The Unknown Road

Ethan Dore

Mary Bystran was born on February 4,1963 in a town of mainly cows and horses. She had one other sibling who was a younger brother. Before joining the service, Mary was studying to become a nurse, which initially was what triggered her idea to join. She joined the Army Student Nurse Program to help with the college expenses and that is where her journey started.

When the end of senior year of college came around, Mary had no idea what to expect.  She made her way down to Texas to attend Fort Hood, where she would get some basic medical training. Bystran then had to join the 85th Evacuation Hospital, which would end up being the group that she was deployed with. The only catch, the destination of the deployment was unknown.

She left the United States on Friday the 13th of 1965, which was the day she finally found out where she was headed. The landing site was a small town outside of Qui Nhon, Vietnam. A terrifying thought of heading out to war with little known information of her location or the conditions of the war zone. All Bystran knew was what she was doing for her country to protect the freedoms that she thought was essential to a healthy society. She only knew her purpose for fighting, but nothing about the fighting itself.

When she arrived, she described the conditions as barren and that she felt very isolated. The living arrangements were made up of a bunch of tents and that was basically all there was to the camp. There was a very small intermission between the time she arrived and the time that they had to pack up and move out again. She told me that the General deemed it unsafe to set up a hospital in that location. Once again, Mary was on the move and her next destination was not clear for her.

      Finally, when the group settled down in Vietnam, she started to put her nursing skills to use. She was assigned to the intensive care unit, so she had to see lots of death on her tour of duty. When asked what the most common injury was, she said that there were no injuries that stood out the most because they were all so common during her time abroad. With all the death around, Bystran sad that she and her fellow nurses had to focus on their job was to try and stay focused. She said that the moral could get low if they did not have a short memory because of the high amount of casualties that she had to witness. Most of the time the job was tough, she described, and that it was hard to be human on the job because of the emotions that she had to suppress a lot of the time.

       By the end of her tour of duty she did know where she was going to end up. She knew that her final destination was going back to a cow populated town. Bystran said that by the end of her time that she was glad she was going back to the peace and quiet because her experience was one she thinks that many should not have to experience.