Friday, March 27, 2009

What I did .... The Vietnam Program

I organized recreation and entertainment programs for enlisted military personnel ... Sometimes I assisted in designing and/or decorating clubs and facilities ... for example -- for troops rotating in from the boonies or assigned to support bases, there were nightly activities (other than the EM-clubs, of course) ....

Live USO shows, games (bingo, monopoly, , movies, cards, music rooms (for listening or playing available musical instruments), cook outs (much tamer than the unit stand-down parties), putt-putt golf, golf driving range, arts and crafts, swimming, billiards, board games -- to name a few.

Most clubs (such as the Free World Service Club) included a library, weight room, auditorium, stage (indoor and/or outdoor), expansive magazine collections; some included a photo lab and commercial kitchen .... We tried our best to provide FOR the best .... Regretfully, the program was understaffed and we were unable to develop clubs in the more northern areas before troops were sent south. (More on that later.)

Our program was supervised by the U.S. Army Special Services Section. We worked closely with and scheduled USO shows throughout Vietnam. Today the program is called the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program. Today's program includes family services, counseling, referral agencies and works closely with related Veterans' programs at the federal and (for state-side military bases) state levels.

Another group we worked closely with (and were often confused with) was the American Red Cross. Red Cross programs (the gals were nicknamed Donut Dollies) were delivered directly to the troops at outposts. Special Services worked primarily in club sites, although we also visited troops at area firebases and outposts.

Civilians who volunteered in the anti-war movement of the 1960's were a unique group .... We were there to serve. Volunteering was not simply a political statement -- it was a statement of support for the troops. And the program I was invited to join had been serving troops for decades: in WWI, Korea, WWII.

You may read more about the Special Services program under the History posts.

--Notes and interviews compiled for the Reflections in Marble collection.