Georgia women confirmed as two of Vietnam War’s ‘Donut Dollies’

1. The Tet Offensive showed North Vietnam was nowhere close to losing the Vietnam War. 2. Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for president. 3. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. 4. Two black U.S. sprinters raised their fists in a Black Power salute at the Olympics. 5. Chicago police beat hippies and journalists in the streets.

The Vietnam War was marked by the bravery and sacrifice of the men who were drafted. But there were also several women who made heroic efforts.

The Donut Dollies, as they were known, were young American women who were recruited to bring treats and encouragement to the soldiers serving in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. According to the American Red Cross Northwest Region, the women wore the Red Cross’s baby blue and served coffee and doughnuts to the soldiers on the front lines of the war.

Officially, the program was called the American Red Cross Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas program, according to the Washington Times. It ended in 1972 when the last Donut Dollies left Vietnam.

Recently, a former adviser to Vietnamese troops decided to revisit the 600 Donut Dollies.

The Washington Post reported Jim Roberts long wanted to express his gratitude to two women involved in the program. For years, Roberts only had photos to remember the women, one of which was Peachtree City resident Karen Jankowski. The other was Gwen Hejl Roussel from Macon. She’s now retired and living in Augusta.

“What I’ve wanted to do all this time was just to say, ‘Thank you,’” Roberts, 75, told the Dollies over Zoom.

Roberts is a retired computer sciences professor. He lives in a Pittsburgh suburb.

“Oh, Jim, thank you, thank you,” Hejl Roussel, 74, said. “Fifty years later to hear you say, ‘Thank you,’ with such emotion — it’s so meaningful. I just feel like, ‘Wow. Wow. We made a difference.’ "

“It’s very humbling to have someone have a place in their heart for 50 years for someone that they don’t really know,” Jankowski, 73, said. “It’s overwhelming. I really and truly am not a speechless person. But I’m speechless.”

The reunion came thanks to a Veterans Day article from the newspaper. Tips flooded in from readers.

This isn’t the first time Vietnam War veterans have expressed appreciation for Donut Dollies, who were the subject of a 2019 documentary.

AARP reported 77-year-old Jeanne Christie, who lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, received a letter from a veteran years after the war.

“You made us feel less lonely, less abandoned, less cut off from all we hold dear. You made life a little easier for us, took us back home while you were with us and earned our undying gratitude,” it read.

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