Joyce Rice Denke
As a young Texas girl growing up near Fort Hood, Texas Joyce Rice Denke fell in love with an Army soldier bound for Vietnam. Before he left for the war, the pair were engaged, and they wrote continuously after his deployment until he was Killed In Action.
Soon after, Joyce turned her grief into action by signing up for a program that would take her to the place where her first love lost his life. The American Red Cross Supplemental Recreation Overseas program allowed carefully selected young, single, college-educated women to serve in a morale-boosting job in close support to the military.
Called the “Donut Dollies” after their World War II forebears, the Vietnam Donut Dollies didn’t serve donuts, but they did serve up a “touch of home in the war zone,” taking diversionary games, mail from home, and a girl-next-door smile to combat troops. Each day, they boarded helicopters to be flown to forward-operating base camps, landing zones, artillery positions, and firebases where they conducted programs, served chow, or just sat and talked with the GIs.
In addition to the civilian American women who served in the American Red Cross, the USO, and several government and humanitarian organizations in Vietnam during the war, some 10,000 American women served in the United States military, most of them as Army nurses. The names of eight American women who died in Vietnam are included on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
This video is excerpted from the documentary film “A Touch of Home: The Vietnam War’s Red Cross Girls,” produced by Arrowhead Films. Used with permission.