Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

Donut Dollies in España?

A touch of home in the midst of chaos.
More than 600 women served as Red Cross Volunteers, or Donut Dollies, during the Vietnam War. These women traveled to the front lines of the conflict to offer recreational programs for combat soldiers.  They offered a break from the intense and devastating reality of war with with handmade games, a cup of Kool-Aid, a song, and a smile.

My aunt Nancy was one of those women. She remains an active member of this group and the larger Vietnam Veteran community.  This summer, she showed us a documentary, "A Touch of Home," about these volunteers. Here's the trailer:

The movie asks, among other things, how can you help? What can you do? And highlights the value of connection to home when you are far away and in danger.

This week when I learned that a train had jumped the rail and smashed into a concrete wall just a couple miles from where I sat, at my in-laws home outside Santiago de Compostela, I felt what we all felt: sad, confused, heartbroken.  Soon we learned nearly 80 people had died and more than 100 were injured in that moment. While I was happily talking to my brother-in-law about the impending birth of his baby girl and if the stroller would fit into their building's tiny elevator. Such is life.

It wasn't until the day after the accident that I learned there had been several US citizens on board, one had died and the others were hospitalized.  Not exactly sure if or how we could help, a couple of American friends and I went down to the hospital this morning to see if the injured Americans were still there. We brought books and Reese's Peanut Butter cups. As it turned out, there was only one US citizen in the hospital, and she is in a coma.  The others had been transferred to other facilities or discharged. We called the local consulate and gave them our phone numbers, in case a family member came into town and needed something we might be able to offer.  A place to stay, an American accent, a smile, a touch of home.

Not exactly a Donut Dolly effort, but an intention perhaps worthy of the tradition.