Our Nurse of the Week is Peggy Akers, a former Vietnam War Nurse who feels it is her responsibility to share “what war does” and devote her life to fighting for peace. Akers protested the Vietnam War as a student at Columbia University in New York before joining the Army Nurse Corps in her junior year after which the Army paid for two more years of her schooling.
She had thought the war would end soon but after finishing school she served as a Military Nurse on active duty from 1969 to 1972, working at Army hospitals in Qui Nhon and Chu Lai, Vietnam from 1970-71 during which time she received a Bronze Star for her service. The former Army Captain later returned to Southeast Asia in the 1980s to work as a nurse at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. Inspired by her work to become a Nurse Practitioner, Akers moved to California for school where she met her husband, Dick, a Naval Architect.
Akers says many nurses left the profession after serving in the conflict of Vietnam, but she’s continued to work as a nurse ever since. Previously, Akers worked as a part-time nurse practitioner at a community center in Lewiston where many of her patients were immigrants from Africa who have sustained injuries from wars in their former countries. She currently works as a part-time nurse practitioner at Preble Street’s Teen Center clinic, a social service agency in Portland, and in the summer, she works at the Seeds of Peace youth camp in Otisfield, Maine, which brings young people from regions of conflict together to learn how to advocate for peace.
As an advocate for peace, Akers created a “Warriors for Peace” video profile, a 42-minute video that features photos of Peggy as a nurse during the Vietnam War and her talking to the camera as a 69-year-old reflecting on her time as a young intensive care unit nurse treating dying and severely wounded soldiers. In the video, Akers says,
“I feel a great responsibility, being a Vietnam veteran, in sharing…what war does to people, what war does to families.”
The film is by Regis Tremblay, a member of Maine Veterans for Peace, an organization that demonstrates, advocates, and educates ending war as an instrument of national policy and seeking justice for veterans and victims of war.
Akers has lived a life of activism since her time in Vietnam. Her daughter, Annie, 31, remembers attending peace rallies with Veterans for Peace in San Francisco when she was growing up, and traveling with her mom to New York City and Washington, DC for demonstrations as a teenager. Peggy and Annie now work together at the Portland Teen Center, where Annie is a social worker. Annie says it has been ingrained in her since childhood to do something about injustice when you see it, and never to just walk by.
Anytime Akers sees a veteran in public she introduces herself as a former Vietnam Army nurse. She says these moments are about a connection for her, a chance to hug a fellow veteran and yearn for peace together. Thank you, Peggy, for your selfless service and tireless fight for peace around the globe.