Linda McClenahan grew up in Berkeley, California, and wanted to become a nun. After observing an anti-war protest, she put her dreams of being a nun on hold and decided to give Uncle Sam three years of her life. Her first post was Fort Ritchie, Maryland, in a secure communications assignment. During that tour, she requested reassignment to Vietnam, so she could form her own opinions of the war. When she arrived in country, the airfield was under attack, so her introduction to the combat zone was a rapid one. After assignment to the WAC Detachment, she worked in the communications center at USARV (United States Army, Vietnam) headquarters. During her time in Vietnam, three traumatic events shaped her life, and she felt abandoned by God. When she returned from Vietnam, she kissed the ground, but struggled to fit in after leaving the Army. She suffered from Post Traumatic Stress, and worried people would think she was crazy. She eventually became a nun. Proud of her military service, she wears a leather vest with the name “Sister Sarge” emblazoned on the front.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood, joining the Army, her stateside service, and her decision to deploy to Vietnam. She describes working in USARV Headquarters, and some of the memorable messages she received in the communications center. She discusses three traumatic events that shaped her life, and her struggle to process those experiences. She recounts picking up a rifle and returning fire after a convoy was ambushed by the Viet Cong. Unsure if she was the one who killed an enemy Soldier, she realized that she was “now capable of killing.” She reflects upon her return home, and her struggle to come to grips with what happened to her in Vietnam. Finally, she expresses what her service means to her, both as a nun and as a Soldier.