Meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Jackie Lively Norris

In our 37th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Jackie tells how her mother’s service as a Donut Dollie in WWII prompted her to go to Vietnam, how during the Tet Offensive a mortar round landed right behind her trailer, and how she appreciates the opportunity to have experienced the most significant experience of her generation.

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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Jackie Lively Norris…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

My mother was a Donut Dollie in WWII and that’s how she met my father! It was part of my family story growing up, so when the opportunity came along for Vietnam, I couldn’t resist. My mother was actually the person who told me Red Cross was looking for young women to go to Vietnam.

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?

I was stationed at Lai Khe from July – November 1967, at Chu Lai from November – March 1968, and Danang from March – July 1968. I was always known as Jackie, but in Lai Khe some of the other girls called me “Dud”, making it the opposite of my last name (Lively).

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

As other women have probably said, there really wasn’t a routine day, but we either worked in the office creating programs, rode by jeep or truck or flew by helicopter out to the field to do a program, or worked in the recreation center, if there was one. We had a center in Lai Khe and Danang, but just an office in Chu Lai.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

I had the same experience Linnie Stone described in Lai Khe, which never felt like a serious threat – but of course, I had just gotten to Vietnam, and was a naïve 21-year old, so I probably didn’t realize the danger. A closer call happened in Chu Lai, where we lived in a trailer on the same street as the generals. One night I was writing a letter home to my parents, and it was during the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968. I had just written, “You’ll probably hear about things happening over here that might worry you because of the Tet Offensive, but don’t worry about me… I’m very well protected”. Right after I wrote those words, a mortar round landed right behind our trailer. I quickly crawled under my bed (they had told us that was an option), and then some soldiers came and took us into the bunker across the street for safety. We spent a number of nights in that bunker during the Tet Offensive!

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

It was always both sobering and heartwarming. Sobering, obviously, because of the shape some of the GI’s were in, but heartwarming because they always seemed so happy to have us there.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

For me, it was probably easier than for most of the Donut Dollies. I was asked to do a 4-month recruitment tour around the US after I returned, so I got to spend those months talking about my experience. I have realized since then that being able to do that gave me an opportunity to get a lot of my feelings out and I have not suffered from any long term stress reactions like some of the women did. I also learned to put the year behind me, grow from the experience, and move on. I know some women had a much harder time doing that than I did. I also worked for the Red Cross in a military hospital for a year, and then several years later, went to work for the Red Cross chapter in Denver, where, as a retiree, I’m still heavily involved as a volunteer today. I have always felt I owe the Red Cross a lot for the investment they made in me as a young staff member.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

We were all young women looking for a life-expanding experience. In most cases we were just out of college, and this was an adventure and a way to start our adult work life. For me, it was life changing, and set me on a path of nonprofit work for the rest of my career. It developed my self confidence in ways that no other post-college experience could probably have done for me. I will always be grateful for that year and will never forget it. I think we each had our own experiences, some better than others, but I would be willing to bet that it was life-changing for all of us. We were there because the guys were there, and we took that very seriously.

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

Every veteran I have ever met has expressed his appreciation for my service… it’s the first thing they say! They were so appreciative of us while we were there, and have always expressed their feelings to us when we meet. I just wish all the Vietnam Veterans had received the kind of of appreciation from people in the the US that they have always shown to us Donut Dollies.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

The opportunity to experience the most significant experience of my generation, and the people – both the women I served with and the soldiers we served. Having amazingly fun experiences as well as sobering, emotional experiences in the same place.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 36 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)

8 Comments

  1. Jay said:

    Thank you for your service and welcome home

    March 15, 2019
    Reply
  2. Max Hosafros said:

    Thank you Jackie
    I liked the part when you came back to the States
    You went around talking about you experiences in Vietnam
    And how that helped you in your transition.
    Maybe that’s what we needed to do when we got back.
    We could not talk to anyone, not even Family.
    No one understood.
    I was in Vietnam in 1970
    1st Cav Div
    Camp Gorvad and LZ Buttons
    Thank you again for your Service
    And Welcome Home

    March 15, 2019
    Reply
  3. Susie Heinzelman Ladnier said:

    Hi Jackie, recognized the name and pics. We were fellow DD in Danang. Enjoyed reading about your experience. Susie Heinzelman Ladnier

    March 15, 2019
    Reply
    • Jackie Lively Norris said:

      Susie, Hi! So great to hear from you….hope all is well with you and remember you so clearly. Where do you live now?

      March 15, 2019
      Reply
      • Susie Ladnier said:

        Hi Jackie- We live just north of Atlanta. Where are you. Would be fun to meet up sometime. I have not been to any of the reunions. Have you?

        March 15, 2019
        Reply
  4. Tom Bissenden said:

    I was in Lai The at the start of my tour and was moved into the Delta shortly after. The DD’s have always had my respect and admiration. Thank you Jackie for your service.

    March 15, 2019
    Reply
  5. George A Bontya said:

    Thank you for your Service and Welcome Home!

    March 15, 2019
    Reply
  6. William J McCullough III said:

    Thank you for your service! You made a difference, I know, I was there. 67′ 68′

    March 15, 2019
    Reply

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