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November 10, 2023

For Veterans Day, Senator King Interviews Vietnam War Nurse Turned Trailblazing Biologist

Interview will be catalogued for the Veterans History Project, a Library of Congress project to preserve the stories of American veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In honor of Veterans Day, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs (SVAC) and Armed Services Committees (SASC), released his latest episode of “Answering the Call: Maine’s Veteran Voices.” In the 12th interview of the series, produced in partnership with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, Senator King sat down with Beth Parks of Corea, Maine. Parks is a U.S. Army veteran who served as a nurse during the Vietnam War and later went on to become a wildlife biologist in Maine. During the interview, King and Parks discussed saving lives in Vietnam, overcoming gender barriers, and the importance of Veterans Day.

“Beth embodies the selfless spirit that inspires people to serve our country,” said Senator King. “Throughout her life, she has continued to put others first. Not only did she save countless lives in Vietnam, but she has also spent time caring for patients in hospitals around the world. Even today, she spends her time taking care of those unable to take care of themselves. In this Veterans Day special of ‘Answering the Call: Maine’s Veteran Voices,’ I am proud to share the story of a Maine veteran whose dedicated service to our nation and the state of Maine makes it clear that no barrier is insurmountable.”

Beth was born and raised in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York – knowing from a young age she wanted to be a nurse, like her mother. She left New York to study nursing in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband. During her time in D.C., Beth remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington, waving to President and Mrs. Eisenhower marching with her husband in the parade for President Kennedy’s inauguration. When her mother fell sick with cancer, Beth moved up to Boston to take care of her and then later ended up working at the hospital in Glen Falls. While working as a nurse in the northeast, she remembers hearing ads on the radio asking for nurses to volunteer to serve in Vietnam. Inspired by the men and women who served in World War II and remembering her own family’s patriotism, she volunteered to go overseas.

Prior to her departure, she went to medical field service school at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for six weeks. However, it was on the ground in Vietnam, working at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit, where she says she learned how to take care of soldiers in the field. During her year in Vietnam, she treated hundreds of U.S. soldiers and helped to build a new aid and evacuation hospital. After Vietnam, Beth spent two years in Germany where she worked at the Second General Hospital –now Landstuhl Regional Medical Center – treating wounded soldiers. She left the service in 1969 and stayed in Germany for an additional year as a civilian.

When she returned to the United States, she moved to Clearwater, Florida, where she worked as a nurse at a local hospital. In 1970, she decided to pursue a college degree and in 1971 left nursing completely. She studied biology at St. Petersburg College and then went on to the University of North Carolina Greensboro – later transferring to Wake Forest University. After graduating, she moved to Orono to study wildlife biology at the University of Maine, becoming one of the first women to go through the wildlife master’s program. In 1974, Beth became “the coyote biologist,” studying their pack hierarchy, and continued to work with the animals until 1979. Beth then went on to work in permitting for coastal development and later took a job with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, working 4H programming for Penobscot County.

Today, in her retirement, she is an avid wildlife photographer and works as a caregiver in Corea, Maine.

The Veterans History Project is an effort by the Library of Congress to collect, preserve and distribute the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. The interviews and primary documents from the project are then used by researchers, historians, students, and filmmakers across the country. Senator King joins many other members of Congress who’ve participated in the project.

Representing one of the states with the highest rates of veterans per capita, Senator King is a staunch advocate for America’s servicemembers and veterans. Senator King uses this interview series to learn and share the stories of the lives, service, and sacrifices of Maine’s veteran community. He has been among the Senate’s most prominent voices on the need to address veterans suicide, and has repeatedly pressed for action from top Department of Defense officials on this issue. Additionally, he recently spearheaded the passage of legislation to better track and study servicemember suicides by job assignment. 


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