Donut Dollies, The Unsung Heroes

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Donut Dollies, The Unsung HeroesA tribute to the American Red Cross Donut Dollies who served during the Vietnam War
by Donna Teresa

I get many requests from readers to write about certain people, historical events etc. There is one group in particular who are mentioned quite often: the American Red Cross Donut Dollies who served during the Vietnam War.

These ladies are loved and appreciated as much as ever. The American Red Cross Donut Dollies were very popular with the troops during the Vietnam War. They provided services to the United States military at different bases and hospitals throughout Vietnam.

These workers provided that special link back home by offering a listening ear and recreation to our troops in need. Some even gave their lives during this conflict. They are the unsung heroes who history sometimes overlooks.

Many dollies who served remember their time in Vietnam with great pride and would volunteer to serve the troops all over again. According to Joanna Puffer Kotcher of Rochester Hills, Mich., who served in Korea and Vietnam, she never doubted her reasons for going, because she did it for the troops…

     

"To this day, anyone who served in Vietnam knows about the Donut Dollies," she said. "Wherever I go, if one of them learns that I served, I will get a crush of a bear hug, a heartfelt 'thank you' and a story that brings tears to my eyes. How could anyone ask for more?"

The same sentiments follow from other dollies, like Diane Steinhauser Shufelt of Plover, Wisc. "I requested the Vietnam assignment because of the troops, my decision at that time was not politically motivated," she said. "The best part was that we worked with the troops-the grunts. The worst was seeing everything bad happening and still having to smile my way through it, even though I'd be breaking inside."

The times could be very difficult for the ladies as they felt the weariness and pain of the conflict through the troops. "Handing out mail or listening to the guys reading Dear John letters and knowing that many would not make it home," said Jeanne Marie Bokina Christie of Madison, Wisc. "Telling the guys everything would be okay when I knew they had one heck of a fight when they got home. Knowing I had to go back home eventually and leave my troops."

A recent college grad, Linda Sullivan Schulte of Baltimore, Md., also had other reasons for volunteering and remembers a special birthday. "I had been very active in civil rights and anti war efforts and I wanted to find out for myself what was going on, so I volunteered," she said. "I was stationed with the Big Red One, 1st Infantry Division and they surprised me that night with a surprise birthday party and a wrapped North Vietnamese medicine kit that was captured earlier in the day."

According to Sharon Cummings of Canyon Country, the appreciation Donut Dollies received carried them over the tough times. "It didn't matter if we just sat and talked with the guys, met a convoy coming in or going out, served chow out in the field, everyone had fun and there were lots of smiles and laughter," she said. "We felt we were there for a reason."

The closeness of the dollies and veterans remains, "The bond is tight, and often we refer to it as soul mates, said Gretchen Schaefer-Deichelbor of Bloomington, Ind. "There are so many things we share. You can walk the walk and talk the talk, you are one of us, a veteran, we are told. That is the highest compliment I can handle from a vet before I burst into tears."

For those brought together by war, say Jennifer Young of Webster Groves, Mo., the friendship never ends. "I'd like the guys to know that they are forever in the hearts of a Donut Dollie," she said. "We went, we saw, we experienced, we loved, welcome home."

To all the Donut Dollies everywhere, thank you for serving our troops. There is truly nothing sweeter than a Donut Dollie.


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