"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Donut Dollie: Emily Strange

Emily Strange

Poet: Emily Strange 

An American Red Cross Donut Dollie 
with the 9th Infantry Division 
and Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam


I flew to desolate fire bases
filled with the tools of war
and the men who used them

it was my job to perform the miracle
of making the war disappear
(however briefly)
for boys who had been trained to kill

it was my mission to raise the morale
of children who had grown old too soon
watching friends die

it was my calling
to take away fear and replace it with hope
to return sanity to a world gone insane

I was the mistress of illusion
as I pulled smiles from the dust and heat
the magical genie of "back-in-the-world"
as I created laughter in the mud

but when the show was over
I crawled back into my bottle
and pulled the cork in tightly behind me

Emily Strange

(Tactical Operations Center)

so often I could see the boy shining through the fa├žade of manhood
as you tried to be the first to yell out the name of the team
who won the world series in 1950

but not this morning as I watched you attach
grenades and canteens to web gear,
sling bandoleers of ammo across your broad shoulders
check your M-16s for peak performance

it was hard to fathom that you would soon be carrying
those heavy rucks
and M60
through miles of rice paddies
using the bug juice to coax off the leeches

no, today there would be no time to play donut dollie games
today it was necessary for you to be men
but, even as you donned your warrior gear
and steel pots adorned with
peace symbols
and “short”
you still had smiles for us

the best we could do for you today was smile back
take pictures
remind you that you weren’t animals
and walk down to the pick up point with you
to wait for the choppers

I don’t know how long we sat in that field
doing the donut dollie alternative to programming
“where ‘ya from?
what’s your favorite food?
favorite sport?
who’s your favorite actress?”

I do remember that one kid from your company
pulled a branch from a nipa palm tree
and wove me a hat as easily as
a donut dollie made kool-aid

I remember the choppers landing
watching you jump on
and waving until you were completely out of sight
before we moved on to play games with the next company

later that day we were visiting the guys in the TOC
making jokes and laughing
when your call came in

I did not understand all of the code words
but understood enough to know you were
calling in fire support
and dustoffs

somewhere deep inside,
I added another sandbag to the bunker
I was building around my heart
and put on my eleanor rigsby face
that i kept in the jar by the door
as we moved on to play games with
the next company

Emily Strange
© 1999

"Please Forgive Me"

for not remembering your name

i know it is here somewhere on the West Wall
probably around panel 20

i remember your face, your smile
as you showed me the picture of your wife and new baby

i remember how they teased the new papasan
as you danced around that desolate firebase laughing

i remember walking into ICU
as they unwrapped the gory stump that was your leg

and i remember my sorrow when the nurse whispered,
"expectant - he was already in a body bag
when the medic noticed slight breathing"

for not staying

i wanted to hold your hand and tell you
to hang in there for your wife and new baby

but the nurses and doctors surrounded you
trying to keep you alive

and i would have only been in the way
so i told the nurse i would check on you later

for not returning

i just did not want to know
that another wife would receive that knock on the door
confirming her worst fears

i couldn't bear to know that another child
would grow up having never known his Father

for i had an early take off the next morning
to fly to another desolate firebase
to laugh and dance with other soldiers
before they too were killed


Emily Strange

627 Donut Dollies served in Vietnam 
$4,800 Approximate annual starting salary 
2 million miles were traveled in jeeps, trucks and helicopters 
7 years:  length of program in Vietnam

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale


  1. I have just met you here on line.
    I am sorry for what you have gone through.
    Tears start and stop and then sometimes gush.

    Vietnam 1966-67
    Thailand 1968-69

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Don. I, too, am sorry for all you have gone through -- Welcome Home. With my warmest regards and respect.

  3. Thank you for all you have done for the men of 9th Infantry Division. God bless you 1966-1967 Bearcat tan-an ta-tru Delta river rat Keith Hibbard


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