In our 42nd edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Pat tells how she experienced two “close calls” while in Vietnam, how she got married a week after returning from Vietnam in a wedding dress made in Saigon, and shares a photo of her meeting General Westmoreland.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.  

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Pat McDaniel Nease…

Pat outside a bunker

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

I was fresh out of college, didn’t owe anyone anything (since I had worked my way through) and wanted to travel.  The Red Cross seemed to be a way to do that.







When and where were you stationed in Vietnam?   Did you go by a nickname?

Pat and Vicky programming to the men

I was stationed in Vietnam from August, 1966 to August, 1967. After a few days of orientation in Saigon, I went to Cu Chi.  There was no recreation center, but they had built us a sweet little house with an enclosed shower.  We created games we could take out to the fire bases and did a lot of Huey flying.

In December, I was transferred to Pleiku, same deal… no rec center; lots of flying, BUT no sweet little house.  We lived in a tent with a wooden floor and the red dust swam up around us all night.  And it was cold… AND rainy.  Martha Raye stayed with us while she was on a USO tour.

I ended my tour in Long Binh, again, no rec center, lots of travel. I was Pat McDaniel then; no nickname.

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

Pat with men from the 101st in Tuy Hoa
November 1966

Work on a new travel program, usually a game for a large group, which we shared with other SRAO travelers as they did for us.  Hop on a Huey to a fire base.  Present a program, serve on the chow line – giving every GI a “hello,” and a smile, hop the chopper back to base.  Check in at the hospital, write letters or visit.  Back to the hooch or recreation center to complete work on the next week’s program.  Evenings were often spent with medics/nurses/doctors for a cook-out or music.


Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

There were two.  Once at Tan Son Nhat airport when we were flying in on a B-47 (I think) – the SRAO girls were in the cockpit, which is where we usually rode – a plane had crashed in the center of the crossed runways.  Everything was backed up, planes circling round and round, and the pilot said for everyone to be on watch.  We’re all peering out, looking for other aircraft, when all of a sudden, there was another plane right beside us, so close to us we could see the pilot, looking as surprised to see us as we were to see him.  

The second time, we were in a Jeep at Bien Hoa, delivering something, maybe Kool-Aid, to the ammo dump folks when this huge tank came barreling backward toward us at a high rate of speed.  He didn’t see us and, at first, our driver didn’t see him.  There was a lot of screaming and then we jerked forward just as the tank went whizzing by.  I could have touched it if I hadn’t been white knuckled to the sides of the Jeep.  I also could have used something with a bit more punch than Kool-Aid.   

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.  The worst I ever got was food poisoning.  

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

My least favorite thing to do.  Not because I didn’t want to help, and not because I did not feel compassion and concern for these injured young men, but I wasn’t trained in what to say or do in such a situation.  Humor and fun were my forte, and this was no joking matter.  I did more visiting and talking, bringing books and magazines, than writing letters home; just trying to bring a little relief in their boring, painful day. 

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

Not so bad.  I was to be married in a week, had my wedding dress made in Saigon, and moved to Beaufort, SC, so my new husband could complete his Marine Corps obligation.  It was NOT someone I met while overseas.  It was someone I’d known nearly my entire life.  His mother got with my mother and planned the wedding, so all I had to do was show up.  We were busy.  I don’t think I had time to unwind from one thing before I was wound up in something else.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

I think everyone was there for a different reason.  I was there partly because this man I was to marry was there, up in the Da Nang, flying F-8s for the Marines.  I had a friend who’d returned home from Vietnam and had changed so much from the way he was when he left.  I didn’t want to not know what my guy was going through.

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

I was in Washington, DC for the dedication of the Vietnam’s Women’s Memorial in 1993 and many of the veterans thanked us, sharing stories of kindnesses done on their behalf.

Pat meets General Westmoreland

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

I think the time that stays with me most is riding along with the medics when they went up into the mountains near Pleiku, bringing medicines to the indigenous Montagnard people.  These delightful people had been isolated  from the world and were just amazed at anything we shared with them.  The first time there, I started a game with the children, using a pebble and hands behind my back.  “Which hand is it in?” was the game.  Though we didn’t speak the same language, the kids quickly caught on and soon the adults were gathered around, laughing and smiling when the right hand was chosen.  The next trip I brought a ball, and on a third trip we tried jump rope.  I loved those visits!

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The Donut Dollie Detail

In our 41st edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Nancy tells how a “Dust Off” crew flew her and another Donut Dollie (dressed as Santas) to visit the men on Christmas trailing red and green smoke, that her quarters in An Khe were blown up during a visit by 5 of the World Series winning Mets (an unforgettable experience for all) and how seeing the “boys” blown apart was one of the most disturbing things she experienced while in Vietnam.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.  

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Nancy Caracciolo Warner…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

I was in grad school, and bored!  I wanted to work internationally and was hoping to parlay my History degree and fluent Spanish into a Foreign Service job.  I applied to the CIA and State Department, and they were happy to interview me and offer me a job… as a secretary… it was 1969, after all.  Not for me!  I met a school teacher who had been a Donut  Dollie in Korea, and she told me, and my best friend, all about the job.  We applied that week!!!  We both went to Vietnam in July, 1969!

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam?  Did you go by a nickname?

Nancy Caracciolo Warner at age 23, Di An, First Infantry Division, 1969

I served in Vietnam from July, 1969 – August, 1970 and was in Lai Khe for my first placement with a two week TDY (temporary duty) to Phuc Vinh, then I was promoted to Program Director and went up to An Khe in the Central Highlands.  My last 7 months (I was asked to extend my tour a month) was as Unit Director in Da Nang.  I was known as Nancy in Vietnam.



What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

Nancy Caracciolo Warner at FSB Gela, 1st Infantry Division out of Lai Khe 1969

If it was a clubmobile day, you were up early and out looking for rides to wherever you were supposed to go… a firebase, another outpost off the base or someplace where there was a unit doing work with civilians.  A helicopter, plane, deuce and a half, or whatever we could scrounge to get us there, if there was not a prearranged mode of transportation.  We would arrive at the location and scout around for the First Sgt. or Company Commander to arrange a gathering of the guys for an hour of programming. 

Nancy Caracciolo Warner visiting an ammo dump in Da Nang 1970

Depending on what might be going on at the base at the moment, you might have to be really flexible and redirect your efforts to see as many guys as possible.  Maybe they had had a bad time in the field and they were not feeling it for a program.  We might stand behind the lunch line and serve them their hot meal or we might go to them in smaller groups and see if there was a game to play or just visit.  Afterwards, we’d get the First Sgt. or CO to get us a ride out to the next stop and do it all over again in a new location.  We might get to 3-5 stops in a day, if rides came through.  We would get home before dark, write up statistics and a report of how the day went, shower and get ready to head out to whatever unit party was scheduled for that evening.  It was part of our job to be the “girls” at parties and we would socialize with guys at their stand downs.  Repeat again the next day. 

If we had a recreation center, you might be in there for the day programming, playing cards, pool, pingpong or whatever to interact with the guys.  Also, lots of planning would be taking place in the center for the next holiday decorations, events and so on.  Long days, always “on” and always smiling, welcoming and friendly.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

When I was in An Khe, our quarters were blown up by sappers when the Unit Director and I were inside (the term “sappers” was used to described Vietnamese – probably local Viet Cong – who were skilled at demolition or firing crude rockets).  We both dove under a bed and pulled the mattress down to shield ourselves.  Two helicopter pilots managed to come in checking for anyone still inside and pulled us out.  The quarters were destroyed enough that we all had to live in one of the hospital wards for a month while it was repaired.  Incoming fire was a fact of life in most cases and we often spent the night in a bunker rather than in our beds.

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

Seeing those boys blown apart was probably the most disturbing thing about the year in Vietnam.  My first reality check was with a PFC (Private First Class) I had met and befriended on a firebase outside of Lai Khe.  I had only been in Vietnam for three weeks.  He was a Brown graduate and an All-American hockey player.  All he wanted to do when he got out was to go home, teach school and coach hockey.  The next time I saw him he was in the MASH unit having lost a leg, plus serious injuries to the other leg, with amputation still a possibility, serious injuries to his arm and loss of hearing.  I was destroyed and actually thought about going home. 

I couldn’t imagine that this was what I would be experiencing for the next year on a weekly basis.  This is where you realize you have to shut some of your emotions down in order to survive it all.  You walk this fine line of being sincere and interested, but then you are not allowing all the details of their lives to get to you, so that you are invested in them in a way that will cripple you should something happen.  It was totally a survival reaction and happened almost without effort. 

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

I grew up in a military family and my family was stationed in Spain while I was in Vietnam and when I went home, that is where I went.  I stayed in Europe, traveling on a Eurail pass for a year.  I would go home to Madrid for a break once in a while during that year, but I didn’t come back to the US until the year following my year in Vietnam.  It did help cushion my adjustment.

Nancy Caracciolo Warner visits a much painted rock on the way up Monkey Mountain, Da Nang, 1970

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

The women who served were women who stepped out of their comfort zone and were willing to accept the risk of this year with open hearts and minds.  Not all of us understood what that meant or would mean.  Most rose to the occasion and well represented American women to the men who served.  It was very hard work.  We were away from all of our support systems and had to dig deep many times to be strong and to deal with the variety of things that came up.  We all did it in our own ways and yet, we all did it well. I am so proud to be numbered among these women.

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

I have, only once, had any negative reaction to women having served in Vietnam.  All these years later, they hug us, thank us, say kind things about and to us, and remember our service fondly and, surprisingly, put it on the same level of importance as their own service.  We loved them then and we love them now. 

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

I remember the Dust Off crew who, on their own time, took two of us out to many of the firebases and outposts outside of An Khe on Christmas Day.  We dressed as Santas and they flew us… with red and green smoke trailing, to see the guys.  It was the best Christmas ever!

I remember the night our quarters were blown up, when 5 of the World Series winning Mets were visiting in An Khe.  Since the hospital was under attack, we were all helping the medical staff move the wounded into the hospital bunkers.  All 5 of the Mets pitched in.  Terror in their eyes, but without hesitation, they helped us lift and carry out stretchers and hung IVs on the bunker racks.  We all collapsed on the floor of the bunker when we were finished and they did themselves proud!!!

I loved doing a Radio Show, both in Lai Khe and Da Nang.  We did song requests for the guys.  It was so gratifying to be out in the field and hear how much that show meant to them.  Some requested songs they taped to send home to their girlfriends or wives from their requests on the show.  It was so nice for them, and for us to hear how much they loved it.

Our elderly Papasan in Da Nang asked for some time off to rebuild his house that had fallen apart in the monsoon rains.  I went to the civilian worker management office (not sure what it was called officially) and told them that we were going to let him have two weeks paid vacation.  The Sgt. went off on me about how we only pay them for when they work.  I disagreed and argued that most Americans get paid vacation time of at least a week, and that Papasan had been working for the Red Cross for many years and deserved two weeks.  I stood my ground with him, as well as some Major he sent me to see.  I insisted that we treat our employees as we would want to be treated.  I guess I shamed them into permitting it, as Papasan was overjoyed and later invited me to come to “dinner” at his new home!!!

Closing thoughts…

I feel like we Donut Dollies will be like the WASP’s of WWII.  No one will know of our service until most of us are gone or are less able to talk about it!!

Nancy Caracciolo Warner with Med Cap guys who provided medical care to civilians outside Hoi An, 1969

Interestingly enough, though many of us are capable of telling our story on our own, I think we are just too humble about it and think it insignificant, as compared to what the men who served were doing. I have always felt that their sacrifice and the circumstances under which they served, deserved all the recognition and honor.  Sadly, even they did not receive that when they came home.  So, better late than never!!!



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The Donut Dollie Detail

In our 40th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Margo tells how she went to Vietnam to support the men there, how she had a close call at a firebase she had just left, and that one of her fondest memories was playing Santa at firebases around Chu Lai.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.  

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Margo Smith Timberlake…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

I felt that it wasn’t about the war or politics, it was the opportunity to support the men who were there and just to let them know that someone cared about them. 

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam?  Did you go by a nickname?

I served in Vietnam from August, 1970 – August, 1971.  I was stationed for 2 months at Cam Ranh Air Force Base, then 5 months in Chu Lai and finally 5 months in Quang Tri.

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

On the bases where we had a Red Cross recreation center, we took turns staffing them.  When we were stationed on bases where there was no recreation center or we weren’t working the center, we would fly out to 3-4 fire bases to take our games on the road.  In the afternoons we would visit the hospitals.  Evenings were often spent at a stand down party or at the officer’s club.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

We were having lunch on one of the firebases (I don’t remember which one) and our chopper came early to pick us up because they had an emergency op to run.  So when we left, the guys also left and cleared the area.  About 10 minutes later a mortar round came in and completely destroyed where we were sitting.  I guess we were all very lucky.

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

My only injury came when I was running to the shelter during incoming and tripped and fell in a ditch!  

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

When we visited the hospitals, the men were usually newly injured.  They were not ready yet for sympathy, so we had to adopt a tone of “why did you have to go step on a landmine?  That was pretty dumb…”  Then we would go back to our hootch and cry.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

Surprisingly the transition was not difficult.  I had wonderful support from my family and friends.  But another Donut Dollie and I also left the states after about a month and backpacked, hitch hiked and traveled by Eurail through Europe for 4 months, so we had plenty of time to decompress and process our feelings.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

We were all young and idealistic.  We wanted to make a difference.  And most of us felt that this was our opportunity to do something “different” and meaningful before we settled into what we expected to be mundane lives.

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

I know that veteran’s on the whole seem to have enjoyed having us as a diversion from their other memories of Vietnam.    I seldom mention that I was there so I have not gotten any recent feedback from a vet.  

My uncle, a former commandant at a military school in Alabama had passed, and at his funeral I met a former JAG officer who had been stationed at Cam Ranh Bay when I was there.  He thanked me for being there and helping to brighten his day. It was nice to be remembered in such a good way.

While my cousin and I were arranging to have a military funeral for my uncle, the current commandant of the military school, Col. Roy Berwick, had a certificate on his wall from Vietnam.  I commented on it and mentioned I had been there then too.  His reaction and comments were so positive, I had to mention it here.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

1) Christmas in the bush around Chu Lai, there was a cease fire that day, so we were choppered right out to areas we never would have gone any other time.  I think we went to 3 different places.  These guys were not even able to get back to a firebase for Christmas, so we took Christmas to them.  We put pretty pitiful homemade paper decorations on whatever “Charlie Brown” tree we could find, sang carols and visited.  I had on a Santa top and the guys would come sit on my lap, whisper their Christmas wishes and get a Red Cross goodie bag.

2) Serving meals to grunts on the fire bases and seeing their surprise and smiles

3) Riding in helicopters at low level with the doors open!

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The Donut Dollie Detail

In our 39th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Cathie tells how her Aunt’s work with the American Red Cross prompted her to join the “club mobile program” in South Korea, how she was one of the few Donut Dollies who actually served donuts to the men, and that she got back so much more than she gave from the men in Korea.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.  

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Cathie Snyder Rubins…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Korea?

I graduated from college in June, 1972 and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, career-wise. My aunt was then National Director for Service to Military and Veterans Hospitals at the American Red Cross in Washington, DC, and suggested that their “clubmobile program” might give me a chance to sort myself out.  Maybe she thought it might mature me a little too.  I had never been to Asia and that sounded interesting too.

When and where were you stationed in Korea?  Did you go by a nickname?

In July, 1972 I was stationed at Camp Casey in South Korea for a couple of months, then was promoted to unit director at Camp Howze and served there until February, 1973, at which time they were shutting down the Donut Dollie program and I was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medial Center in Bethesda, MD to be a Recreation Therapist.  I was known as Cathie while serving in Korea.

What was a routine day like in Korea?

Our office was right next to the hooch we lived in at Camp Casey, so we fell out of bed, into our uniforms and walked over to the office.  I was assigned the task of managing supplies for the bakers at Camp Casey, so sometimes I would inventory their stuff.  Eventually I discovered that they were selling the chocolate we bought for the icing for our Friday donuts on the black market – it was astounding how much chocolate we were going through!  But the bakers were usually finished frying the donuts by the time we got in, and had all the bags of donuts ready to go.  We would call each unit we were supposed to visit that day, to confirm they weren’t out in the field or otherwise unavailable, and then head out in our deuce and a half or jeep or whatever vehicle we had that day.  At Camp Casey, we travelled by helicopter to some of our stops .  At Camp Howze, there was a weekly stop at “Magic Mountain,” a radio installation, where they had to come down the mountain and pick us up in their jeep. Often we ate at the mess halls, and at Thanksgiving and Christmas we split up so we could eat the holiday meal with several units – I ate Thanksgiving turkey up in the DMZ in 1972.  We were a small unit at Camp Howze (just 4 of us) and became good friends with the men who drove us.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

No – our drivers were always soooooo careful with us!  They seemed to love the assignment.

Were you ever injured while in Korea?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

I only visited one MASH unit in Korea, but Walter Reed was a difficult, amazing experience, as I was assigned pediatrics (children dying from fatal diseases), oncology (adults dying from cancer), and orthopedics (guys with amputations).  I remember one soldier who had stepped on a land mine and had both feet blown off; his hobby before serving had been square dancing.  That was a big wake-up call to me about how hard life could be. 

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

OMG, getting into the San Francisco airport, I was astounded to see so many “round-eyes!”  It was so weird after having been such a rarity for almost a year.  Also, American people looked so fat to me! (And they still do.)

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

Everyone (both the Dollies and the men we served) had a different reason to be there and came from different backgrounds, but I learned that even though we are all different in some ways, we are more alike than we are different.  The women I served with wanted to be useful and kind, and that’s a pretty good goal (and unusual these days).

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

I think the Donut Dollies in Vietnam must have been an amazing sight to those guys and that the Vets thought they were extremely brave to go.  I have never spoken to any vets about my time as a Donut Dollie.  I imagine they would think I was lucky to have all the options I did, and maybe silly to go to South Korea.  I remember meeting guys in Korea who had been given a choice by the judge: the Army or jail.  OK, I had waaaaaaay better choices than that.    

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Korea?

I loved the women I served with – they were an energetic, curious group.  I had some not so great experiences in Korea, too, but all in all I learned a tremendous amount and feel it has enriched my understanding of people, the world and myself.

Closing thoughts…

Who knew Red Cross was doing so much good just by sending out a bunch of friendly, nurturing faces?  It’s led me, in my sixties, to start standing up at ball games when they honor those who served with the military.  I was always proud to be able to think that I had served (sort of), as I came from a family where EVERYONE had been big-time military during WWII – an uncle was on staff at the Pentagon, other uncles were commanding troops in Europe, my aunt was career Red Cross, acting as Eleanor Roosevelt’s on-site guide during her visit to the Philippines and eventually retiring as national director of service to military hospitals.  My mom and dad met in Australia where they were both on R&R from the Philippines, her with Red Cross doing social work and him as an Army officer, building fuel dumps for planes!  But even though I was my family’s resident hippy peacenik, I was forgiven my disinterest in a military career.  But now I know that’s my service wasn’t nothing either.  For the men to see a friendly face, in a ward or a war zone or when they just needed help and didn’t know who else to ask, that’s what the Donut Dollies were there for, and I got back so much more than I gave, each time. 

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The Donut Dollie Detail

In our 38th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Cathy tells her experience during an incoming fire event for the first time, how visiting soldiers in hospitals were some of the most challenging experiences and how she enjoyed chopper rides over the rice paddies.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.  

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Cathy Knutson Brown…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

One of my sorority sisters from FSU had gone and her reports sounded so interesting.  I had one other job offer, but I was just more intrigued with the idea of serving my country… and so I went!

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam?  Did you go by a nickname?

I was stationed with the 4th Infantry Division in Pleiku from April – November, 1968, then with the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing in Phan Rang from Novemeber, 1968 – April, 1969.  One nickname was Pleiku Cathy; another was Knuts (Ca-noots).



What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

First off, there was NO routine day in Vietnam!!!  In the Central Highlands of Pleiku we were in an active war zone.  Our general, Major General Charles P. Stone was very supportive of our work and made sure that we were able to get out to the fire bases every day.  Morale was very important to him and he understood our role and responsibilities.  Generally we would rise and shine and go down to the chopper pad and wait for a ride.  We would visit 3-4 fire support bases then back home around dusk.  Then hit a round of events in the evening… BBQ’s or other gatherings, visiting with the men, being cheerful, encouraging, listening.

In Phan Rang we operated a recreation center, which had different requirements for programming and such.  We also had a radio program and would visit troops in the field.  Phan Rang was on the coast and there was a different vibe — less war-like than in the Central Highlands.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

Just once, though I’ve never spoken of it.  A colonel wanted us to visit a motor platoon that had been in the boonies for months.  It was not approved, but my partner and I were game.  We touched down and started visiting with the guys, when we started experiencing incoming fire… in the middle of the afternoon!  One of the guys picked me up and threw me down in a bunker and jumped on top of me.  Our guys started returning fire… then gun ships zoomed in and the enemy shooting ended.  Yikes!!!  I have palpitations just remembering this!!!!

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

This was the hardest for me, especially in the quadriplegic wards.  Our job was to be endlessly cheerful as we visited those with devastating injuries.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

I returned home to San Francisco and war protests!!!  In the year away so much had changed in America… it was disorienting.  1968 has been referred to as a year of seismic change in our country: the murders of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the tumultuous Democratic convention in Chicago… and we were in the midst of it all.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

For the most part these young women were earnest and devoted patriots… putting service above self.  Fresh faced, earnest and full of pizzazz.  I would imagine that most went on to lead extraordinary lives… I know I did!!!

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

In all the years I have only experienced gratitude from those who served. In the 70’s I traveled often by plane for business and would connect with fellow passengers (male) and when they learned I had been in Vietnam they would open up and pour out their stories… because I could somewhat understand their experiences.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

Chopper rides on crisp mornings riding over rice paddies; sailing on the South China Sea with the 2nd Squadron RAAF; playing my ukulele and singing with the children at the leprosarium in Kontum run by the French nuns; scrounging supplies for the recreation center; and serving holiday dinners to thousands of troops.



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The Donut Dollie Detail

In our 37th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Jackie tells how her mother’s service as a Donut Dollie in WWII prompted her to go to Vietnam, how during the Tet Offensive a mortar round landed right behind her trailer, and how she appreciates the opportunity to have experienced the most significant experience of her generation.

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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Jackie Lively Norris…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

My mother was a Donut Dollie in WWII and that’s how she met my father! It was part of my family story growing up, so when the opportunity came along for Vietnam, I couldn’t resist. My mother was actually the person who told me Red Cross was looking for young women to go to Vietnam.

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?

I was stationed at Lai Khe from July – November 1967, at Chu Lai from November – March 1968, and Danang from March – July 1968. I was always known as Jackie, but in Lai Khe some of the other girls called me “Dud”, making it the opposite of my last name (Lively).

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

As other women have probably said, there really wasn’t a routine day, but we either worked in the office creating programs, rode by jeep or truck or flew by helicopter out to the field to do a program, or worked in the recreation center, if there was one. We had a center in Lai Khe and Danang, but just an office in Chu Lai.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

I had the same experience Linnie Stone described in Lai Khe, which never felt like a serious threat – but of course, I had just gotten to Vietnam, and was a naïve 21-year old, so I probably didn’t realize the danger. A closer call happened in Chu Lai, where we lived in a trailer on the same street as the generals. One night I was writing a letter home to my parents, and it was during the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968. I had just written, “You’ll probably hear about things happening over here that might worry you because of the Tet Offensive, but don’t worry about me… I’m very well protected”. Right after I wrote those words, a mortar round landed right behind our trailer. I quickly crawled under my bed (they had told us that was an option), and then some soldiers came and took us into the bunker across the street for safety. We spent a number of nights in that bunker during the Tet Offensive!

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

It was always both sobering and heartwarming. Sobering, obviously, because of the shape some of the GI’s were in, but heartwarming because they always seemed so happy to have us there.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

For me, it was probably easier than for most of the Donut Dollies. I was asked to do a 4-month recruitment tour around the US after I returned, so I got to spend those months talking about my experience. I have realized since then that being able to do that gave me an opportunity to get a lot of my feelings out and I have not suffered from any long term stress reactions like some of the women did. I also learned to put the year behind me, grow from the experience, and move on. I know some women had a much harder time doing that than I did. I also worked for the Red Cross in a military hospital for a year, and then several years later, went to work for the Red Cross chapter in Denver, where, as a retiree, I’m still heavily involved as a volunteer today. I have always felt I owe the Red Cross a lot for the investment they made in me as a young staff member.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

We were all young women looking for a life-expanding experience. In most cases we were just out of college, and this was an adventure and a way to start our adult work life. For me, it was life changing, and set me on a path of nonprofit work for the rest of my career. It developed my self confidence in ways that no other post-college experience could probably have done for me. I will always be grateful for that year and will never forget it. I think we each had our own experiences, some better than others, but I would be willing to bet that it was life-changing for all of us. We were there because the guys were there, and we took that very seriously.

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

Every veteran I have ever met has expressed his appreciation for my service… it’s the first thing they say! They were so appreciative of us while we were there, and have always expressed their feelings to us when we meet. I just wish all the Vietnam Veterans had received the kind of of appreciation from people in the the US that they have always shown to us Donut Dollies.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

The opportunity to experience the most significant experience of my generation, and the people – both the women I served with and the soldiers we served. Having amazingly fun experiences as well as sobering, emotional experiences in the same place.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 36 PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL THAT CAN BE SEEN HERE, JUST SCROLL DOWN TO READ EACH (AT THE BOTTOM, YOU’LL SEE A LINK TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE OF DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL FEATURES)

The Donut Dollie Detail

In our thirty sixth edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Jenny tells how even though she wasn’t eligible for the draft, she wanted to support her male peers who were drafted, that 20-years after the fact she learned that a Chinook helicopter she was flying in had come under fire, and that she had a concerning encounter with a unit’s pet.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Jenny Young…

What prompted you to join the SRAO and want to go to Vietnam?        

As a female I wasn’t subject to the draft, and I felt kind of bad about that.  I wanted to try, in some way to help with the awful situation that my male peers were subject to.  I also wanted adventure. 

Where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?

I was first stationed at Dong Ba Thin and the unit was closed in February, 1969 when the Recreation Center’s materials were sent to Tuy Hoa with two of the Dong Ba Thin Donut Dollies.  These two (including myself) became two of the four ARC Girls who opened the Tuy Hoa Red Cross unit, becoming the first women to live there on base.  I was then transferred to Cam Ranh Air Base and then onto the Fourth Infantry Division in the Central Highlands (Camp Enari). I went by the nickname “Jenny” except for the first month, when my issued name tag said “Jen.”  I asked for the change to Jenny, too many people thought “Jen” was “Jan” or “Jean”.

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?   

For mobile runs, either by road (jeep or truck) or air (chopper) we got up very early and came home at the end of the day, unless having to R.O.N. (remain overnight) due to unexpected weather somewhere.  We visited as many units as possible.  In the Highlands, these would be artillery units on a firebase, plus the infantry units who were “in” from patrol.  These were guys living underground or in sandbag bunkers.  We often flew in with the hot chow, so we would serve the food.

We’d then offer our “game of the week” (home-made, audience participation games).  Our “field bags” contained gifts of stationery, card decks, candles, candy, pens, paperbacks, packets of Kool Aid, and small palm-sized mirrors.  Back on the bases where we lived, curfew was 12:00 midnight, except at Camp Enari where the military changed it to 11:00 p.m.    For the units with Recreation Center activities, one worked the assigned shift for being there at the Center, interacting with the men who came in — playing ping pong, cards, talking.  The Centers also staged programs like funny fashion shows or jello eating contests, etc.  Often we would work on our “programs” for the road, getting ideas and experimenting (rehearsing) with those who came to the Center.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?  

No.  I found out 20 years later that a chinook I was on took small arms fire, but I didn’t know at the time.  We were headed home after dark but the pilots were called in to extract some troops from a hot area.   It turned out the troops were ARVN (South Vietnamese) troops.  My Donut Dollie partner was on a headset with the pilots, so she heard about the fire.  

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam? 

Not a major injury, but I was bitten by a unit’s pet monkey on a firebase.  I asked if it had been inoculated and was told yes.  I called everyday on the field phone to ask about the monkey’s behavior (wanting to know if it went rabid), dreading that I might have to take rabies shots.  Luckily, nothing dire happened.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?      

Not easy.  One soldier in a psych ward (strapped down) at Cam Ranh Air pleaded with me to get him out of there.  Another time — while assigned to the 4th Infantry, we had a “regular” run to an LZ called St. George.  One day, at the end of my tour (November, 1969), we were informed NOT to go to St. George — it had nearly been overrun the night before.  We went to see “our” guys who were in the hospital in Pleiku.  It was tough, because we had known them as able-bodied and “okay” all those weeks prior to the attack.  One guy had had a tracheotomy, but wanted to speak to me.  He had to press on his throat.  I had to dig my nails into my palm to keep from getting light-headed.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?   

I saw that those back home were very busy with their lives, paying little attention to the plight of the American soldiers in Vietnam.  Their “concerns” seemed so trivial, for example, “Will we have enough beer for tonight’s pool party?”.  Otherwise, a fairly smooth transition — no real problems.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?    

That the U.S. military requested this program of the American Red Cross.  That we did NOT go to Vietnam to be Call Girls for the officers.  That we went because we cared and wanted to help out in some way, with the Red Cross SRAO program offering that opportunity.

How do you think the Veterans think of your time serving with them now?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly? 

Nowadays they are quite grateful.  Many have thanked me individually and we’ve been thanked as a group.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?      

Incredible camaraderie within our Red Cross “units” and with the military around us.  Chopper rides over beautiful countryside.  American boys who really tried to “clean up their act” when we visited, and were very chivalrous.  Visiting “CA” (Civilian Affairs) teams assigned to Montagnard villages in the Highlands, receiving great hospitality from the villagers.  With my being 6 feet tall and blonde, I think I was quite the novelty to them.  Playing volleyball almost every afternoon with the Commanding General of the 4th Division.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 35 PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL THAT CAN BE SEEN HERE, JUST SCROLL DOWN TO READ EACH (AT THE BOTTOM, YOU’LL SEE A LINK TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE OF DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL FEATURES)


The Donut Dollie Detail