Mary Ellen Shugart served two tours as an Army nurse in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 70s. She treated hundreds of soldiers, but the memory of one young man at Fort Bragg stayed with her through the years.
She recalled treating a soldier in the ICU and Recovery Ward at Womack Army Hospital in 1966. Injured in Vietnam, he’d been flown back to the U.S. for treatment for an abdominal wound.
He was heavily sedated the night a young woman showed up at the hospital to see him. He was unresponsive to his visitor, but she could at least hold his hand and sit with him for a while.
Having traveled throughout the day, the woman had arrived after 9:30 p.m. on the last bus to Fort Bragg. She was effectively stranded, with no way to get back home until morning.
“At that time, we didn’t have Fisher House, or twenty-four-hour Red Cross support,” said Shugart.
Shugart volunteered to bring the woman home with her for a night’s rest, then back to the hospital in the morning. Shugart remembers they were both tired and spoke very little that night.
She never saw the woman again.
“I don’t know if she was his sister, or she was his girlfriend, I have no idea,” said Shugart. “He did pass away about a week later.”
Decades later, that young soldier still stood out to her, she said, because of the long journey his loved one made to see him one last time.
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.