In our 56th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Peggy tells how she joined the Donut Dollie program to support the men who were drafted, how just hearing a female voice over the phone brightened the day of the men on the Tuy Hoa base, and that following her year in Vietnam she signed up for an additional year with the Red Cross in the states and then with the Department of the Army in West Germany.
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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Peggy Lynd Kelly…
What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?
As a history/political science major at University of New York at Albany, I was intensely interested in the news and felt that it was so unfair that only males were drafted and expected to serve their country. I wanted to help end the war or at least make it better for those who were there.
When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?
My first assignment was at Tuy Hoa Air Force Base where I served from November ’69 – February ’70, I then transferred to Cu Chi and was there from February ’70 – July ’70 and during my time there, I did TDY (temporary duty assignment) at Cam Ranh Bay Air Force in May of ’70. My last assignment was at II Field Force from August ’70 – November ’70. My formal name is Margaret, so my nickname is Peggy.
What was a routine day like in Vietnam?
At my first assignment in Tuy Hoa, we lived in trailers and walked every day to the Red Cross recreation center, and worked either a morning shift or an afternoon shift, with 2 of us on at night. It was the monsoon season, so many of our clubmobile runs by chopper out to the firebases were cancelled. In the morning we taped a phone message for the dining hall and the name of the movie and other activities happening at the recreation center. All the guys loved calling that number just to hear a female voice.
At my last 2 units we would be on a chopper by early morning heading out to a firebase. Sometimes some 19-year-old Warrant Officer chopper pilot would try to scare us with some moves, but the longer we were in country, the more we got used to it.
When programing for the men, we would have an audience participation program with the infantry and then also do one with the artillery unit. We would usually eat at the base and noticed that the artillery unit usually had better meals. We would then go on to another firebase and do it all over again, introducing ourselves and telling what state we were from. The guys always loved that.
Sometimes it seemed like ages waiting for a chopper to come pick us up and take us back to Cu Chi. There were times that all of us were waiting for the water truck to fill the water tank for the shower in our Quonset hut known as the “Doll House”. All of us would have a layer of red clay all over our exposed bodies and couldn’t wait for the shower. We all had “lifer tans” on our arms and legs showing where our uniform sleeves and hem stopped. Since we were in the sun much of our work day, most of the Donut Dollies had a distinctive tan. On weekends we worked in our office and had to go to Commanding General Mess.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
One time we were on a chopper heading to Bearcat base, when the pilot informed us that there was incoming fire going on there, so we had to go another base.
The day our Donut Dollie class was heading back to the world, the flight was cancelled and we had to stay at a hotel in Saigon. I shared a room with a gal who was at Cu Chi when a newly arrived Donut Dollie was killed there in August of ’70 (see more details at www.donutdollies.com/tag/ginny-kirsch). Needless to say, my classmate was having a rough time. In the middle of the night, someone knocked on our door and yelled out our names and saying, “I know you are in there”. Never again would I ever write my first name at a hotel, initial only.
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
One time at II Field Force our runs were cancelled, and we did visit a hospital. When you are doing your job, you see all those men serving and you know there are some on the firebases suffering in their own way. We found that those in the hospital didn’t want our pity.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
I flew on a red eye from San Francisco the night before Thanksgiving sitting next to a college friend who flunked out of law school, got drafted and was coming back from a year in Thailand. While everyone else was asleep we caught up on college news, etc.
My family met me at the airport in Rochester, NY and holding on to the cold railing, I realized I was home! Later at a big family dinner, the only person I could relate to was my cousin, Larry Lynd, who served in Vietnam the year before in one of the units I visited, the 199th Infantry Brigade near Long Binh.
I was able to continue to work for the American Red Cross as a Youth Director in Wheeling, West Virginia. As part of my job, I gave many speeches and show slides of the activities of the Red Cross.
I was not happy there, so after one year I left and got a job with the Department of the Army, similar to the Donut Dollies as a Program Director of a Recreation Center on an US Army installation in West Germany. There were many Donut Dollies who did the same thing. For those who went with the Army, I called us “Stale Donuts”.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
We were all different and had different reasons for being there. Even though I only had a sister and didn’t have lots of experience with males, I found the GIs were like my brothers. From then until today, I can talk to a group of guys and not feel intimidated. Also, as a mother of 2 sons, I feel very fortunate.
How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?
They are grateful and I have had the opportunity to participate in the Story Telling at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, both on many Memorial Days and this past Veterans Day. All kinds of guys, ‘Our Brothers”, would come up and chat with me.
What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
When I was at Cu Chi, a guy from my neighborhood came to the Doll House (our Quonset hut) to visit. All I could think of was memories of him as an altar boy and a young kid shooting baskets in our backyard.
At the end of my tour, some guy loaned me the book “Love Story”, that I read on the plane home. I made sure to send it back to him, since his wife sent it to him and wrote a personal note inside of it.
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