When Mary Ellen Winslow received her Master’s degree in Nursing at Loyola of Chicago she never dreamed she’d be using it in a helicopter over the jungles of Vietnam. But when her husband, a Korean War fighter ace, 16 years her senior, flew his plane into the side of a mountain rather than answer his Country’s summons to return to service, and took one of his girlfriends with him, she somehow felt the only way to erase the shame and anger she felt was to serve in his place.
This single-mindedness of purpose made “Dusty”, in her superiors’ opinions, the best field evacuation Nurse in Vietnam. It never seemed to matter to her how “hot” the LZ (landing zone) might be where she would have to go to pick up wounded soldiers or marines. They didn’t realize that, as far as she was concerned, her life ended on that mountain when Jack slammed their Beechcraft into it. That was also the reason she showed absolutely no interest in the many young pilots, doctors, and other males that tried to attract her attention around the 125th Surgical Hospital at Da Nang; until, that is, Lieutenant Commander James Cooper came along.
They say opposites attract. It must be true. Jim Cooper was the total antithesis of everything Dusty believed in. Her sole purpose for being in Vietnam was to save as many lives as she could. Jim Cooper was a Naval Intelligence Black Ops “Spook” whose sole purpose was to collect information about the enemy, and to do whatever he could to make as many Viet Cong and North Vietnamese die in the process as he possibly could. And if he wasn’t in Vietnam, he was in Europe, tracking down deserters from our own military with orders to “retrieve or neutralize”. He was a stone-cold killer and the more she tried to hate him the harder she fell in love with him. When he proposed and she accepted, the Military Hierarchy decided that it was not in the best interest of the war effort for them to marry and leave the military, so a Command conspiracy was formed that was designed to separate them forever. It almost succeeded.