In our 50th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail we pay tribute to Donut Dollie Jody Ahrold Reynolds. Sadly, she passed away on June 3, 2019. We are grateful that Jody had shared her story with us and we were finally able to locate photos from the archive of the late Joan “Dee” Fowler Hirsch, who served with Jody, to create a complete feature.
In her own words, Jody tells how President Kennedy’s inaugural address inspired her to serve in Korea and Vietnam, how she was one of the few Donut Dollies who started in Korea and were then asked to transfer to Vietnam, and how she tried to be a friend to the “boys” who were serving in Vietnam.
Please join us in honoring and remembering Red Cross Donut Dollie Jody Ahrold Reynolds…
What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Korea and then Vietnam?
As a young woman in the 1960’s, I heeded John F. Kennedy’s words “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” I took the Peace Corp test and stated I wanted to go to Asia or Africa, two very big continents. I was accepted in the program and they assigned me to Ecuador – I declined. Shortly thereafter I heard about the Red Cross job – Asia it was – and the pay was better. I was a Political Science major, also Secondary Education and World History. The place was timely for my interest and skills.
When and where were you stationed in Korea and Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?
After a 2 week training program with the American Red Cross at their National Headquarters in Washington, DC in June of ’65, I left (with 30 women) for Korea. I was stationed at Munsoni, Korea – near the DMZ – when I arrived it was the 1st Cavalry Division – their colors were in the process of moving to South Vietnam, the buildup had begun. My unit was now the 2nd Division. In late October of ’65, I was transferred to Taegu Pusan – I was promoted to Program Director – a $50 a month pay raise – whee! I volunteered to go to Vietnam in Nov/Dec of that year. I did an ITT – an inter theater transfer to South Vietnam in January of ’66. I was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay and did several TDY’s (temporary duty) – one to the 1st Cav Division – and I can’t remember the name of the other – very small base.
My name is Joanne, but I go by Jody.
What was a routine day like in Vietnam?
Our Clubmobile was open from 10 AM to 10 PM, 7 days a week. There were 4 of us for the first few months. There always had to be two of us on duty. The days were long – not much free time. When we did get a ½ day we would go to the beach (beautiful beaches in Vietnam), always a GI and jeep would find us to help us out. At night if we were not working we would go to the Army’s Officer’s Club or down to the Air Force Club for an adult beverage or two. The USO came several times – Danny Kaye – Bob Hope – we would serve lunch or dinner to the GI’s in their mess hall. We probably went to the NCO’s mess halls – I can’t remember – occasionally they would show a movie on the back wall of a building and we would sit on blankets on the sand (lots of sand). We would visit the Army Hospital and Air Force Hospital. At first, we would visit the village orphanage, but then the village became off limits.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
There was shelling at two of my TDY stations – we were in the bunkers with helmets – I am sure I was frightened – a long time ago!
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
There were two hospitals at Cam Ranh, one at the Army end, one at the Air Force end. We didn’t go often, we were too busy with our units. The real tough cases didn’t come to CRB – they were medevaced. We saw the ones with mental issues – we just talked to them, held their hand.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
Judy Cayce and I spent 6 months coming home thru Southeast Asia, Australia, etc., so we had plenty of time to reflect on what had transpired. I remember the night we sailed out of the Singapore Harbor – taking our last look at Asia (for a while) and how pensive and reflective we both were. It had been a memorable year – after all the war was still going on – we really didn’t want to leave, but we knew we needed to.
When I arrived home, I got a job with the Des Moines Public Schools as a substitute teacher. I would often take my slides and tell the Junior & Senior High students of my journey. I then got a call from the American Red Cross and they hired me as a case worker for SMF (Service to Military Families), SMV (Service to Military and Veterans) and Disaster Services. The Red Cross sent me around Iowa to speak.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
My youngest brother was the age of most of the boys I worked with (18-19). They probably had not heard of Vietnam until they arrived. They knew nothing about the US policy of containment and what war was really like (nor did I) and many were scared and bewildered. I tried to be their sister, next door neighbor or a friend.
How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?
On November 11, 1993, Judy Cayce, Joan “Dee” Fowler Hirsch and I went to the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. Many Donut Dollies and veterans from the different branches of the military gathered by unit in front of the Smithsonian and walked the National Mall to the dedication. It was a large parade with lots of spectators – many men ran up to our group as we walked and thanked us with tears in their eyes – we were shocked and touched. All of the GI’s that I have met over the years can never thank us enough. It is a connection – they get it and I get it!
What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
Living something that you can never imagine unless you had been there – I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
We wish to thank the following people for their assistance in making this feature possible: Jody Ahrold Reynolds, Stan Reynolds, Joan “Dee” Fowler Hirsch, Patricia Schweers and Karen Bishop.
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