Gayle Smith: Interview and Overview

Gayle Smith was born in 1947 in Upstate New York. At age fourteen, Gayle volunteered at the Albany Medical Center and learned that the best nurses not only heal, but also listen. “Mom didn't like nursing,” Gayle said, “But she was really wonderful at taking care of people and I wanted to be like her. So that's what I did.”

Gayle enrolled in Vermont College’s nursing program in 1965. It was there that Gayle first “felt that being involved in this war was the wrong thing.” Gayle decided that she would enlist as an Officer in the Army Nurse Crops to bring home young men who “didn’t belong there.”

Gayle served in Vietnam for exactly one year: November 12, 1970 to November 12, 1971. She was stationed at the 3rd Surgical Hospital in Binh Thuy, a tiny “horse town” in the Mekong Delta. 

Gayle and her fellow nurses were always ‘on.’ Lulls in activity would be punctuated by a frenzied rush to treat new patients. Gayle would hold dying patients’ hands and whisper in their ears. She would write home to girlfriends, sisters, or mothers. She would tend to IVs and offer hugs.

When Gayle’s tour ended, she met her family at the Travis Air Force Base in California. “I hugged my Daddy first … I whispered in his ear: ‘I made it.’”

She earned her Master’s in Nursing at Boston University in 1974. Since then, Gayle has worked as a nurse practitioner and nurse instructor at several hospitals in the Upper Valley. 



A full PDF transcript of Gayle's oral history can be found below. To download and listen to the full interview, please click here