In our eighth edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Diane Schmidt Curley tells how she learned of the Donut Dollie program from a magazine article; shares memories of playing games and talking with the soldiers on firebases, and tells how coming home was made easier by her family, friends and Howard Kalt of Kalt’s Restaurant in Milwaukee.
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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Diane Schmidt Curley…
What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) and want to go to Vietnam?
I went to Vietnam because I had just graduated from college and wanted to do something interesting and meaningful. It was 1968 and the Vietnam war was on everyone’s minds. That summer, 1968, I had just graduated from college. I was reading a magazine (Cosmopolitan) which had an article on types of programs which needed women. I believe it was nursing, military, and the Red Cross. The Red Cross seemed perfect for me. I called the number in the article and the man who answered the phone said he would like to interview me in person. I went to St. Louis where I was accepted into the program.
When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?
I was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay from 9/68-1/69. From there I went to Chu Lai until the end of my tour (10/69). I also spent a week TDY at Pleiku. I had no nickname and was known as Diane Schmidt then.
What was a routine day like in Vietnam?
As far as a typical day… I remember they were very busy. We got up around 4:30 or 5 sometimes. We flew in choppers out to the firebases. When we got there.. we did programming. We played games with the men and talked to them. Also gave out Kool aid. Sometimes we ate with them. On weekends we visited hospitals sometimes and also worked in the recreation center where we would talk to the men.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
I never had any close calls. A few times we saw tracer bullets fly close to the chopper on our early morning (predawn) flights. On base when they yelled “incoming” we went to our bunkers.
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
I was never injured in Vietnam.
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
Visiting the soldiers in hospitals was hard but so appreciated by the men. Most of them were so young.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
Transitioning home was very easy for me. My friends and family were very happy to see me. There were about 50 family members waiting at the airport for me. My aunt Marion had a big sub sandwich for me and they had a big 4 foot high picture of me with balloons all around it. My previous employer, Howard Kalt from Kalt’s Restaurant in Milwaukee let me return to my waitressing job right away. My friends had a place for me to stay. I was very fortunate.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
What I would like people to know about the women who served is that we were very fortunate to have that opportunity and we tried our best to bring a little happiness to the men who served.
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 veterans appreciated us alot. Many have expressed this.
What were your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
My best memories of Vietnam was the appreciation from the men, the support from the Red Cross, and also the support from my family and friends. My mother mailed a live Christmas tree from Wisconsin and we had a really good Christmas with homemade cookies and Usingers sausage. Also the mess sergeants were great to us. Also in Cam Ranh Bay the guys would go out to the sea and catch huge lobsters for us. All in all… it was a great very memorable year for me and even though we worked very hard every day… we always felt so appreciated.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 7 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)
I worked with Diane at Chu Lai for several months. She was so delightful, and absolutely the sweetest person! And the guys just loved that gorgeous blonde hair. She was the perfect girl-next-door that we strived to be.
Hi Rene! I remember you too! You were always fun to work with and the guys really appreciated you!!