PALMETTO, FLA. - Before women served in combat there were Donut Dollies in Vietnam.
“We were a touch of home in a combat zone,” said Rene Johnson.
The Donut Dollies were all college-graduates between the ages of 21 - 24 years old who worked for the Red Cross. They spent a one-year tour in Vietnam boosting the morale of the American troops.
“Not only were we in combat areas, we were in combat areas in [baby] blue dresses that said shoot me,” laughed Susan McLean.
Many of the Donut Dollies traveled across Vietnam by helicopter.
“It was not safe to travel by road so we went strictly by helicopter,” said Johnson.
On Saturday, Johnson and McLean shared their personal Donut Dolly stories and experiences with a small crowd at the Palmetto Historical Park and Agricultural Museum.
“There were women who went for adventure, there were those who went for idealism and a lot of us were there for curiosity,” said Johnson. Johnson said she did not think our country should have been involved in Vietnam but that did not stop her from supporting our troops.
“I was one of those Kennedy kids, when Kennedy said you needed to do something for your country I just didn’t know what,” said McLean who became one of only 627 women to work as a Red Cross Donut Dolly.
Johnson told ABC 7, the Donut Dolly program did have detractors who did not believe women should be in combat but most of the troops were very thankful for their service.
“The feedback today from men who were over there has all been very positive,” said Johnson.
Saturday’s Donut Dolly program was part of the Legacy of Valor Campaign that raises awareness of veteran’s issues as well as honors veterans and their families for the sacrifices they have made.