Gwen Tushbant only planned to stay in the Army for four years.
During the Vietnam era, the Army needed nurses, so she signed up with the military to pay for her nursing school, but she intended to leave the Army after four years and not look back.
After graduating college in 1968, she went to Fort Benning and then headed to Vietnam in 1969.
“I remember getting there being very scared,” she said. “At Fort Benning, they’d tell us stuff to scare us.”
When she got there, she said a quick prayer.
“I said ‘I know you let me come here. I know there’s a reason, and I know you are going to take care of me,’” she said. “Once I did that, I was no longer scared.”
In Vietnam, she worked in the post-op unit mainly caring for soldiers who’d received chest and abdominal wounds.
After Vietnam, she finished off her initial duty with the Army and got out of the military just as she’d planned to do, but after a year in the civilian world, she realized she liked the Army’s way of doing things better.
“It was not the same. It wasn’t the same camaraderie,” she said.
Also, she felt her opinion as a nurse was more respected in the Army than in the civilian sector and she felt the Army placed more value on her as a nurse in general. She returned and spent another 20 years in the military.
“I got some good assignments in the military. I was in Monterey, Calif., where I taught a licensed practical nurse class. I went to Germany. I was at Walter Reed for five years, and I also taught an LPN class at Fort Gordon.”
When she retired after 24 years in the military, she went into the civilian sector for a few years, but she saw an advertisement for a job at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center teaching a breast cancer education program to military dependents and retirees.
“My mother died of breast cancer, so I had a personal interest,” she said.
She worked at Eisenhower until she retired from the nursing profession in 2009.
“I wanted to put in 40 years,” she said.
Tushbant said she’s grateful for her time in the military and doesn’t regret it. She admits there were times when it was difficult, especially after she married a soldier and they had children.
“When we had to change duty stations, those times were difficult,” she said. “But I’m glad I made that choice.”
Her son followed in his military parents’ footsteps and retired from the Air Force at the end of October.