In our thirty fifth edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Sheila tells how after serving in South Korea, the Red Cross asked her to go to Vietnam to set up new units, that the Donut Dollies were so well taken care of by the troops, and how her experiences changed her life forever.
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 Sheila Otto Rosenberg…
The year before I served in Vietnam, I had been recruited out of college for the SRAO program in South Korea. Upon returning home from that tour I signed up to work in American Red Cross (ARC) Hospital Services and was sent to Ft. Sam Houston, Brook Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas. I had been there about 6 months when the DC office called and offered me the task of going to Vietnam to set up SRAO units there. The program was getting setup in Vietnam and few units were already were open. It was 1966 and LBJ initiated the big troop buildup, sending 100,000 men that year alone!
When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?
I was sent TDY (temporary duty) to Long Bin for a couple of weeks until I could go to Phan Rang to set up the unit there. I was at Phan Rang for about 6 months and then sent to Cu Chi to set up that unit until I returned home. I was known as Sheila in Vietnam.
We spent most every day in Hueys traveling out to forward areas to do our programming for troops who were on stand down for few days. One day a week at Cu Chi we were assigned to go to 121 Evac Hospital to visit with the troops there. Friday was for our staff meeting and for working on upcoming clubmobile programs that we would take out to the troops. At Phan Rang we opened a recreation center where troops could come any time during the day for cards, games, coffee, etc. – like a canteen.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
No, I was very lucky. And when I think back about it, it was a very dangerous time there because so many areas were not secured, because it was at the beginning of the conflict and we never knew where the enemy was. There were mostly expeditionary forces when I got there. When I was TDY at Long Bin for that two weeks, we were mortared every night! My introduction to Vietnam. It was in the distance from our hooch and headquarters, but I can still remember the noise and the sky lighting up, especially when you had to go to the outdoor privy and you really don’t want to just then. Same thing at Cu Chi sometimes. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was such a strange place. We had mamasans who were carrying grenades, etc. coming in. They got rid of them of course. It was tumultuous there the whole time and the reason being is we found out later we were living over the infamous underground tunnel system that the VC had built. There were a few times when we were at Tuy Hoa for the day (it was just a staging area or forward area base at that time and we had to be out of there before dusk) and our pick up transportation did not arrive. The CO was really nervous, but they always got us out.
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
No, I was not. We were always so protected and well taken care of by the military. I have never been treated better by men in my life than there! Love them for that alone!!
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
Of course it was tough. We saw just about everything you can see. But we generally saw them after they were patched up and healing. I really saw much worse when I worked at BAMC (Ft. Sam Houston) before going to Vietnam. There I worked the burn and trauma ward. These were the worst of the worst who were medevaced home as soon as possible from Vietnam. They were napalm burned. Nothing worse than fire on the human body. I still have images of a few of the men. I wished for them to die. It had to be better.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
I hibernated at my parents home for about 6 months. I was happy to sit there and do nothing. I saw a few friends who came to visit me there. Then I went looking for a new job, as I had gotten out of ARC after Vietnam! I was fine. I went on to grad school and marriage, children, and the usual lives we lead.
We were not your average American girl, but girls who were part of a new generation of women who wanted adventure, more freedom, recognition, and authority! Those experiences changed me forever. I am a much better woman, mother and citizen because of them.
How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?
When I first came home, none of us who had been there admitted to being there because America was not friendly to returning vets. Awful for them! But we would have been submitted to the disdain as well, but no one expected women to have served there – especially in our capacity. So I didn’t share it with many people. But through the years as all that changed, the vets loved us and are so grateful for us being there. They know we we were volunteers – like some of them were, but most were drafted. I love them dearly and we have a special bond.
The men and what they went through and what they sacrificed for a civil war that we had no business being a part of!! That’s all I can think of, really. I am forever a Pacifist. War is not ever the answer!!
PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 34 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)