Red Cross Donut Dollie, Susan Bradshaw McLean

Donut Dollie Diary:

The Long and Painful
Road to Healing

by: George F. Slook
© 1999

Donut Dollie Diary: Susan Bradshaw McLean - 1990

By all outward appearances, Susan Bradshaw McLean is normal in every respect. She is a single parent of a teenage daughter and an adult son. She is well educated, with a graduate degree in special education. She is employed as a dropout prevention teacher, educating juvenile sex offenders. During the week, she plays bridge with the neighborhood ladies and has breakfast with friends on the weekend. She is bright and personable. She does meaningful work. Susan has it all. She should be happy. But something inside is "broken" and needs to be "fixed".

      Susan is a Vietnam Veteran. In common vernacular, these words suggest a military role. However, Susan and hundreds like her served their country as members of the American Red Cross. She was a "Donut Dollie." Officially considered a civilian, she provided recreational services for the troops at war. Much as many military veterans today bear the troubling images of Vietnam, civilian veterans carry similar burdens. What Susan feels inside is different from what people see on the outside. She calls it "pretending." What Susan does is the sum of a lifetime of experiences. What she feels is the product of a year of war. For 19 years after her return from Vietnam, Susan pretended to be normal. Few knew the turmoil brewing inside. Then things began to change. The deep feelings that had been trapped for so long inside her began to surface. She didn't want to pretend anymore. She embarked on a journey to heal her unseen wounds and to find closure of the Vietnam nightmare. Red Cross Donut Dollie, Susan Bradshaw McLean

      So how is it that emotional wounds of so long ago emerge decades later? How does this process provide an opportunity to finally put the past behind? Once injured, the human body has a remarkable ability to protect itself from further harm. Unfortunately, the body's natural defense mechanism is sometimes too efficient. Much as an infected flesh wound can appear to be healed under new-grown skin, so too can the emotional scars of war be trapped deep inside the mind. On the surface, both mind and body can appear hearty and hale, while deep inside the poison festers. Both types of wounds need to be reopened and treated in order to get well again. Otherwise, the poison spreads with hurtful consequence.
     In 1990, Susan was invited to attend an anniversary reunion of the 101st Airborne Division in Washington, DC. The unit was celebrating its 45th year as a division and the 50th year of airborne infantry. After a number of days of hardy revelry, she attended a memorial service on Sunday morning at RFK stadium. A troop of fresh recruits from Fort Campbell, Kentucky was brought in to participate in the ceremonies. They were wide-eyed 18 year-olds, full of military vim and vigor. Their "Leave it to Beaver" faces helped her realize how very young we were when we went to war.
    The audience was arranged so that rows of troopers alternated with rows of veterans. After the memorial readings, the veterans in the audience were asked to stand and be recognized for their service. Susan instinctively rose to her feet. All were asked to show their appreciation for those who survived the war. A young recruit in front of Susan turned around and looked into her eyes. "I expected an obligatory Thank You and handshake. Instead, I heard him say "Ma'am - If I ever have to go to war, I hope someone is there for me - as you were there for them." I felt a sudden warmth engulf my body. My eyes began to fill. The tears started to flow. I started something I couldn't stop. I cried all the way home and for two weeks after. I later got the word that the Ft. Campbell troop had shipped out to the Persian Gulf for operation Desert Storm."

      For the first time since her return, Susan felt appreciated. The sacrifices of Susan and her compatriots did make a difference. The long and painful road to healing had begun.

George F. Slook, E-5
4th Infantry Division
Pleiku and An Khe

Red Cross Donut Dollie, Susan Bradshaw McLean

Trying to locate: Anyone who served with me.
Branch of Service: Other Unit was:
Where served: An Khe, Đà Nẵng, Quang Tri, Qui Nhon
When served: 1970 - 71
Message is:
Please contact: Susan Bradshaw McLean
Mailing address: 1019 Wyndham Way
City, State, Zip: Safety Harbor, Fl 34695
Or send email to Susan Bradshaw McLean using this automatic email.