Quit her bank job to fly into a war zone
Imagine as a mother hearing that your daughter signed up as a volunteer with the Red Cross during the Vietnam War? That’s what at least one Donut Dolly mother heard when her daughter Mary Evans announced that she got bored at her office job and decided to do something meaningful.
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Evans mother had five sons who miraculously did not get drafted into the war. But her daughter Mary chose to fly across the ocean, straight into a war zone. Mary: “I felt like something was missing in my life. I wanted to get involved in a positive way and do something for those in military service.”

Donut Dollies were women who volunteered to serve humanity through the American Red Cross beginning of WWII, through the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Their mission was to cheer the troops by serving up their namesake donuts along with hot coffee and recreational games.

The Donut Dollies often traveled to different bases daily, sometimes by helicopter, but often in vehicles driven by soldiers allowing them to spread hope. Evans: ”The role we had was incredible. To all them, you were like their sister, their mother, their friend. I think we provided a tremendous service in taking their minds off things.” They always felt welcome, even during the most intense times. Mary remembers that she hardly ever felt unsafe during her time in Vietnam, largely due to all the soldiers and the American Red Cross fiercely watching over them.

Although they felt safe in a warzone, it wasn’t easy. The Dollies worked hard. Evans and the other Dollies would put together 50 minutes of games, activities and entertainment at about six U.S. army sites per day, five days a week. But not one of them ever complained. The commitment to their work is woven throughout their written words and is shared by all the women who served.

Today, Donut Dollies are still honored by war veterans. In 2018 there was a service at a local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Wisconsin to honor Mary and her fellow Donut Dollies. Many of the veterans in the crowd struggled to their feet, but they all stood up to recognize the work of the Donut Dollies. They applauded to express their heartfelt thanks for every single woman who voluntarily stood by their side while abroad.

Mary Evans

United States of America, 1968

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7 young women for every 10 young men complete upper secondary school in low-income countries. If we want more future female leaders, we need to close the gender gap in education.

– UN Women

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