In our second edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Penni Evans explains how the words of John F. Kennedy moved her to join the Red Cross SRAO program.
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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Penni Evans…
I heard about the program while at Sonoma State and graduated early to go to Vietnam. The Peace Corps wanted languages and a two year commitment. Lots of anti war protesting in 68-69. I believed in what JFK said about what can I do for my country.
When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?
I was stationed at Cam Rahn Air Base in March – August ’70, Long Binh (II Field Force) in Aug – Oct ’70, Cu Chi in Oct. – Nov ’70, and Quang Tri in Dec. ’70 – March ’71.
My nickname from Cu Chi on was Chicken Little – in our unit and just a few others. At Cu Chi we sometimes had a pick up game of softball and when I caught the ball – most of the time – I would make the sound that Chicken Man made on the AFVN Radio. And we had lots of Red Alerts there too so the sky was falling!
Nothing routine. At Cam Rahn Air Base (CRAB) either recreation center work or out in the field. At all others club mobile and staying in the office to put together programs. I have little memory of a routine day.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
I had chronic tail bone inflammation and had two (painful) injections of cortisone in the tail bone – CRAB and Quang Tri. Still an issue to this day.
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
I had a real hard time. I remember one time taking some personal items from the field to an injured troop at II Field Force. Less badly injured were at the rear of the ward so I had to walk thru the ward of severely injured. At Quang Tri we were at 18th Surgical and one medic wanted me to write a letter for an injured troop. He had been going out on Christmas Day and we handed out short timer calendars as they saddled up. Then talking to a couple of troops injured out at an aid station in the DMZ. And walking into 18th Surg to hand out calendars and seeing a familiar face. I had a very hard time and was glad not expected to do that. Earlier on the ladies did a lot of hospital visits.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
I was fortunate, came back briefly then traveled to Europe and backpacked for 6 months. Helped the transition. But learned early on not to say I had been in Vietnam. Took me until the reunion in ’83 to begin to realize I was not alone. Found a grass roots vet center who accepted me without a DD 214 and helped me.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
We all had our own Vietnam, depending upon when and where we served, what we did.
How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?
Over the years most reactions have been favorable, only twice was I dissed. But the brothers have given us such support and love, even all these years later. And many sisters have learned about each other and give such love and support, no matter what we did.
What were your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
The Bob Hope Show at Camp Eagle Dec. 22, 1970, Christmas Day 1970, flying safely off of Khe Sanh in the fog and night, playing scratch softball at Cu Chi, going to Sydney for R&R and celebrating my 23rd birthday there, General’s Mess at Cu Chi with General Davidson fixing me my Kaliua mist after dinner
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