By: Jan Radke, American Red Cross
As we approach Veteran’s Day on November 11, our thoughts turn to honoring our military men and women who have served our country. One often overlooked or forgotten group who served alongside our troops during the Korean and Vietnam War, were the young women of the American Red Cross’ Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas staff (SRAO), affectionately known as the “Donut Dollies”.
The name Donut Dollies pays homage to the Red Cross women who handed out donuts and other comfort items to troops in previous wars. The Donut Dollies were young, college educated women who spent a one year tour in country as morale boosters for American troops. These young women brought a “touch of home” to our troops serving in combat zones. The Donut Dollies traveled by helicopter, truck, jeep and even boat when needed, to reach the servicemen. They, too, experienced the challenges and tragedies of war.
These young women were brave, selfless, and resilient – adapting to quickly changing situations and circumstances. They ran Red Cross Clubs where servicemen could play cards or pool, listen to music, or participate in trivia games made by the Donut Dollies. Other young women served in hospitals as part of the Service to Military Hospitals (SMH) program where they visited injured and ill servicemen, read to them, played games, and helped them write letters to family back home.
Their service brought a glimpse of home and a reprieve from the realities of war – providing compassion and comfort where and when service members needed it most.
Donut Dollie Jeanne Christie says, “I had grown up helping others but the year in Vietnam allowed me to experience the Red Cross and how intertwined experiences made touching the lives of the military a joint effort regardless of where they were.” She fondly adds, “There were thousands of soldiers, and I didn’t know them all but they were ‘my boys’ and always will be.”
As we honor our veterans this year, take a moment to also remember and honor those like the Donut Dollies who served alongside our troops. We are thankful for all those who have served our country over the years and very grateful for all the Red Cross does to continue to support our military members, veterans, and their families.
To learn more about how you can help to support our Services to the Armed Forces mission, visit http://www.redcross.org.