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Saturday letters: The Donut Dollies were brave women who deserve our gratitude

As I read through the Sunday St. Petersburg Times, I came across the article regarding the Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas Program. I was surprised to learn that one of the subjects of the story, Ann Copeland Young, was in Vietnam the same time that I was there. Ann, according to your article, lives in Brooksville. As I currently reside in Brooksville, I learned that one of my neighbors might very well have visited me while I was in Vietnam.

It is not my intention to attempt to intrude upon the privacy of any of these wonderful women, but I would like to have the following message communicated to Ann, Mary Joe and Melinda and any of the other former Donut Dollies you may have contacted:

I served with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam from October 1967 to October 1968.

I remember several occasions where I was thrilled to catch a distant, fleeting glimpse of the "Donut Dollies" while I was back in our base camps. As officers we were "strongly encouraged" to forgo the privilege of attending any of their gatherings in favor of the enlisted men in our ranks. Since our units were always required to provide what security we could for these very special shows, that generally meant that I was standing with our security personnel on the perimeter of our camps, doing guard duty, while the shows were conducted.

Reflecting on the experience 42 years later, I remember how powerful the experience was for me and my men to see these brave young women putting themselves in harm's way to be "cheerleaders" for the men who were serving. The visits of these women did more than just pick up our spirits. They conveyed the notion that we were not forgotten or "written off" "back in the world." We found the appearance of these young women from "the real world" to be a staunch reminder of what we were really fighting for.

The real service that these women performed was the simple but vital act of "acknowledging" us. They showed us that we mattered. We were people of consequence and ultimately we had not been forgotten. Please pass along my gratitude to the women mentioned in your article.

Art Lane, Brooksville

A moving reminder

I just finished reading your story about Red Cross workers during the Vietnam War and am sitting here with tears in my eyes. We appreciated those girls, and all the others, such as those in the USO shows like Ann-Margret, Joey Heatherton, Connie Stevens, Jayne Mansfield, Anita Bryant, even Phyllis Diller, and so many more.

It didn't matter if they were famous or even if they had a famous name. We called them Hope's Girls, even if they were not part of Bob's troop.

They are all real heroes to the boys overseas, and especially in a combat zone. I haven't yet seen any statue or memorial dedicated to them. It's a shame how American's forget.

Thank you for bringing back a temporarily forgotten memory,

Neal Schwartz, U.S. Army, Vietnam, 1968-1969, Redmond, Wash.

Selfless devotion

I just wanted to thank Waveney Ann Moore for covering the "Donut Dollies" reunion in St. Petersburg.

Along with many of my friends, I wish I could have been there to applaud their courage and sacrifice.

I don't know if Moore has ever met Jan Woods from Arizona, but she is the beautiful young "Dollie" on the cover of my 2009 novel One Star Awake, which honors the women who served in Vietnam. She's still beautiful. They all are.

Anyone who knows the story of the courageous American women who served in Vietnam — ARC DDs, nurses, WACs, Army Special Services, Armed Forces Radio, USO, etc. — is captivated by their selfless devotion to those abandoned young troops, yet sadly, it is probably one of those classic stories of American courage that only their friends and families in the vet community will ever truly know. As my friend and author, Dr. Larry Dossey, once said, it would take Oprah to do justice to their story.

Larry knows what those fine women did only too well. He was a battalion surgeon in Vietnam.

With wars raging in Afghanistan and Iraq right now, it would be a long-overdue heartwarming event to see the likes of Larry and Jan on Oprah's show. Their voices need to be heard, because as the saying goes, if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it …

Blessings to you and yours,

Steven Cain, Nelson, British Columbia

Contrasts in character

I am seldom stirred enough to pick up the phone or write a letter in response to what I read in the paper, but two articles in the Sunday St. Petersburg Times provided sad documentation of the difference between generations and philosophy.

The women profiled in the article about the Vietnam War's "Donut Dollies" exemplify taking action for the greater good — college-educated women willing to work for very little to ensure that the troops who were embroiled in a very unpopular war were connected to home and made to feel that what they were doing mattered.

In contrast, you profile a 40-something lawyer ($73 fine sparks crusade) who appears to be proud that he's "a lawyer with time" and who wastes taxpayer money to fight his relatively petty cause of vehicle noise ordinances. If he needs something to fill his time, perhaps he should join the National Guard or volunteer his time and money to help our troops who are serving in the current unpopular conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Had he been a high school senior or new college graduate in the era of the Vietnam War and the draft, perhaps he would have a different perspective and not be proud of the fact that he's eating up court time and tax dollars. The money and time being consumed by his battle would be far better spent supporting our troops and their families.

Eileen Wetmiller, St. Petersburg

The homeless and jobless

Investing in small business can boost a community

Sleeping on the streets, panhandling, defecating and engaging in substance abuse. These are all common problems we address each day with our homeless population here and elsewhere in our country during these times of economic distress. Our leaders focus on solving this problem in many ways, and proposals fly unabated.

One needs to look no further than small business as a solution. By investing in our community's small businesses, jobs are created that add to our tax base, improve our neighborhoods and eliminate urban blight. These jobs also empower jobless (and sometimes homeless) families and restore dignity to people who feel useless. They fill empty houses with working folks and encourage others to get that GED or begin higher education. As a small business owner for over 30 years, I've seen it and know it works.

From the single mother who was able to go to community college and get a nursing degree to the separated couple who rejoined, moved out of their parents' homes and raised their children with heads held high to the single guy who paid his fines, got his driver's license back and went on to become a prized truck driver.

It works. All this money we spend on jails and support programs that do nothing more than give the homeless a waiting room for the next round of depression or accepting food like animals caged in a zoo. Our money is better spent on creating a venue that gives those people an opportunity to become giving members of our society.

Invest in our small businesses and see how the machine hums. Take a careful approach to what each of our community's needs are and direct funds to that end. We all win and our brothers, sisters and parents on the streets will lift us all to a higher plane. Our small businesses will follow. And when the cycle begins, our community's benefits will take our leaders to a higher plane as well.

Thomas J. Cook, St. Petersburg

5 homelessness myths | July 21, commentary

Housing is key

After working as an advocate for the homeless, and having been employed by a local shelter for almost three years, I have to agree with Dennis Culhane's assessment of homelessness. Institutionalized way stations (human warehouses) are definitely not a permanent solution to homelessness.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster should be looking at the Housing First Program used by other cities to help our most vulnerable, instead of trying to find floor space for people so that he may then enforce the city's petty ordinance on sleeping in the right of way. It would be far cheaper to the taxpayers of St. Petersburg and a much more humane and compassionate move by the mayor of this fair city.

Edward Hotchkiss, St. Petersburg

Energy and security

When it comes to the way we use energy, we are putting our country at risk. America's addiction to foreign oil hurts our economy, aids our enemies and puts our national security at risk. Rather than continuing to send billions overseas for foreign oil, it's time to change course. We should spend money here at home on clean energy sources, which will create new jobs, build new industries and make us more secure.

When we invest in clean energy, this means our energy dollars won't go overseas, they'll go to American businesses to strengthen our economy. By investing in clean energy sources like wind, solar and energy efficiency, we can create up to 1.9 million jobs nationwide. We will also reduce our exposure to energy conflicts overseas. It's time to make America energy independent. We can't afford to wait.

Hadriano S. Martin, Clermont

Expand domestic drilling

I was amazed at the number of acres just in Alaska that could be utilized for domestic energy needs. How much land and shallow water acres are available for domestic drilling? At least 19 million, just in one state!

But we are so busy fighting about the impact of these wells that we have driven them into the most dangerous place they could be environmentally: deep water. I wonder how quick that BP gusher would have been capped on land? A day maybe?

Yet we continue to force domestic energy production out, and keep paying people that hate us to keep our cars moving and our industries humming along. Why? Do we like war that much, or is every acre of this federal land so sacred it is worth American blood to keep a few holes from being drilled in it?

We are not going to go 100 percent green overnight. Unless the government is ready to develop, mandate and pay for every American to have an electric car and solar panels on their roof, we need oil. That is just a fact. So why not use our own and move these well-drilling operations onto the millions of acres of land available? It will be safer, and in the long run put us in a better security position worldwide.

Mark Harteis, New Port Richey

Foster softens line on new Rays stadium July 20, story

Don't change the contract

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, though well-meaning, should not mess with the existing contract with the Rays. Those words and their meaning are sacred and binding. Once you tamper with it, or amend it in any way, you open a major can of worms, shatter a rock-solid negotiating position, acknowledge cracks in the viability of "specific performance," and weaken our argument for damages.

The mayor and the City Council should entertain all the dialogue they find useful, but leave that contract written in stone.

Bryan M. McGuire, Clearwater

New stadium

Let team bear costs

I recently returned from Indianapolis, where I took a tour of the Indianapolis 500 racetrack. I found it interesting that the track has never taken one penny of public money. In fact, they pay tax!

Sports teams, including the Rays, always tell us how they are independent organizations and can and will move the team to another city. Yet, out of the other side of their mouths, they continually want taxpayers to foot the bill for their stadiums.

If they are independent organizations, they should be footing the bill for their own stadiums and not be asking for taxpayer money. If the Indy 500 can be totally independent, why not professional sports? After all, they are just playing a game. It isn't a matter of life or death. I think we are losing our priorities.

Nancy Cerwin, Seminole

Games are great fun

I was perplexed reading a few people's opinions in the letters last week on why not to go to a Rays game. It really depends on how you look at things.

The games are affordable. The Rays run a lot of specialsals. The cheap seats are comparable to a movie. If you are not too lazy to walk, you can park cheaply.

The team is terrific. They are right there among the Yankees and the Red Sox. Have you ever tried to go to a game in New York or Boston? My guess is it would cost five times as much and involve a lot of hassles associated with getting to the game in a big city.

At Tropicana Field, the access is terrific. You do not have to follow the masses. Pull out a map and try a new route. You can approach the Trop from multiple directions: I-175, I-375, 16th Street, Ninth Street, Central Avenue, First Avenue, to name a few.

Try new strategies. Go a little early, go a little late, eat downtown and catch a shuttle to the game. It's easy. I have tried all of these and they work.

The primary reason to go is that it is a fun place.

Willie Harris, Safety Harbor

Misguided loyalty

This is the first election that I have volunteered to pound the pavement in support of a candidate, one with No Party Affiliation. What an eye-opener. It is amazing how many otherwise thoughtful, concerned citizens express support for my candidate's positions and then tell me that they would have voted in support but they have made pledges to their party to not support any other candidates.

Have we as a nation so submerged our individual values that we are content to let partisan party politics decide what is best for us? Worse, we let shadowy special interests control "the party message" which we dutifully follow in mindless lockstep.

What ever happened to voting for the person to represent you who most supports your values, regardless of party affiliation?

Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach

Saturday letters: The Donut Dollies were brave women who deserve our gratitude 07/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 23, 2010 6:35pm]
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