time I was doing a TV 04:51:00show up in Sacramento on the memorial before it was, you know, part of the fund raising thing. And I had had a really bad day with my psychologist, and I cried all the way up. And I was sitting in the car outside the studio just sobbing, and sobbing, and sobbing. And finally it was almost time to go in. So I went and went to the restroom, washed my face as best I could, and walked in. And if you watch that interview, you can't tell a damn thing. I was. I'm on, you know. And so I you know, I learned again, it was part of knowing how to stuff things when I had to. And that. So lots of things, you know, that helped. Now, the whole idea of the sister being a sister, I had come back to God to a point. You know, I was still trying kind of pissed at him, but I came back to God and to a point and and I was still getting this gnawing feeling about being a sister. But, you 04:52:00know, I wasn't even a Catholic anymore. I was, you know, as a matter of fact, what I started doing was I started church shopping. I, I went to the Presbyterians, I went to the spiritualist, I went to the Quakers, I went to the Mormons, I went to Lutherans. I went to, you know, every possible church there was and finally, finally, finally decided to come home to the church of my childhood. But this was after Vatican II. So it was very different than the church I left. So anyway, that was part of it. So I did go talk to a priest that somebody ever recommended and spent a lot of time talking back and forth. And then another thing happened. I left Bechtel and oh, good friend of my Sister 04:53:00Joann Martin [Fixa??], Dominican sister from Mission San Jose, who was originally going to be my sponsor yes or whatever you call it, it was going to help me to get into the mission San Jose Dominicans. She called and said that they needed a they're going to start a softball team and they needed a softball coach. So I was still working at Bechtel, but I was also then the softball coach. Loved it. Just loved our first year in the league and we won the championship. I love coaching. It was great. It was great coaching is teaching and I love the game and I was teaching mostly teaching the girls how to love it too. And when you love it, you play well. It's just, you know, so it was it was great. I remember one time we were down at practice and Gabby [Hurt??]. She lived across the street from the field that we were at the, you know, Ralph Park. And her brother came down and was watching it. And and I overheard this 04:54:00conversation behind me as we're doing things. And he says, "You got a lousy coach." And and Gabby turned around said, "What?" She says, you got a lousy coach. She says, "We're in first place." He says, "Well, she's terrible. She's letting you guys get away with all kinds of mistakes out there. She thought, yelling at you or anything." And Gabby says, "We're in first place." And he said, "You know, I don't know why you'd be doing so well, because, you know, you've really got a lousy coach." And Gabby looked at him and just says, "Listen, we're in first place. Go away." [Laughs] And, you know, because it was things like, you know, I hit a shot up the middle, and Erin Murphy went charging down there and got to the ball, which was right up the middle. She got to the ball, but her glove was closed. And so it bounced off her glove. So I said to her, "Great job, Erin, you got to the ball. Most people can't even do that next time open your glove." So did I yell at her? You know, no, I'm teaching her the game. You know, I used to tell 'em high five, you know with the glove, high five 04:55:00the ball, high five, low five. That's how you catch it. Your gloves got to be open. And then anyway, so lots of other things too. You know, it was just I just loved coaching loved playing. And, so there was, there was that. So then the P.E. teacher of the time, left under very weird circumstances, but she left. And so Sister Joan Martin, who was the principal of the school, offered me the job. I, of course, have a degree. I got my undergraduate degree from Antioch University. And then anyway.

ROWELL: When was that?


ROWELL: When was that?

MCCLENAHAN: I don't know. [Laughs]

ROWELL: Somewhere intervening years?

MCCLENAHAN: Somewhere in those 80s, you know. [Laughs]

ROWELL: Do. And the degree. What was that degree in?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I had a degree in business administration with a minor in psychology. So naturally, when I teach the school, I was going to teach P.E. 04:56:00Drivers Ed and Health. [Laughs]

ROWELL: Naturally.

MCCLENAHAN: Inner city small Catholic school. Anyway. But so that brought me back into being with all these sisters at the school and that. And so that was where I went back and I was talking to the priest about you know. And I did rejoin the Catholic Church officially. I guess it was interesting because the priest, I finally said, Well, what do I need to do to come back to the church completely? He says, "Well, you need to make a full confession and go to communion within 24 hours." Said, "Okay, I can do that." I said "A full confession, huh?" And he says, "Yeah, you want to do that now?" And I said, "Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been about 20 years since my last confession. You better sit down." [Laughing] And so off we went. So it was. It 04:57:00was quite something. And, yeah, as I said, the time frames on all this stuff, everything was happening kind of all inter-meshed. So anyway, so I was back and I actually started in what we call discernment with the Mission San Jose Dominicans. To join the community there. But after a few years, realized we weren't we weren't really clicking well. And so they asked me to break it off. And I was I was I was very upset, very crushed. But it was like, "See, I told you it ain't happin' God." But then then, um, I was correcting papers one night. Just simple. True, False. True, false. So it was pretty but I didn't need pay to pay attention. And I was watching. I turn on the TV and I was goin' to watch something inane that I could, you know, and I went past just as 60 minutes as, 04:58:00you know, sometimes the voice of God sounds like Harry Reasoner. I flip by just as Harry Reasoner was saying. Remarkable group of sisters in Tutwiler, Mississippi. And I went past it and I stopped and I thought, wait a minute, I wonder what that's about and flipped back. And he was talking about this amazing group of sisters in Tutwiler, Mississippi. So I was over I wrote our check as a donation, and I sent a letter saying I had just been looking at a community to join. And it didn't work out with where I was looking. Could they tell me a little bit about their community? Well, it turned out that there was the group of sisters was from like five different communities. And one of the sisters, Sister Joanne Blooming, was a Racine, Wisconsin, Dominican. And so she got my letter and she wrote me back and she said, I given her name to our vocation 04:59:00director. And I thought Racine, Wisconsin, why would I go to Wisconsin? I am a Californian. You know jees, that's not going to happen. So I kind of put that off. Now, again, another coincidence, Caroline [Helrich??] and I, by this time we're going. Even though I wasn't working at Bechtel anymore, we would still meet every Friday evening to have supper together and sometimes see a movie, whatever else. Well, I would just put my coat on to go and the phone rang and it was Carolyn telling me that she wasn't feeling well. I said, "Okay, fine." So I hung up, came back, took my coat off, the phone rang again, and it was Sister Diane [Peplowski??] from the vocation director from the Racine Wisconsin Dominicans. And she wanted to just ask me a couple of questions. 45 minutes later, we realized that we were clicking pretty well. So she says to me, In another couple of weeks, October and another couple of weeks, we're having a 05:00:00retreat weekend for women who were interested in joining. It was called "Choices of the Heart" She said "Would you be able to come?" And I said, "No, I can't afford it. I went from a I went from a $50,000 a year job at Bechtel to a 11,520 hour, I mean, a year salary at that ICA. [Laughs] So I was like, I can't afford that." And she said, "Well, that's fine. I'll send you the information." I said, "Great." So I hung up the phone. The next day in the mail, I got a letter from a woman friend caller that I served with at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to whom I have loaned money so she could fly home for Christmas that year. And she finally tracked me down and sent me a check for $300 to pay me back. So suddenly I had money to go to Wisconsin. And I'm still saying I don't want to go to Wisconsin. You know. So anyway, I called, you know, Diane back and and came out for the 05:01:00"Choice of Heart" weekend and felt very comfortable still grousing, but things just seemed to fall into place. So the next thing I know. Oh, I was throwing all the, you know, the psychology tests. I was filling out the applications, filling out, you know, all that stuff. And and then. And that was okay. So Choice of the Heart was in October. That December was when we turned over the California memorial to the state. So I was now free from that, which turned over the state and also set aside $50,000 for future maintenance, which apparently has disappeared. So we're having a little problem with that. That's it. So I'm still involved with the California memorial. Because there's, you know, issues come up, you know, like like there's repairs that need to be made and where's the 05:02:00money to do it? So that's a whole different story. But anyway, so I'm still involved with it. And so that April, I came again back to Wisconsin to have the interviews with the execs. All that stuff. And they told me at the time they invited me to join with them, to journey with them into the future. And I said, Yeah, I do not want to move to Wisconsin, but everything else fit. So Wisconsin, it is so so I came out here and that was in 1991, maybe '90, '91. And so first years candidate you're a postulate, second year was novitiate, went to the common novitiate for the Dominicans down in St. Louis and you know got involved in one of the things that I did then was also went to University of Wisconsin at 05:03:00Whitewater to finish, see, I was hoping to go to teach at St Catherine's High School, which is, you know, our community's high school and, and, uh, I couldn't because I didn't have a Wisconsin teaching certificate. And in order to get one, it would take like two years or more of, of things. It was like it was ridiculous. So I was all depressed and one of the advisers said, You realize that you could have a masters in guidance and counseling and in those same two years. So [pffffttt] So I went ahead and went to Whitewater and got my master's in guidance and counseling, and then with a specialty in trauma and started working with kids. Kids who are traumatized, kids work out trauma in play. And I 05:04:00retired when I could no longer get off the floor. When I was playing with them on the floor, I couldn't get up anymore. So but that was a great, you know, 15, 16 years that I did that I loved it. But I also was meeting with veterans who did not go to the VA and trust the VA. Meanwhile, I was also seeing, I finally had gone back to the V.A., trying it again. And I had a counselor who suggested that I put in for a disability with post-traumatic stress. And I did. First thing I got up was like 20%. So we appealed that. Then it got to 50% and we appealed that. And the long and the short is eventually now, I'm 70%, but I'm unemployable. Now, mind you, I was employed at my own schedule. I could make my 05:05:00own appointments. I could make my own schedule. And the vets that I had been seeing, it was working. And then another thing happened. I was reading, I think it was the NPR. No, NPR is the National Public Radio. What's N-P-- anyway. NCR? Yes. National Catholic Reporter. And there was an ad in there looking for ministerial veterans. There was a group called the National Conference of War Veteran Ministers. No, the National Conference of Vietnam Veteran Ministers. That was the original. Yeah, the National Conference of Vietnam Veterans War Ministers. So I checked in to them and was told that you had to be ordained to be in the group, but I could be an auxiliary member. Well, I wrote a letter to 05:06:00Father [Philip Salois??], who was the president at the time. And I said to him, because I'm denied by my church to ever be ordained, I figured that my brothers in arms would at least see past that. But since you don't, I will continue to pray for what you're doing. And thank you very much. Well, he sent something out to their whole membership and except for one vote, they decided to change the bylaws so that if somebody was in a full time religious ministry, whether it was ordained or not, that they could be a full member. So I did join them. They had put together, or were putting together, this whole retreat thing for veterans and their significant others basically on post-traumatic spiritual disorder, 05:07:00which is basically, see, what had happened is this group started because anytime ministers or chaplains, either people who are chaplains in Vietnam and they'd come home, or people who had come home and become ministers of some sort, every time they joined any kind of a VA group or a vet center group or anything else, that people found out that they were a minister, "Father, can I talk to you for a minute?" Or that kind of thing. So they really felt like they couldn't be their own people. So that was why they kind of started this group, to get together, and then they helped each other out with the spirituality aspect of all that. And then they realized, wait a minute, everybody might be suffering from this post-spiritual disorder. So they started this whole retreat. Now, we stopped doing that with them. Well, I don't know, about 10, 12 years ago, but I 05:08:00continued through this [inaudible] ministry down in Illinois [holds up poster]. And I still do this. I still do these retreats.

ROWELL: Do you want me to bring it up closer, just so we can see?

MCCLENAHAN: I still do these retreats with a co-facilitator and we work on all kinds of things. I say that the agenda is always basically the same. We set the agenda and then we get the hell out of God's way. And I use some work from The Way of the Wound by Robert Grant, where he talks about society or our homes are in a box and we're all in there and we all agree to the same kind of rules and whatever. But what happens is when somebody goes through a trauma and they realize that something in here isn't true, we're out of the box and we're not 05:09:00accepted back into the box. So we want to go back in the box because that's where everybody is, but we can't get in there. And so I talk about what happens in trauma, the loss of trust. You know, that everything that we believed in was no longer true. And in my case, too, we had nothing to replace it with. So what do we do? And then eventually look at the idea that we got to stop looking and focus in on the box and look outside the box because there's a whole mess of us out here. And if we connect with each other and help each other, then what happens is we can create a bridge that goes back in, or we can go back in for school and work and basic life, but then come back out when we need to connect with people that get it. And it's now no longer a box. It's like a squiggle because it's very fluid, it can move and adapt and trying to talk to somebody, I 05:10:00mean, trying to say this in a few seconds what goes on in a whole weekend is a little different. But there's a whole process that we do there, including using scriptures. We change the scriptures around. Perspective. So like, for instance, the story of Peter's denial where Peter denies knowing Jesus at the crucifixion. We updated that to PFC Peter [Sink??] was very attached to his friend in the squad. But one day his friend was blown up by an IED. But rather than acknowledge a certain pain, he denies it and denies that they were friends. And later, he feels extreme guilt. So we look at it. So we look at the guilt, denial, shame, abuse of power, you know, things like that from that. And then we 05:11:00go into the Psalms, which legitimize feelings. Well, my favorite is Psalm 38, which, depending on the translation, the one that just hit me right away and not so much is "I roar with anguished heart." I was so angry at everything and everybody, I roar with anguished heart, and so that helped me realize, and actually in my studies for counseling and guidance and psychology, discovered that, not discovered, but realized that anger is always, I repeat, anger is always a second emotion. There's something we feel first that we don't want to feel so we go to anger for one reason or another. With me, it was intense sadness. And for others, it can be frustration. It can be fear. Fear is another 05:12:00big one. So, it got to the point where like sitting around sometimes with Sister Barbara and I'd be angry about something or she says, "Okay, you're angry. What's really going on?" You know, because we knew that-- and there are all kinds of different things. My road rage was unbelievable. I mean, everybody's is nowadays. But there was a time when it was just a few of us were nuts. Anyway, another funny story. I was in San Francisco. I was driving up Portola Drive. It was like one in the morning. No other cars on there. Fog is coming in. You can hardly see anything anyway. And this guy comes barreling up alongside me and he cuts me off. I mean, there are two lanes. He didn't have to do that. And I thought, well, you know, f-you, and I pulled out and I charged up and I pulled 05:13:00in front of him, and so we got this battle going as we're charging up Portola Drive heading up Twin Peaks, and then all of a sudden, as he pulled in front of me one more time, I see the bumper sticker that he's a Vietnam vet! I hadn't put my sticker on yet. It was still in my glove compartment. So I open my glove compartment, I pull out my sticker and I pull up alongside him and he flips me off and I show him the thing and he looks and he says, "You?" I said, "Yeah!" And he gives me one of these [thumbs up gesture] and I give him one of these [thumbs up gesture] and we wave at each other and we go out perfectly fine. [Laughs] [inaudible] but it worked, it was fine. It was great. So I feel most comfortable in my life with a bunch of vets. I do. I was lucky that I was always able to separate the men who attacked me from all the other guys. I think part 05:14:00of it was because of where I worked, the 50 guys that I worked with at the comm center. They were great. We all had a job to do. We did it. We respected each other. We took care of each other. I was not one of those people that-- whatever. Anyway. But I mean, that kind of takes us up to where we are now with-- so now you can go back and ask whatever questions you want to ask to fill in whatever gaps you think there are.

ROWELL: Sure, yeah. So before we do that, I think let's just take a quick break.

MCCLENAHAN: We can take a break.

ROWELL: This ends segment seven of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 12th, 2022.

MCCLENAHAN: Mm-hm. Okay.

ROWELL: All right. So this begins segment eight of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 12th, 2022. You brought an object that you want to discuss.


MCCLENAHAN: I mentioned a few times that I had some suicidal issues occasionally. I have a mantra that has kept me alive. And the mantra-- this is in [holds up ball] you can hold that up close to it, it's in Latin.

ROWELL: Oh, I got it. [laughs]

MCCLENAHAN: And if you look it up, basically it's Latin for "Don't let the bastards win." And don't let the bastards win, I realize that if I check out, if I choose suicide, that Tony and his friends win. I'm not letting the bastards win. So that has kept me alive for lots of years and has gotten me through multiples of things. I tell that story at the retreats and I give these out to everybody because I said we all have bastards. Whether it was the government or 05:16:00people in your life or whatever. Don't ever let the bastards win. [laughs]. Okay.

ROWELL: Thank you. So on the topic of the retreats.


ROWELL: Yeah. How long did it take to develop the retreats that you do now?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, well, it's like I said, it started with the National Conference of War-- Vietnam Veteran Ministers, which morphed into the International Conference of War Veteran Ministers, because we had members from all over all over the world in Australia, England, Ireland, Bosnia, Africa. So, you know, different places. Russia and Canada. We started, we modified as we moved along and then-- we do it and then modify it as we need it to, as we moved along. Alan 05:17:00and Phil, and Jack and I-- no, it wasn't Phil, Alan and Jack and I went up to Canada to do a presentation with a lot of the soldiers from Iraq from Canadian Forces and that was interesting and they gave us some really good feedback at different times. So there's that.

ROWELL: So, what do you feel for yourself as kind of sort of the most important takeaways or most important pieces of those sessions, those retreats, for soldiers that regardless of their spiritual orientation.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. One, it gives them permission to look for the God of their understanding or maybe find God in a different way in their lives. The other thing is, as I said, it's actually a way to look at post-traumatic stress through a spiritual lens, which basically is just a way to-- so it's kind of new 05:18:00stuff, but it isn't. But it helps people do that. Now, most of us know the characteristics of post-traumatic stress, but the characteristics of post-traumatic spiritual issue is that it's loss of voice, keeping secrets and isolation. And one of the things that happens in the group, and people don't have to, they do not have to say a word the whole time, they have that option. But when people share their sacred story, what's happening is that they are-- oh, moth. What they are doing is they're finding their voice, they're no longer keeping secrets, and they are no longer isolated, because they're with other people. Yeah, sorry about that.

ROWELL: That's okay, it will probably be a fan of the lights there.


MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Yeah. He wants to come in when I have the door open. Yeah. Sorry about that.

ROWELL: That's okay, no worries. Not at all.

MCCLENAHAN: Anyway, yeah. So by sharing the story in a safe environment and not being judged at all, there's no-- being accepted as they are has been very, very helpful. And as I say, it's not only for the veteran, but for the veteran and a significant other. And oftentimes a couple of things that happen out of that is the significant other who, originally, when I go around, say things like, "Well, I'm just here for him or her," we do have had women vets with a significant other, sometimes I have couples where they're both veterans. That's true, too. But anyway, "I'm just here for him or her". And then what happens is they share their viewpoint from being on the other side of this post-traumatic stress. And sometimes the veteran is like, "Well, you never told me that." And so it gets them talking in new ways that are good. But oftentimes the significant other 05:20:00says, "I thought it was just him. It's not. It's all of you, isn't it? So, this is really more than just him being a jerk." [laughs] Yes. It's more than him being a jerk. So, those kinds of things are always helpful.

ROWELL: Do you feel comfortable talking about any maybe of your own experiences with interpersonal relationships in the way that your experience as a vet affecting those relationships has impacted your work in the retreats?

MCCLENAHAN: Actually, not really. I've had some relationships off and on. I don't think any of them were really deep. I was pretty superficial, I think. Some of the people with whom I've been friends, certainly from people I served 05:21:00with in Vietnam or afterwards, or a lot of the vets that I've become really close to, those relationships are really powerful. And that's where I'd like to stay. Although I will point out that the very first time one of our sisters was-- one of the things that happens with our sisters is when they get to the point where we know the end is near, we have this ritual that we do. We sing the Salve and there's prayers that we do with them. And then somebody stays with that sister 24/7. We switch around, you sign up for a half hour, an hour at a time, and somebody is with that person. So that they're not alone. And one of those first experiences that I had was with a sister in her 80s at the hospital. At one point she asked me if I would rub her feet. And so I did. I was down 05:22:00there with the lotion and I was rubbing her feet and I thought, you know, there's more intimacy for me rubbing the feet of the stroked out 87-year-old sister than there ever was with anybody that I was ever with in an intimate fashion. So it was like, wow, you know, it was a different kind of thing. And then there's two stories about, again, women veterans and that. I was back in Washington, D.C. for the dedication of the Women's Memorial [inaudible]. Two things out of there. One was a bunch of us were at a bar one night, we were all talking and just sitting around a table, there's about 12 of us at the table and drinking and talking. I was having soda at that point because I was sober at 05:23:00that point. But this guy came over and he says, "I can tell by listening to you that you're all veterans, right?" We said Vietnam. He says, "Vietnam veterans drive me crazy." He says, "I'm fed up with you. I'm fed up with you Vietnam veterans." Why? He says, "It was only a lousy year out of your life and yet you talk about it like it was some big deal." And he went back to the bar and several people were getting angry. And I said, "Let me handle this." So I took my soda and I went over and I sat down next to him and I said, "You know, I got to tell you, you're right. It was only a year. So we'll put that aside for a minute." I said, "Are you from here? I mean, most of us are traveling. Are you from here?" "Yeah," he says, "I grew up--" you know, wherever it was. And I said, "So you went to grammar school and high school here?" "Yeah, I was in high school at--" blah, blah, blah, whatever it was. And I said, "Oh, man, high school. I remember high school. The dances and proms and the sports things." I 05:24:00said, "Did you play sports?" And he says, "Oh, yeah." I said, "So your senior year was pretty good, huh?" He says, "Oh yeah, my senior year was great. Yeah." And he starts to talk about it and I said, "Tell you what I want you to do. I want you to forget that year." "What?" "I want you to absolutely forget your senior year in high school." "Well, I can't do that." I said, "Isn't that interesting? And yet you want us to forget a year and your year was pleasant." And I got up and walked away. He bought a round of drinks for the table. [laughs] So, that was one thing. Another was we had at one of the nearest hotels we had a room for the women could come and stay. And one time I walked in and somebody yelled, "Hey, Mac, could you kill somebody?" And I said, "Yeah, what's going on? Who do you need?" I said, "Yeah." And this woman who was holding a 05:25:00piece of paper, and I finally realized she was a reporter. She says, "That's amazing. That's just amazing." And I said, "What is going on?" And she says, "I've been asking every woman that comes in here if she's a veteran and I say, 'Could you kill somebody?' She says yes. And every other person says, 'well, if somebody was attacking my children, or if it was somebody I loved or if--', you know, they always put qualifiers on it. You all don't bother with that." And I said, Because we know the truth." War brings out the best in people and the worst in people. Sometimes the same person on the same day. We know what human beings are capable of. We know what we ourselves are capable of. Would I kill somebody. I hope to heck not. Could I? Yes. So it was an interesting thing that she had discovered here. So then another time, the first reunion I was with with 05:26:00the women Vietnam veterans non-nurses. Again, came out to a group of people who were outside smoking and somebody said, this was Gail Nelson, she said, "Mac, you'd die for me, wouldn't you?" I said, "Of course I would." And she said, again, one of the husbands was, "Wow, that's amazing. I don't know who I'd die for." But we all would do that. So, weird little things like that, you know? So, we are different. We are different. Not necessarily better or worse. We're just different because we have a knowledge about ourselves and we have a knowledge about human beings in the worst situations, which I think-- I don't know, I don't know if that makes us more rounded people or certainly doesn't make us better. It just makes us a little different. Out of the box.


ROWELL: So you mentioned that you feel most maybe at home or at ease with other veterans largely in your life. Can you talk about the way that you were able to build fellowship with your sisters, Dominican sisters?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, yeah, Again, it's a little bit with that again, but with the sisters, it's a camaraderie of I don't want to say spirituality exactly but we're free-- you see, with veterans, you're free to say pretty much-- with the sisters I'm free to talk about religion or God or aspects of that without-- in regular and again, civilian life, but lay life, if you are with a bunch of friends and all of a sudden you said, "Can we talk about your relationship with God?" They would look at you like you're out of your freaking mind, right? I can do that with the sisters. And it is an important relationship in my life. So we 05:28:00do kind of do that. Our prayer life together is is very enriching. And part of what the prayer life-- well, you know, and Barbara and I would pray together, we would read the Gospel and then we would share insights of that Gospel with each other. And sometimes we talk about homilies or other things like that. So in that kind of level of sharing and connection.

MCCLENAHAN: Would you like to talk about who Barbara is?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, and ministries.

ROWELL: Ah, that as well, yes.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Ministries is another way that we connect because we're very involved with various kinds of ministries and mission.

ROWELL: Do you want to say more about those?

MCCLENAHAN: No, not really.

ROWELL: Yeah. Would you like to talk about who Barbara is?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, Barbara. Sister Barbara was the formation director when I first came to the community. We hit it off immediately. Just her sense of humor and whatever. We just hit it off immediately. So when I was down at the novitiate 05:29:00the first time and was sent back because I was drinking and then took care of that problem and went back to the novitiate the second time. Anyway, when I came back the first time I was pulled out of the house I was living in and moved into a house with a group of sisters that were very supportive, which included Barbara. It was also Rita and Grace and Chris and B. We just did well together. And eventually Barbara and I moved out, so we've been best friends for 31 years when she was diagnosed with bone cancer last year and she just died last May. She was in terrible, terrible, terrible pain. So I'm very happy for her and I 05:30:00was very lost myself for a while because she was such a vital part of my life. But I'm doing better now.

ROWELL: Thank you for that. You mentioned briefly to me that you yourself received a cancer diagnosis at one point.


ROWELL: Was that, in your estimation, was that service connected? Do you wish to talk about it?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I can tell you that they were spraying Agent Orange all over the place. One of the [inaudible] members said I said in one of her interviews, it wasn't like we women were walking around with little umbrellas that said, "Woman, Do Not Spray". [laughs] However, women were not included in any of the Agent Orange studies because [making air quotations] "there weren't enough of us", which is crap. And one of the things that we're aware of from some of the get togethers that we've had with the women, both nurses and non-nurses, is it seems like the rate of, especially breast cancer, like were one and two as 05:31:00opposed to one in four or one in five, I think, which is what the national average is. We also have other issues, digestive issues and neurological issues. So there's cancer, you know, and other skin cancers and other cancers. I had a malignant melanoma taken off my back that was found by accident by a very alert nurse. I was in the office on a Tuesday. That Tuesday night the doctor called me at home. By Friday I was in surgery having it come out and the doctor said it was already bigger than what the original biopsy said. So it was moving fast. It took 16 stitches. Eight stitches deep and eight stitches on the skin on the 05:32:00surface. The only real problem I've have with that since, I mean, I've had a lot of precancerous things taken off, but the only thing is, is they won't let me donate blood anymore, and I'm frustrated about that. It's been over 30 years. So I'm not happy about that. Because I know how important giving blood is. And so I was always a very frequent donor.

ROWELL: In Vietnam as well, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Mm-hm. Yeah.

ROWELL: Would you like to talk about any of your other experiences with the VA or any knowledge you have proximal to the VA?

MCCLENAHAN: The VA, at least here in Zablocki, when I went to talk to the advocates over at the office, they were all great. They were all wonderful. They helped me with my claim. They helped me with follow up. They helped me all the 05:33:00way through it. So it's a very different thing. I probably shouldn't say this, but as much as I think everyone at the Zablocki VA is very, very good, I don't think that the orthopedics group is good. I've had a couple of really bad experiences of the orthopedic group. Everybody else has been great. Tomorrow I'm having a shoulder replacement and it's not at the VA. I didn't get my knees done at the VA, but I've had every other, everything else that's been done at the V.A. And I do appreciate them very much.

ROWELL: Are either of those injuries service connected?


ROWELL: Just different. And then you also, talking about veteran involvement, you also work with HOPES organization. Would you like to talk about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, it's not really a veterans thing. The HOPES Center, which is one of the-- [phone ringing]


ROWELL: We can pause.

MCCLENAHAN: Just pause.

ROWELL: All right. This begins segment eight of the interview-

MCCLENAHAN: 8-B. [laughs]

ROWELL: 8-B or segment nine of the interview with Linda McClenahan on December 12th, 2022. We were discussing your work with HOPES.

MCCLENAHAN: Right. The Sisters of St. Dominic have five ministries right now. St. Catherine's High School, which I think now has gone to the diocese, if I'm not mistaken. But we have the Echo Justice Center, which is a farm that is totally set up ecologically, but wonderful. It's a great place to visit. Then we have the senior companion program, which provides visitors and contacts for seniors, everything from shopping to just calling people on the phone or check in on them. And the retreat center, which is wonderful, has retreats for just 05:35:00about everything you could possibly ask for. It's a great place to come and have a retreat. And then the HOPES Center. Oh, I forgot Bethany Apartments. Bethany Apartments is a transitional facility where women who are abused and their children can come and stay for up to two years while they get everything back together. And they have a lot of resources and help that they can do. The HOPES Center, which is an acronym, and the whole "HOPES" is, provide services for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. If we get vets in there occasionally, I'll talk to them and either help direct them to other places or not, depending on how they are or what they want. I have the greatest title right now. Right now my title is I am the Director of Miscellaneous Services, which means I do whatever. Whether it's changing lights or changing locks on 05:36:00doors or changing doors completely, painting, inventory, I mean, anything at all. I signed checks too for the-- Years ago, I was working with a guy, a wonderful guy named Bill Scalba [??] and Sharon Peez [??], and some other people who were great, out at the-- what was it called? Vets Place. Vets Place? Yeah. And that provided services for homeless vets. And so I worked out there as-- I would do classes and I would do various other things with the guys, a little counseling, but classes on that. And the classes were-- I'd always put up on the sign of what the classes were going to be like. One time it was "Another Fucking Anger Management Class." And that was how I put it up there, because I know they 05:37:00had all had anger management classes and I wanted to point out that this one was going to be different. [laughs] So like for instance, we were practicing with two guys and I said, "Suppose you and I were in an argument," I said, "What are you going to do to handle it?" She said, "Well, I could journal." I said, "What are you goin' to do? Stop it in the middle and say, 'Excuse me a second, I got to go journal'?" "Well, no." I said, "Let's talk real. What would you--" So we talk about different things and we talked about of an event happening and then we have a feeling about that event and then we have an action that we take as a regard to that event. And the question is, are we going to act or are we going to react? Are we going to respond or react? So talking about how that goes different. And it was interesting, like, for instance, I said, "So you're walking down the hall and you see Charlie's coming off the other end of the hall, you say, 'Hey, Charlie'. And he walks right by you. And you turn around and you think, 'Well, that's unusual.'" And I said, "So now you go into a 05:38:00feeling of, 'What did you do that for? What did I do to him? What's going on?' So you turn around and you yell, 'Charlie, what the hell?' You know, what? And Charlie turns around and he looks at you blankly for a minute and says, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I just got off the phone. My brother died.' And you feel like, 'Oh, God.'" I said, "It's the same scenario. You're walking down the hall. 'Hey, Charlie.' Charlie ignores you and walks on by and you think, 'That's really not like Charlie. What gives with that? Oh, wait a minute. Something must have happened because this is not like Charlie. Charlie, you okay?' Big difference." I said, "One's a response, one's a reaction." So we talked about that and different things. And then we talked about living skills, basically living skills, resilience. And a little bit of variety. We did all kinds of things. It was really, really very good. I really liked my time out there a lot. But I 05:39:00moved on to a different position in a different time. Like I said earlier, I have lived many lives and I have done many ministries, so I have a little of everything. And I'm still amazed I'm alive. I really am. I'm still here. It was interesting, one of my theology teachers, Sister Catherine Hilkert, Dominican from Akron, Ohio, I think. She was a teacher at the Aquinas Institute of Theology down in St. Louis. And she left eventually to become a tenured professor at Notre Dame talking about the Trinity. This is how brilliant this woman is. But anyway, this one class was on Christology and she was kind of going around and like, for instance, she started out the first day and she looked over and she pointed at me and she says, "Who are you?" I said, "I'm 05:40:00Linda McClenahan." She said, "No you're not. Who are you?" "Well, I'm Adam Smith." "No you're not." And she would do this and we're all looking at her like, what gives? And she says, and she came back and she says, "You're not Linda McClenahan until the moment you die. Until then, you're still becoming Linda McClenahan." And I was like, "Oh, okay." [laughs] So what an interesting way to remind us that we are in constant evolving, potentially, so to pay attention and keep moving and doing the best we can. It's okay to rest, but keep trucking. Keep on trucking. And don't let the bastards win. [laughs]

ROWELL: Are there any other ministries or work with vets specifically that you like to talk about?

MCCLENAHAN: Like I said, I've done a lot of individual work with veterans. I've also done work with Gold Star Mothers and of course, Gold Star parents or people 05:41:00who lost somebody in the service. Gold Star Moms for somebody who is currently serving in the military and no Blue Star mom wants to be a Gold Star mom, but that happens. Gold Star families. I've done a number of speaking engagements with that. I've done speaking engagements. I've done speeches on women in service to America from the American Revolution to Afghanistan, still an afterthought in history. I've done speeches on women vets in general in different ways, statistically, like what's happening now with a lot of women vets. I've done Memorial Day, Veterans Day. I've talked about some different-- I had different speeches on different subjects. I'm very comfortable doing 05:42:00speaking engagements. One of the ones, it was interesting, one of the ones that I did up at a Gold Star Families, it was the Gold Star families up in Milwaukee. They were there for a few days, some sort of event. But I was talking about-- actually, I don't know what I was talking about. exactly, I don't remember what the subject was, but I did, on the questions and answers, there were two questions that I will remember. One was, "My family is Catholic and my son was going to be confirmed, but he got called up to the service before he was confirmed and then he died. He was killed. Is that okay? I mean, he was never confirmed. Is that okay?" And I said, "Trust me, if God needed him confirmed, God did it himself." I said, "He's fine." And then this other woman who had this little girl sitting next to her drawing pictures, she says, "What happens when 05:43:00you have a family member who doesn't understand big brother will never be coming home?" And I said, "I have a suggestion." I said, and I can see that she's coloring, I said, "You could ask her one day to draw a picture of what it might have been like when--" and I whispered, "Michael met God in heaven. What do you think? And have her draw it." And I got an email from that woman about a week, two weeks later, and she says, "It worked." She said she drew the picture and she says, "Michael's with God all the time now, huh?" And she said she started to cry and she just told her and that was great. I don't remember what the speech was about, but I do remember those two questions and being able to, if I 05:44:00can help anybody, be able to feel a little bit better about something. At one point in that speech, this was back in the days of Benedict, this was not Pope Francis, but I said, "I've got news for you. The Catholic faith is not the one true faith." And I said, "Woah, did you hear that? The Pope just keeled over." [laughs] I talked about the fact that as far as I'm concerned, in my opinion, all faiths have a piece of the truth. Nobody has at all. And whatever anybody needs to do to enhance their relationship with the God of their understanding, is A-OK with me. That's one of the things I always talk about with retreat. I 05:45:00said, "Don't like the fact that this had been facilitated by a Catholic sister, don't let that throw you off. I'm not going to recruit you." [laughs]

ROWELL: How did you do? Do you want to share how you came to that conclusion for yourself when you were coming back to religious life?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, part of it was the whole idea of church hopping. All of them were interesting, all of them had some good stuff and just connecting with people and their own stories as they share their own stories with things and realizing that. Most recently, there was a TV special that was narrated by Morgan Freeman, I believe, on God. And it was great. It was great. So I think, and it basically, again, verified a lot of stuff. I don't know, there's just a lot of good things. The other thing, too. I mentioned that I was still kind of ticked off at God. I really was. The last piece of my healing, of my own 05:46:00personal healing, came with me connecting with God. I was trying to figure out if God is everywhere, and I do believe that, then God was somehow there when I was gang raped. So how was God there and what was going on? So I started thinking about how God is present in my life. And I started thinking about metaphors and analogies and all kinds of different things. And I realized that one of the images that I have for God is the ocean. It's vast. Mysterious. It's always different and always the same. It can be incredibly tumultuous and wild 05:47:00or incredibly calm and peaceful. And no matter how crazy it is, these little tiny shells still survive. Beautiful shells. So the ocean for me has always been a metaphor for God. So I got to thinking about that. What's the ocean? It's water. It's saltwater. Saltwater. Like tears? Tears of saltwater. God was there with me in my tears. God was crying with me in that moment. I've come to realize that, I think, again, this is all my own opinion, whether it's theologically sound or not, I don't care. It works. [laughs] One of the greatest gifts God gives us the gift of free will. And no matter how badly we humans muck that gift 05:48:00up, child abuse, war, are some of the greatest abuses of that gift. And no matter how badly we screw that up, God will not take that gift away from us. So I think that means that there are times that God cries with us in our struggles. So just let God be with us. And it has made a great deal of difference. Do we want to pause?

ROWELL: No, that's okay. No worries.

MCCLENAHAN: All right. So that was very important to me, to have that happen.

ROWELL: Yeah, thank you for sharing that.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. So that's one of the things I invite people at the retreat to do is go back, look at your trauma, and see if you can figure out how God was, in fact, present. God did not let you down or abandon you. So how was God there? By the way, if you noticed, a friend of mine pointed this out. She says, "You 05:49:00know, when you talk about God, you're always very gender neutral."


MCCLENAHAN: "Unless you're angry, then it's always 'he'." [laughs]

ROWELL: Won't touch that one.

MCCLENAHAN: When I was seeing Kathy, I forgot her last name, it'll come to me. Anyway, she was one of my-- Kathy Russell. She was one of my psychologists at the VA. One day we were talking about something and she says, "Okay, let's suppose that Tony and his friends, let's forget the friends. Suppose Tony comes home and he comes home, he goes back to upstate," he was from upstate New York, "He comes back to upstate New York, he gets married and has a family and and everything is," you know, and I said, "That's probably not what happened. Oh, wait a minute. Oh, wait a minute. Oh, no, no!" And I collapsed on the floor and 05:50:00I was hitting-- I was actually on the floor, pounding the floor saying, "No, no, no, no, no!" And Kathy said, "What's the matter?" Because, I forgot, she had said to me, "Are we ready to discuss the f-word yet?" And she met, you know, forgiveness. And so I'm pounding the floor and she says, "Does this mean you're ready to talk about forgiveness?" And I said, "Kathy, you don't get it. I just did." And she said, "What?" And I said, "I just did." I said, If Tony, who I knew was a Catholic because his 'I'm a Catholic, Please Call A Priest' [pendant] kept hitting me in the face, I knew he was Catholic. So if he goes to a priest in confession and he asked for forgiveness, it's between him and God. And I can't be in the way of that. My favorite definition of forgiveness is forgiveness is not saying it's okay. Forgiveness is saying that I'm 05:51:00relinquishing my right to revenge, even though justice demands it. Relinquishing my right to revenge even though justice demands it. And that's what I did in that moment. It's never going to be okay but I can't stand between somebody and God if they're-- I can't be standing in the way of that. And so I've given up my right to revenge. And I was looking for him for a while. I really was. When we did the conference, the International Conference of War Veteran Ministers, we did a prayer at the New York City Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And it was cold and we were all sitting there and we're doing the prayer. And I knew that Tony was from New York and I knew it was upstate but I thought, well, maybe he's in the city. So I'm looking around trying to see what he might look like after all these years and I'm not going to kill him, I'm just going to reach 05:52:00down his throat and pull his intestines out. Or knee him so hard that he's-- anyway, [laughs] so the prayer and I'm looking around so I can really get this guy. "Oh, Holy God, we're with you today with--" [laughs]

ROWELL: The duality ot it, of the situation.

MCCLENAHAN: Of feelings, yes. I used to try to, you know, on computers, I try to look him up. Again, I'm not sure if his first name was Anthony or Tony or if his last name was like Tonelli or something and they called him Tony. I don't know, but I don't care anymore. It's between him and God. Somebody said what if he walked into one of my retreats? And I said, I have no idea. I hope I never have to find out. I don't know. I know if anybody attacks me again, one of us is 05:53:00dead. [laughs] Probably not a very good thing to say, but--

ROWELL: It's truthful for you.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. And I suspect that every veteran you talk to at some point or another can show you that they always carry a weapon. [showing a knife] Always. Except on airplanes. And then I feel very uncomfortable. But I do know a few self-defense things. That's neither here nor there. [laughs]

ROWELL: Thank you for sharing. Switching gears here pretty totally, I think. Unless you'd like to take a break first.

MCCLENAHAN: No, I'm doing fine.

ROWELL: I would actually like to take us way back.

MCCLENAHAN: Way back? Okay.

ROWELL: To you making the decision to leave active duty and enter the reserves.


MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. Okay. After I was out of active duty and not fitting anywhere or not knowing why, this was long before anybody even knew what post-traumatic stress was, I didn't fit anywhere. I didn't belong. And I thought, well, why don't I just join the reserves? And I did. And became part of the 6211th at The Presidio in San Francisco which eventually moved over to Marin County. And then when I was transferred to the Bechtel Houston office to set up the communications down there, I just transferred my reserve status down there. And of course, as soon as I entered the reserves, I got my E-6, my staff sergeant, and then I was-- in '76, I had just started the Chief Warrant Officer 05:55:00School or I shouldn't say Chief Warrant Officer, I just entered the Warrant Officer School correspondence course first before the final. But then things were happening too much in my life, Bechtel was getting busy, family things were going on and I finally decided, yeah, that's fine. I can survive now. I did feel more connected with people when I was in, again, back in the military, although a lot of the people who were in the reserves had done that instead of active duty. So it was a little different. It was partly there and partly not there. That's right.

ROWELL: What kind of training did you engage in when you were in the reserve?

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, I was part of the 490th Signal, so it was still Signal Corps, but it was a little bit different and there was nothing new on the training, 05:56:00although I finally-- the whole time during the Vietnam War, women did not qualify with weapons in the reserves. I did. And it turned out I was an expert with a .45 and I was a marksman with the M-16. And I think those are on my uniform over there. And I knew I would be because I was a great shot.

ROWELL: You mentioned, you said you knew you would survive leaving the Armed Forces. Can you tell me a bit about how you came to that conclusion?

MCCLENAHAN: Whether I was kidding myself or not, I don't know.

ROWELL: But it felt time to separate.

MCCLENAHAN: When they first came out with this diagnosis of post-traumatic stress, a lot of us Vietnam vets thought, "Oh, I'm not crazy. There is a reason that I feel crazy, but I'm not crazy." Whereas a lot of the vets now, when they 05:57:00hear that, think, "Oh my God, that means I'm crazy." So they don't want the diagnosis. We were grateful to have it. And of course, by this time we all know that there's always been post-traumatic stress. It was just called something different. In Korea, it was called combat neurosis and World War Two, it's called battle fatigue, World War One was called shellshock, in the Civil War, it was soldier's heart, which is the best definition of all. And one of the things that we do on the retreat is we go back and we look at in I think it's the Book of Kings where they talk about when the soldiers would go out and do whatever battle and when they came home, they were not allowed to enter into the city right away. They had to camp outside for seven days and they'd go through these purification rituals with one another and things before they were allowed back 05:58:00in. So even thousands of years ago, they knew that soldiers needed some kind of downtime, some kind of thing because they were affected. So it's always been there.

ROWELL: Did you yourself feel that way as you were returning? Did you think "this feels too soon" or did you think "I'm just ready to be home"?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I thought I was ready to be home, but I wasn't. I couldn't understand why my dad was upset about the morning paper being late. Who gives a fuck, you know? It just seemed weird. But then I went through a stage. I went through a period of time, several years actually, I went through a period of time where in order to make anything mean anything, I had to make everything mean everything. And so I became upset over trivial things because if anything 05:59:00was going to matter, everything had to matter. And that was hard to get past to. You would not have liked me back in those days. I don't know if you like me now, but I was not a very nice person in those days. I have moments. Basically I was still [inaudible], I was still-- even when I quit drinking, I was still a swearing, angry person. I stopped the swearing when I started teaching high school, for the most part. [inaudible] But occasionally, something would slip out. But basically, I was very good at when I was teaching high school. That helped a lot. And of course now I've come back to it. And when I introduce myself to the veterans at the retreat, I always, you know, "I'm Sister Sarge, 06:00:00and that's one nickname, but I'm also known as The Swearing Nun and I just don't know where the hell these damn people get that shit." You know? And I do that intentionally because I want those there to know that, yes, I'm a sister, but if they're in the middle of sharing part of their sacred story, if one of them all of a sudden says, "And then the fucking gooks came up-- [gasp] Oh, I'm sorry, Sister." I don't want to break their concentration. I want them somehow in their head to know I can say whatever I need to say when they get back into it and feel safe. So I always throw that out. Not to mention it makes everybody laugh.

ROWELL: Can you actually, if you're sure, when did you get that nickname? Sister Sarge.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, I know exactly when I got that nickname. It was when I was out working at this place during these activities, you know, the various things. The guys started calling me Sister Sarge. And when I left, they gave me a hat, which 06:01:00I have here somewhere.

ROWELL: Right over on the--

MCCLENAHAN: There it is right here.

ROWELL: You're welcome to grab it, if you like.

MCCLENAHAN: [showing hat] My Sister Sarge hat. And when I do talks or speeches or sometimes I'm asked to be the chaplain at an event to say an opening prayer or closing prayer, I always wear my Sister Sarge hat.

ROWELL: Or come to I Am Not Invisible.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I did. That's right. In the I Am Not Invisible picture, I did. I wore my Sister Sarge hat. So, yes, because I'm known. I mean, people know me. I'd have mail come to me that's just says "Sister Sarge, Sienna Center." And I've gotten it.

ROWELL: What does that mean to you? The name.

MCCLENAHAN: It means a lot.

ROWELL: The combining of those identities for you.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, it's fine. I mean you see the little pictures and I don't know if you want to pause this a second, just be patient with me.

ROWELL: That's fine.

MCCLENAHAN: I want to show you something. If I ever write a book, it's going to be called From Sergeant to Sister.

ROWELL: Okay. We'll take a-- I'll pause the recording here.


[Segment ends] [Segment Begins]

ROWELL: All right. This begins segment ten of the interview with Linda McClenahan--

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, you shouldn't have shut it off!

ROWELL: --on December 12th, 2022. So you grabbed some objects.

MCCLENAHAN: Right, yeah, because I said if I ever wrote a book, it would be from Sergeant to Sister.


MCCLENAHAN: [holding up two statues] So from Sergeant to Sister. I just think these are cute. [laughs]

ROWELL: And feel like milestones for your own experience.

MCCLENAHAN: Yes. Subtitled "Sergeants Don't Cry".

ROWELL: What does that subtitle mean to you?

MCCLENAHAN: That was back the, the tough old person. The tough old person that could withstand anything. Yeah. When, again, my psychologist and I were talking about these things, it was again Kathy Russell, and we talked about the anger. I 06:03:00admitted that I was-- see, anger saved my life when I was down in Saigon with Linda. Anger, being able to be angry, I suddenly had energy. I suddenly felt alive. So anger kind of saved my life. I was afraid to let go of my anger because I thought I would die without it. Well, one of the things that Kathy said is, "You've always got Lin in your back pocket if you ever need her." And there's been a couple of times where I brought her out. But for the most part, yeah, I know she's there.

ROWELL: It's now a choice for you.


ROWELL: It's now a choice for you?

MCCLENAHAN: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's true. It wasn't before or didn't feel like it was at all. Yeah.

ROWELL: You've mentioned your brother a little bit. Were you ever able to discuss any of this with him?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I have two brothers.

ROWELL: Sorry, [talking over each other].

MCCLENAHAN: The oldest brother Jack was just one of those guys who wasn't trying 06:04:00to evade the draft. He was just one of those people that was lucky with it. Whereas like being a college student was a deferment, but then he got married, and then being a college student wasn't a deferment but being married was and then they had a child and then being married wasn't a deferment, but having a child-- so he wasn't intentionally trying to avoid anything, but he was going to enter the Air Force if he had, I think, if he had anything. But my other brother, Mark--

ROWELL: The Marine, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Mark, Mm next brother down, was a Marine. Became a Marine. He enlisted and it was perfect for him. I know he was a good Marine, great guy, but he was in the Marines at the same time that I was in the Army. And when I got my orders for Vietnam, part of the reason, I think I mentioned this, I don't know, part of the reason that I wanted to do that was that he wouldn't have to go. And 06:05:00I think I told you what happened when he did that. And he and I did discuss it at one point. And he did acknowledge that he probably would have been killed if he had gone over. And I know he would have been. Oh, we had some interesting discussions about things before he died. He died of myelodysplastic syndrome, which is one of those rare forms of leukemia that actually is part of that Camp Lejeune water thing. That's one of the things. But he was at Camp Pendleton mostly, but I think he did some of his summer jobs at Lejeune. So I don't know. But don't matter anyway, because he was gone before that out.

ROWELL: You mentioned in passing that you felt in some way his death was preventable and that there was some perhaps, other than the potential concerns of pollution at Camp Lejeune, that perhaps--


MCCLENAHAN: Mark? No, his wasn't preventable.


MCCLENAHAN: No. Linda Brackett.

ROWELL: Well, yes, we can talk now about-- I must have misheard you. And we can talk now about the people that you reconnected with. Who you served with. You've mentioned a couple of anecdotes to me personally about it. Would you like to? I've got a list of names if we want to [McClenahan laughs] go through just a couple of them. You know? Just a couple. [laughs] The most important to you at this moment.

MCCLENAHAN: Linda, I was involved with some different veterans groups at different times, and I was actually part of the committee for the women's statue that in Washington, D.C., where Joanne Carlson Evans was working on that. When I was the chairperson of the California Memorial, she invited me to be part of the honorary committee. So I was for a while. I was known for that. Well, somebody, 06:07:00one of one of the people that I connected with, called me one day and said, "Linda, I was at a parade in Boston and this woman came up to me afterwards and said that she was a Vietnam veteran non-nurse and that I thought you might want to call her and talk to her. She said was having some problems, but she didn't really want to talk to me." And I said, "Sure, I will." And then I said, "What's your name?" Hoping that it might be somebody I know. And she says, "It's Linda Grasso." And I thought, "I don't know a Linda Grasso." And then she says, "Oh, her maiden name was Brackett. Linda Brackett." And I screamed on the phone, "Oh, my God!" So I definitely called. And when I called, at first she sounded kind of distant and I was a little bit disappointed. And so I hung up and did something else and about 10 minutes later, the phone rang again and she was screaming in the phone. [laughs] She says, "It took me a minute just to put everything back." 06:08:00Because at that point, I was working at Bechdel, had lots of money. So I flew back to Boston to meet with her and I met her-- I think Rae-Lynn was maybe ten years old at that point.

ROWELL: Her daughter?

MCCLENAHAN: Her daughter. And she was divorced and living in northern Mass-- [laughs] [mimicking Boston accent] northern Massachusetts.

ROWELL: [doing same accent] Northern Massachusetts?

MCCLENAHAN: Massachusetts. And it was interesting because her daughter, we were sitting and talking for a while and her daughter all of a sudden says, "This is weird. You feel like an aunt to me and I just met you." She picked up on how close we were immediately. So that was really good. And we continued the gin game. I don't even know if I mentioned the gin game earlier, but yes, I think I did. But yeah, we continued the gin game and stayed in contact and I would go back every so often when I could and she went out to California one time, but 06:09:00she had had breast cancer. Needed a double mastectomy and that and then she was fine. But all of a sudden I got a call from her sister telling me that she was dead. And I was absolutely stunned. And it turns out that she had died from urinary sepsis. And the whole story was that she had gone to the VA and they had given her some antibiotics, but they also gave her a catheter that she was supposed to take care of and on a Friday, she called and she was having problems with it. And they told her to come in next week. And Tuesday, I mean, she went in Monday and Tuesday she was dead. Urinary sepsis. She didn't need to be. They should have said come in right away. Well, it's the weekend, they didn't want to 06:10:00have anybody-- I don't know. I don't know why. But anyway, she did not need to die. It was a definite failure by the VA out there for that. So I was kind of angry about that, too. As was her daughter. I did go to her daughter's wedding. It was during the wedding that I realized that out of everybody in the room, I had known Linda longer than anybody in that room. Her one sister turned out to be a real scuzzball. Susan. As soon as Linda died, she was a cosigner on some of the checking accounts. Went and cleaned her out. Took all the money out of her checking accounts, took all the money out of her savings accounts and disappeared. Yeah, it was bad. I felt bad for Rae-Lynn. Rae-Lynn was her only daughter. Now, that's another thing about Agent Orange. Children having effects, 06:11:00birth effects. Rae-Lynn has serious problems with her eyes, has had problems with her eyes, and I can't remember the other one, but she had a couple of disorders that were on the [inaudible] list with the guys. [laughs]

ROWELL: Not the women.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. Anyway, Rae-Lynn's a great person. Funny, funny. Well, of course, so was Linda. And she's married. She and Chris are married. Two wonderful kids. Girls. All girls. Yeah.

ROWELL: Is there anyone else in particular that you reconnected with that you want to talk about?

MCCLENAHAN: Barb Bacon, who also has died. She had a brain tumor, all of a sudden, that took her very fast. Adrienne Schamp, Andy, complications of diabetes and heart issues took her. Susan Cummings. Yeah, she died.




ROWELL: You called her Sky, right?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, because she was like, 6' 5" and she was as skinny as a rail. Sky was short for skyscraper. Gail Nelson. She's still with us. Gail and Julie and I are the remaining three of the ones-- the bunch of us that used to hang out together.

ROWELL: And they were all in the WAC detachment? At Long Binh? And then what about, you mentioned Nicki and Joyce. I don't know that there are last names attached that I know--

MCCLENAHAN: They were just people that served with-- Nicki Hayers [??] was the mail clerk, supply clerk. [laughs] She was a-- and if I had all my pictures, I had my album totally together. And then over the years I pulled this and pull that and pull the other thing and the album totally-- so I don't have any of 06:13:00these pictures anymore. Or if I do, I can't find them. That's the problem right now. But yeah, there's a lot of people and some of those women I've reconnected with when we go down to the conferences with the group. So, Vietnam women veterans.

ROWELL: Is that the Military Association of Vietnam Women Veterans?


ROWELL: And you were elected--

MCCLENAHAN: I was just elected president--

ROWELL: President--

MCCLENAHAN: --of that group--

ROWELL: --in 2022. Is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: 2022 to 2024. It's just a two year thing.

ROWELL: Okay. Can you talk about that event, what that meant to you maybe, and what those responsibilities are?

MCCLENAHAN: It's very nice that they think of me in a good way like that. But what I'm hoping to do is we're having a little communications problems, getting information out and everybody staying connected. So I'm hoping to work with 06:14:00people to get that fixed up, to get that changed and that. I've already sent out a Christmas letter over to-- just kind of stay in communication.

ROWELL: A newsletter.

MCCLENAHAN: For me, as the president.

ROWELL: Do you know about how many members you have?

MCCLENAHAN: No, I don't.

ROWELL: Okay. No worries.

MCCLENAHAN: [laughs] I do not. But I do know that Donna Lowry and--

ROWELL: Yes, this is another interview that you gave for a publication.

MCCLENAHAN: No, not really an interview. They just got the information. This is a book of women who served in Vietnam non-nurses. And it's put together in order of when we arrived in country. And so I'm back here, page 1969, which is the 06:15:00year I went to Vietnam. I think that's ironic. But here's my section. [showing the book] And just in front of me is my-- Oh, no, I'll take that back. 1969. It's the year. [laughs] It's not the page number. [laughs] Okay, I feel stupid. Anyway, just in front of me was Captain Shirley Oda.

ROWELL: I was going to ask you-

MCCLENAHAN: --and she was my CEO.

ROWELL: --Captain Oda.

MCCLENAHAN: She was wonderful.

ROWELL: Your NCO? Did you ever reconnect with her?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. She came to a couple of the reunions or gatherings. Yeah, she was wonderful. Although it was interesting, because when I wrote to her and Audrey, I'm on Facebook with her too, a number of these women, I am. I almost said sisters, but they're sisters. They're different kinds of sisters. What was 06:16:00I just going to say? About Captain Oda, or-- I don't know.

ROWELL: Audrey?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. No. Anyway, I don't know. Whatever it was, wasn't probably all that important.

ROWELL: You got some notes written down there on that bookmark. That's fine, no worries.

MCCLENAHAN: Anyway, it's a wonderful book and it does tell the stories. And I don't know how many people are in here. And then we get an update every so often of people when they find more of us. When they find more of us.

ROWELL: Because they're finding there wasn't a comprehensive list, is that correct?

MCCLENAHAN: Right, exactly. No, the military did not. The Department of Defense did not keep good records of women's service over there. Or at least not of us. They might have of the nurses, but not with us. So as more and more are found, their stories are added to it. So if people die or whatever, and that's all part 06:17:00of it, too. So yeah, Donna Lowry, Claire Stearns and Cricket.


ROWELL: Cricket. Marsha. Marsha Holder. I think it's Holder. Anyway, they were all very important in this.

ROWELL: Did you know them personally as well?

MCCLENAHAN: Cricket I did, yeah. Yeah, here it is. Marsha Holder.

ROWELL: Did you serve with her or you met her later as a veteran?

MCCLENAHAN: I think when we overlapped, I was just going to look that up, but I don't know, because I kind of remember Cricket. Some of the women re-upped for another year. If I were still in the service, I would have stayed another year. But since I was getting out, I went ahead and got out. I mean, even though I was fed up and all that stuff, at least I-- you know, that's one of the things with 06:18:00military and I think that that's still true with current military, too. While we're in the service, we know exactly what our mission is. We know exactly what we're supposed to do. We work really hard at it and then all of a sudden we're back home and it's like, uh-oh, now what do I do? [laughs] I don't know what to do. Oh, there's Andy. My buddy. Adrienne.

ROWELL: And the Dominicans have a specific mission as well.


ROWELL: Is that relevant for you, do you think?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I don't know. I think most places do. I don't know. It was just a matter of trying to find one that mattered or whatever. [closes book] I'm just not gonna find that, sorry.

ROWELL: That's okay. No, that's fine. When you had gotten back, did you stay 06:19:00informed on the news that was happening in Vietnam as it progressed? So the fall of Saigon, that kind of thing? Do you remember those times? How did you feel hearing about this now being back in the States?

MCCLENAHAN: I wanted to be there. That was part of not wanting to leave just because I felt like I was deserting people. The other thing was I actually-- scratch that. It was tough. It was very tough to watch. Extremely difficult to watch. And the Babylift when the plane went down, all that stuff. People desperately trying to get out. Helicopters and all that stuff. It was very hard to watch. It was like we failed. We failed the people. We failed the people. But we didn't. I mean, we did the best damn job we could in an impossible situation. And the government is what let us down. And the government let us down and our 06:20:00government let them down. So, yeah, it was just easier to blame us. [laughs]

ROWELL: So back in that time period, you were living in San Francisco, largely, correct?


ROWELL: Would you like to talk about any connections that you had potentially among gay veterans in San Francisco?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, not really. There was a lot of-- when I did meet veterans, it was still a time of people not talking too much about that. Back and forth. And of course, you know, years later it was Don't Ask, Don't Tell but in those days you could get drummed out of the service if you were gay. I did know some women who had that happened to her. But I would say at the time that I was in, of the 06:21:00women that I knew, maybe 10% might have been gay, lesbian, bi. People were basically, "I don't care." [laughs] That's your own choice, your own decision. That was not like it was going to interfere with your job or anything, even though the theory was if they could blackmail you and get information, classified information, if they knew. But I don't think most of us cared. I would meet people. Still friends with some. Robin. Of course, Linda. And Chris.


MCCLENAHAN: And you lived in San Francisco, was that during the AIDS crisis as well? During that period of time?

MCCLENAHAN: Toward the end of my time. Yeah. The guy who cut my hair was all of a sudden complaining about-- well, he said he had stomach cancer, but I knew it was AIDS but he told people that because people would stop coming to see him. And again, it was like, no, go ahead. It's fine. Brandon, Jason both died of AIDS. A couple of good friends of mine.

ROWELL: Friends of yours.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, in San Francisco. Actually, in the duplex, they were in the other part of the house. There was a lot of concern about that. That was before they were really coming up with any way to handle it or drug or medications to 06:23:00take care of it. Nobody talks about it much anymore, which means that most of that's working and people are being smarter. I know when I was teaching at the Catholic school in San Francisco, one day Sister Louis walked in while I was talking about condoms with the girls. It was a health class. When Sister Louis went to talk with the principal and said, "She's teaching about condoms!" I explained to the principal, who agreed with me, that I was introducing the concept of condoms not to prevent birth, but to prevent death. In this day and age, that has to be considered. And she agreed. Besides, when one of the girls 06:24:00would ask me a question, I would tell her the truth about any of that stuff. [laughs] One of the most fun classes we ever had was "Guy Lines". It was an all-girls school. So we talked about guy lines. "I'll die if we don't do something" or "I'll pull it out real quick." You know, all of those things that the guys will do to entice women into whatever. That was a fun class. Did I ever tell you that I was a teacher? I love teaching, but, kids never talked in my class.

ROWELL: Oh, you didn't say that.

MCCLENAHAN: No, because the first day of class-- I've got really good hearing. The first day of class, I would be going over the syllabus and talking about chapters and handing out books and various other things. But I'd also be listening. And like, for example, I would get to a point where I stop and I 06:25:00said, "Okay, let's turn to chapter one in your brand new book and let's look at something." And "Aggie, I agree with Catherine. You should dump him. He sounds like a real jerk. And now we go back to--" and they were like, [gasp]. Never talked in my class. [laughs] That's all it took. Much better than, "Stop talking!" [laughs]

ROWELL: That's true.

MCCLENAHAN: And some of the girls would remember some of that stuff too. But the greatest April Fool's joke I ever pulled.

ROWELL: Oh, yes?

MCCLENAHAN: Well, I was also teaching driver's ed. Not driver's training, that's in the car. Driver's ed, which was all the other stuff. And I use Jeopardy and all these different things to teach but this one day, and the vice principal was 06:26:00in on it, she came down with this-- I was getting stuff from the California DMV all the time because I was teaching the class. So she came down with this official looking envelope and and she knocked on the door and she says, "This just came in, but it looks important." So I take it and I'm still talking and I open up the page and I pull it out and I say, "Uh-oh. Uh-oh." And the kids are all like, "What? What? Coach, what?" And I said, "Well, it looks like the state of California has just voted to change the driving age to 18." They went nuts. [laughs] They went absolutely crazy. And I said, "So, do you want to write your congressmen and your senators?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" So I went over to the board where I had the map pulled down and I raised it up and it just said April Fool. [laughs] And they all were-- [laughs] "I'll get you, coach." And I said, "Listen, I got three other classes. Do you want to be in on the joke?" "Oh Yeah. 06:27:00Yeah, I guess so. They didn't tell anybody, so we did it all for classes. It was great. That was. That was fun.

ROWELL: Do you feel that maybe your experience with teaching, your experience working with children of experienced trauma? Have any of those experiences, to your recollection, informed the way you work with? That's the way you work with people in retreats. Can you talk about that?

MCCLENAHAN: Sure. Well, I don't know if I can.

ROWELL: It's a big question.

MCCLENAHAN: I'm pretty good at coming up with metaphors, analogies. I don't even know what to call them, but images that help. And that works really well with kids. And it also works pretty well with adults. And so I guess, I don't know. Caring, letting somebody know that you actually give a damn. And listening is important. And yes, I talk a lot, I talk a lot all the time but I do listen when 06:28:00it's important. And I can zero in and sometimes sense a struggle and ask questions. I had a student, former student and I will not mention her name, although I could. One day I was in the hallway at the end of the day and she was at her locker. Moving kind of slow. And I stopped and I said to her, I said, "You okay?" "Yeah." I said, "Can I talk to you?" "Yeah. Okay." So we actually went into this little chapel and [inaudible] and sat down. And I told her about those times that I was growing suicidal and why I hung around and things like that. I don't know where it came from. I mean, it was there. Well, she told me years later that she had a plan all in place. She was going to go home and kill 06:29:00herself. And that conversation totally changed her mind. So somebody was-- [whistles] "Talk to this kid!" And I did. Great kid. Great young person. They all were. They were good kids-- you notice whenever I talk about the kids I say coach because they all called me Coach. The kids would come to [inaudible] and say things like, "Coach, I have to ask you a question, but I'm asking you because I know you'll tell me the truth." And I did.

ROWELL: And you build trust with them.

MCCLENAHAN: Mm-hm. And I do that I think with the veterans, too. People get to know you a little bit and they trust you, or they say that somebody else trusts 06:30:00you and they trust that person or they take a risk. To trust again, we all have to take a risk. We have to be willing to be vulnerable. And being vulnerable can be very painful. But I would rather be vulnerable and get hurt than isolated again. Isolated was not good.

ROWELL: It's a big question but based on that experience, how would you approach that who you know is isolating and is in that space? How can you bring them to a point to convince them that it's worth it?

MCCLENAHAN: You know, the retreats that we do, sometimes the vets come because their significant other is dragging them there under threat of divorce, separation, whatever. [laughs] And I've had these before. All I can do is share 06:31:00with them. I don't try to convince them otherwise. This is something that I've learned and I think they learn with others. By me sharing some of my story and how that's worked out, that's a better way to approach it than trying to convince them of "you should" or that kind of thing. Actually, it's out of the AA book. Sharing our experience, strength and hope. This is what I did, this is what happened with me, and this is how it's been. If you're interested in taking a chance, I said no guarantees anywhere, but if you're willing to a chance, come. Join us. Talk to somebody, whether it's at the VA or retreats. And I encourage people to do anything. Back when I started doing this, nobody was 06:32:00talking about the moral injury or the spiritual injury and now they are, but putting that aside, there's a lot more events happening and programs for people than there used to be. So I tell people, do everything because everything will give you a piece of the puzzle. And I guarantee you that when the puzzle is finished, you'll find another piece and wonder where it goes and you realize, oops, there's a whole other section of this puzzle that I didn't even know about. Just keep it going. [laughs] When you think you have all the answers, you don't. You get some. [laughs] You got to be open to the possibility. New information. New information. I always try to stay up-- new information. I read all the post-traumatic stress stuff. Even though I think I'm an expert on it. [laughs]

ROWELL: You mentioned to me that, so-- financial troubles can be a piece of this 06:33:00that people experience. And you mentioned that you job hopped as well early in your time. Can you talk a bit about that experience and what that meant for you at the time?

MCCLENAHAN: When I first got back, I had, in the first three years, I believe, 11 different jobs. In the first three years. And I quit them all because every one of them was being run by a jerk. It took me a while to recognize that there was a common denominator in all of those, and it was me who couldn't adjust to the civilian way of doing things when I was used to the military way of doing things. We know what our job is, we know what we have to do, so let's do it. Some of the political games that were going on-- anyway, it drove me nuts.


ROWELL: Political games like in the workplace?


ROWELL: Did that have anything to do with your veteran status? Your status as a woman?

MCCLENAHAN: No, no, no. It was just--

ROWELL: Workplace politics.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. You want something done, just tell me what you need done and we'll do it. Or if I don't like the way you want me to do it, I'll do it my own way and then come back later, you know? That was military, too. Financially, I went through a period of time where I was eating ketchup soup. That's one of the reasons I won't get near ketchup. I won't. Basically living out of my car. Being homeless for a short, very short, brief period of time. So, another experience to kind of be aware of. And financial, I will usually give to somebody who is 06:35:00begging. "You shouldn't do that." Well, if I've got it and they need it, why not? It's never much. A couple of bucks here and there.

ROWELL: What about working at Bechtel made it stick? Because you stayed there for quite a while.

MCCLENAHAN: I did. Well, the communications. Bechtel was a worldwide construction engineering firm. And so they had a 24/7 communications operation like the military. And there was a lot of similarities there. I think that was what it was. And then the way that I, as the supervisor of the group-- well, first I was just a shift supervisor and then later became the supervisor after I came back from Houston. But yeah, it was easy to adopt some of the military ways 06:36:00of doing things into that 24-hour operation that it worked. It worked. That's why, I think.

ROWELL: You mentioned that there were other veterans on staff. To your knowledge, did they intentionally hire veterans or was it just there was job experience there?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, job experience. I think that's what it is. I had also applied to the AP, Associated Press, and had been offered a job there but Bechtel had better money. That would have been interesting, too.

ROWELL: And what years did you work at Bechtel? Do you recall? Approximate is fine.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, I'm trying to think. I want to say, okay, is that right? '73 to '86 maybe? '87? I don't know. Somewhere in that range. I could look at my 06:37:00resume because it's on there, because I had to figure it out for that. But I haven't looked at that in years. For my CV. [laughs]

ROWELL: Curriculum Vitae.


ROWELL: On paper.


ROWELL: So I think we are getting towards the end.

MCCLENAHAN: [laughs]

ROWELL: I'm going to start to ask a couple of big questions.


ROWELL: But then, you know. Long process. Thank you again. So, big question. Reflecting on your service in the Army and your experience as a veteran, what does that military service mean to you now?

MCCLENAHAN: I am very proud of my military service. I am. I mean, we're a small percentage. And I agree with those veterans who say things like my oath never 06:38:00ends, that I'll be in service to this country as long as I can. I mean, my whole life. Of course, right now, I have to help my arm salute but I love to salute. I'm very grateful that the-- I don't know if every veteran knows this, but they finally came out with a directive that says any person that is a veteran, even though they're in civilian clothes and not wearing a military or like a VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] hat or DAV [Disabled American Veterans] hat is allowed to salute at an event where there's a flag or any of that stuff, which is great. I think we should. "Taps" still makes me cry. It always will. There are people that come to mind, but that always will. I'm proud of my service. Do 06:39:00I have regrets? Some regrets? I think we all do in life in all kinds of different things. There's pros and cons to absolutely everything. I've talked to young people about joining. I try to be honest with them too about it. The pros and cons. But I tell them basically, unless there's a war, it's a really good life. And even if there is a war, you're still part of something bigger than yourself and have an opportunity to be part of a very, very special group. Although I do believe we should bring back the draft.

ROWELL: Really? Would you like to talk about why?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, well, a different. A modified draft. I believe that every 18-year-old or 22-year-old or both, anywhere in there, should spend at least two years doing something for their country. Either in military, Vista [Volunteers in Service to America], Peace Corps, it can be a church thing for two years. I 06:40:00don't care but two years doing something where you're not in your own head doing your own thing with your own whatever. And if not that, I do believe that every sophomore from every school, private, public, I don't care, should spend at least a week in Appalachia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Africa, somewhere where they can't use their phones or Internet or whatever else, and spend time with people who are desperate just to have clean water or desperate just to have food. They need to know this because too many of the kids today, and I know that sounds like another old [inaudible], "too many kids today are--" Yeah. But I think too many young people, and not just the generation up to whatever, don't 06:41:00understand what the world really is made up of and they're very entitled. And we've got to look beyond ourselves if we're going to get our country back. Our country is in trouble right now. And what made our country great was the middle class. And we're losing it. It's rich and poor and we're losing that middle class. That middle class, no other country in the world-- well, Canada, has the middle class that was so strong and that's the bedrock of our nation. The construction, the blue-collar workers, that's what has done this. And the rich people, the CEOs and all that, I'm getting into politics, they used to take care of their people. And now it's just about how much money can I get. And the poor no longer have a way to move into the middle class and then move up from the lower middle class and move up. We grew up in a mid-to-lower middle-class 06:42:00family, but we were able to survive because there were ways to do that.

ROWELL: Did you feel that experiencing a different standard of living when you went to Vietnam as a young person had an impact on you?

MCCLENAHAN: Yes, it did. But then again, going to Mexico with the Girl Scouts did, too.

ROWELL: Okay. Do you want to say something about that?

MCCLENAHAN: No, not really. It's just such that my Girl Scout leader when I joined the Army said, "Well, you just traded in one green uniform for another." [laughs]

ROWELL: It is Kelly green, isn't it?


ROWELL: That color is Kelly green?

MCCLENAHAN: No, no. The green uniform is not Kelly green.

ROWELL: It is now, I think.

MCCLENAHAN: Oh, yeah. The Girl Scout is, I think. [laughs]

ROWELL: That's what I mean. Yes, Girl Scout.

MCCLENAHAN: But I was very proud of my service and I've talked about it.

ROWELL: And do you have anything distinct to say to young women specifically who might consider joining the Armed Forces?

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah, it can be very, very good. The training is very good. And now 06:43:00young women have got the opportunity to go into so many more fields than we could. We were so restricted about what we could do. If I went in now, I'd want to be a helicopter pilot. Of course, I don't know, I wear glasses, I don't know if that makes a difference. But the point is there's a lot more options available and the training is great and it is transferable. Nowadays people are excited about hiring veterans. They weren't in the old days. In our day. And then, the other thing is, be careful of your friends. Choose your friends wisely. Be careful and listen to what people say. If people say, "Be careful with him. He's not a good guy." Pay attention to that. And like I said, most of 06:44:00the people that we serve with are great people who are just trying to do the best job they can and care about things that are important. But there's always going to be a few. So, that's all. And look out for each other. Take care of each other. But that comes naturally. That's part of the whole training. Yeah, that's part of the whole training.

ROWELL: Is there anything that you can think of that we do not cover today that you would like to?

MCCLENAHAN: I'm sure I will think of something as soon as you walk out the door, but no. It just seems to me that we've just-- All the significant things. Yeah, one of the advantages, I mean, yes, we Vietnam vets kind of went through some bad stuff, but because of that, veterans are respected again and trusted again. 06:45:00So maybe it was necessary for the next generations, but that was part of that whole "it wasn't supposed to be like this" struggle. And for anybody who's going through any kind of traumatic event, it doesn't have to be military, don't give up on yourself. There's help out there. Risk. Risk connection.

ROWELL: Risk connection.

MCCLENAHAN: Yeah. It won't always work out, but it will work out more than it won't work out. So, keep fighting. That's it. You can do it. You're worth it. We're all worth it. So, that's it. And if somebody has actually listened to this 06:46:00whole thing, God bless you. [laughs]

ROWELL: Well, on that note, thank you for your time today, Linda. Very much. Thank you. This concludes the interview with Linda McClenahan, also known as Sister Sarge, on December 12th, 2022.