On a September day in 1952, a young woman from Puerto Rico joined the Army. The 20-year-old college graduate attended Army Physical Therapist School and soon found herself serving at Army hospitals around the globe. In 1970, just two years after earning a master’s degree in physical therapy (PT), she was sent to Vietnam. Then a major in the Army Medical Specialist Corps (AMSC), Aida Nancy Sanchez spent a year at the 95th Evacuation Hospital, Da Nang, Vietnam, where she established the first PT clinic.
Sanchez was asked to go on a top-secret assignment. She was only told that she would be required to travel outside Vietnam in civilian clothes.
Before leaving for Saigon, she was informed her assignment was to travel to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where she would treat Lon Not, the country’s president. He had suffered a stroke and needed intense physical therapy. She was asked to read the president’s medical records, but not take any notes or make any copies. In Phnom Penh, she stayed at the city’s finest hotel and was guarded by seven Cambodians and two undercover US agents.
She worked with the Cambodian president for a year before extending her tour another year. It was during 1972 that she experienced the “horrors of war.” She assisted Army nurses when Vietnamese wounded were brought to the 95th Evac Hospital at China Beach.
We honor you, Aida Sanchez.