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.
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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Sheila Otto Rosenberg…
What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?
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.
What was a routine day like 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.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
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.
What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
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)
Thank you for your service and welcome home
You are so kind. And thank you for your service!
As a combat reconnaissance scout I was in the field almost every day. When we did stand down it was usually in a fire base or a few times at places like Tay Ning, Dau Tieng or Cu Chi. When the Donut Dollies came to see us it was like being home for an hour or so. They were so wonderful. If I met one today I would get down on my knee to thank them. They were so special. Thank you Dollies.
And thank you for your service! I’ve never forgotten any of you! You are always with me and always will be!
Thank you for your Service and Welcome Home from a Vietnam Veteran.
Thank you so much. It was my honor to serve and I have such love and gratitude for our service men and women such as yourself.
Sheila, you were a part of our lives in Vietnam. Thanks for the memories.
Thank you for your service! I was there (Cu Chi and 25th Inf. area of operations) know how much of a positive impact women like you had.
Thank you Bill. I so much appreciate your comments!!
Sheila,, thank you so much for being there for us. I was at Phan Rang in 70 and Da Nang in 71. Good to hear that you are well.
Thanks for your kind words & especially thank you for your service. I never forget any of you!
Although our lives most likely never passed, I hope you know the impact you ladies had on us. I was in Cam Rahn Bay & Tuy Hoa, ’68-69. You ladies came out to my plane and visit with refreshments and it felt like “home” for an hour or so. I will never forget you as long as I live. Thank you and welcome home.
Your comments mean so much to me. I flew weekly to Tuy Hoa from our home base newly opened at Phan Rang.
And I have never forgotten all of you. I have a 76th birthday tomorrow & you’ve all been with me every single day of those 76 years since being in Nam.
I was in Dong Ba Thin in 1967-68, and remember the ARC Rec Center there. The interviews in Donut Dollie Detail are very interesting.. I have a couple of questions:
(1) What is the story behind the matching red dresses worn by Linda Meinders Webb and the other DDs in her photos? Were they part of a singing group?
(2) In the interview of Barbara McDaniel Stephens, she includes a photo of herself and an African-American DD. How many DDs of color served in Vietnam? Are you going to be doing interviews of any of them? I wonder if their experiences in-country were different from their white peers.
Hello Bill. Very perceptive questions. I served with a black donut Dollie in Korea but don’t remember any while I was in Nam. But I’m sure there were. I am guessing here obviously as a white woman but I would think their experience was different as a black woman than mine.
Thank you for your service. I know it wasn’t easy for you. Happy 2018!
God bless you and all the Donut Dollies for the comfort you women gave our troops in Vietnam. I myself am a Vietnam veteran. I was with the USAF. I live in New Jersey and was wondering if you or any other Dollies know of any former Vietnam Donut Dollies living in my area. I would like to include someone local on a Vietnam veteran project I’m planning here in New Jersey for this October. Thank you for your service, and “Welcome Home”!
Thanks so much for your kind words. And welcome home to you! I don’t know of any DD’s in New Jersey area myself m. But you might try the local AMERICAN Red Cross chapter where you are m. I’ll bet they can find out for you if there are any of us in your area.
Take care and love hearing from you. I love you guys. You’re the best.
Sheila! Thank you for your Service and Welcome Home from a Vietnam Veteran. Love! Love! Love!
God bless you. Great job…Love!
Sheila, I wonder if you were UD at Cu Chi before I arrived early December 66? Thanks, Joan McKniff, VN 66-67
Hi Joan. As I recall I rotated home in January ‘67 from Cu Chi. I was the UH then & was sent there to open the Cu Chi unit from Phan Rang.
We probably crossed over for a couple weeks together. So good to hear from you.
I believe we crossed over in the Unit together for a couple of weeks. I left Cu Chi in January ‘67. I can there from Phan Rang to open the Unit.
So good to hear from you! I may have sent this message twice to you. Hah