To award a Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Red Cross Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas (SRAO) program, also known as the “Donut Dollies,” who served honorably during the Vietnam conflict.
Last year at this time, I wrote an article entitled “Memorial Day and Donut Dollies - They Wore Dog Tags Too.” This year, I am happy to announce that legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 627 Dollies who served in Vietnam has been re-introduced by Rep Mickie Sherrill (D-NJ), herself a veteran Navy helicopter pilot. The legislation, Donut Dollies Congressional Gold Medal Act (HR 3592) , reads in part:
“Women were not subject to the Vietnam-era draft, but thousands volunteered. The first American Red Cross Field Directors were sent to South Vietnam in February 1962. The last Red Cross staff members to serve in-country departed in March 1973. Official records indicate that a total of 1,120 women served with the Red Cross in Vietnam during that 11-year period. Of that number, 627 were young women who were part of the organization’s Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) program.”
“Military commanders expressed high praise for the Red Cross volunteers, calling the services of the organization “indispensable” and “prime factors” in their efforts to maintain the high morale of their men and to look after their welfare.”
As mentioned in the title of this article, three Donut Dollies did not return home alive. Although their deaths were not the result of hostile fire, they were volunteers in a hostile environment which likely precipitated their early passing. As I wrote last year:
"Three Dollies actually died while in country. Hannah E. Crews died in a jeep accident, in Bien Hoa, October 2, 1969. Lucinda J. Richter died of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, in Cam Ranh Bay, February 9, 1971. Virginia "Ginny" Kirsch was murdered by a U.S. soldier in Cu Chi, August 16, 1970."
Other Dollies who served there and returned home have since passed away, as have many the 2.7 million of those who served there in the military, both men and women. The Dollies who survive today are now aging, as are those soldiers they supported. The Dollies spent their lives essentially without recognition for their service in Vietnam. Some even returned for multiple tours. The award of the Congressional Gold Medal is the least our legislators can do to finally give these women the recognition they well deserve. And as I said earlier, “They wore dogtags, too.”
You can help move this legislation along by contacting your representative in Congress. Cite the bill number and name: Donut Dollies Congressional Gold Medal Act (HR 3592). Add a few sentences to indicate the reason you support the Congressional Gold Medal for the Dollies. This web page will help you navigate to the office of your congressional representative: Find Your Representative