Doris Jones has always had a sense of adventure. In her younger years, she was into things like sky diving, scuba diving and horseback riding. It was that sense of adventure that led her to join the Army in the early 60's.
Doris now lives at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport. We recently had a chance to sit down and chat with this interesting and brave veteran.
Doris was a registered nurse in the Army for more than 20 years. During the Vietnam War, she volunteered to work with burn patients.
"They have to go through so many surgeries, a lot of skin grafts. It is very difficult for both the patient and the caregiver," she said.
For Doris and her fellow medical staff, the emotional toll this work took could be devastating.
"Some of the people, nursing staff ended up drinking and drugs and stuff to cope with it," she said.
Doris said she managed to avoid going down that road. Her therapy was her horse.
"That got me away from everything. That horse helped me get through a lot of very difficult situations," she said choked with emotion.
For years after the war, Doris says she would spend hours wondering about so many of the patients she had helped treat, and how they were doing now. Then one day, an extraordinary coincidence.
Doris was taking scuba diving lessons in Mexico when she realized the instructor looked familiar. She told us how it all happened.
"He asked me what I did, I said I was a registered nurse, and I was in the Army. And he said, 'Oh, I was there." I said, "What do you mean?' And he said, 'Oh, I was in Vietnam, and I got burns.' 'Wow!" and I said. This makes me real emotional."
Doris had been one of that man's nurses. Even today, the thought of that happenstance meeting brings tears to her eyes.
As incredible as that meeting was, a few years later it happened again, with another Vietnam veteran. This time, at a restaurant in South Florida.
"I introduced myself. And I said I worked there, and I asked him how he was doing. He had a lot of plastic, you know, grafts and stuff like that, he looked pretty good," she said.
The man had been so severely burned, his likelihood of surviving was slim, but somehow he did.
And on this day, at that restaurant, he had a chance to look Doris in the eye and thank her for saving his life. Doris calls it a moment she will never forget.
When Doris told the story to us, she had tears in her eyes recalling that meeting from years ago.
Doris said she loves living at the Armed Forces Retirement Home with her fellow vets, but her thoughts often go back to the Vietnam War, and the satisfaction she got from helping patients with severe burns can't even be put into words.
As difficult as it was, if she had the chance, she would do it all over again.
A heartfelt thank you to Doris Jones, for her service to her fellow members of the military over so many years.
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