Donut Dolly: - An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam
     By Joann Puffer Kotcher
     Donut Dolly, Joann Puffer Kotcher, is a former Math teacher at the explosive beginnings of the Viet Nam War. Joann Puffer Kotcher ducks bullets and mortar shells to bring moments of home to scared GIs. 
     The book shows Kotcher's own baptism into reality. She deftly intertwines her unique experiences with the grueling life of the ordinary Soldier.
     Joann Puffer Kotcher's job is much more than doling coffee, cookies, or small gifts to Vietnam soldiers. The name Donut Dolly is a remnant from a time when young women passed out donuts to those in combat. Kotcher's experiences are human, exhausting, dangerous, inspiring, with splashes of romance.
     She is one of the first women to serve in a combat zone. She intertwines her personal life with her compassion for soldiers. The book describes how she disregards her own welfare to carry out everyday duties. She dodges bullets, shells and shrapnel as part of her job. She represents an older sister, or the girl next door to troops under fire. She was 'a letter from home.'
     Kotcher takes us along on her defiant visits to perimeter fox holes and enemy-infested jungles while she serves combat and combat support troops.
     An historically accurate work, Donut Dolly corrects misconceptions about the War. Kotcher brings a new and first person perspective to a War that will continue to be debated.
     The veteran heroes of Viet Nam are comfortable accepting her as one of their own, one of the Band of Brothers.
"One of the best researched books I've read about Nam. Not only that, Donut Dolly is a GREAT read. I recommend it to everyone. Joan served the military with courage."
Dale Throneberry, Veterans Radio
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful (AMAZON)
Kotcher masterfully re-creates the smells, sounds, fears and emotions of the earliest and most vicious days of the Vietnam War. She relives her dangers as a Red Cross Donut Dolly serving soldiers on the front lines. She was one of the first women permitted to be in the fox holes and to work in the desolate enemy-ridden combat zone jungles.

Her first-hand accounts are vivid, fresh and accurate. We often found ourselves on the edge of our seats. Kotcher manages to re-create the searing reactions of a soldier finding his sergeant has been killed by the V C with the same sensitivity she treats a young corporal comforting a child startled by exploding shells.

Donut Dolly is a war book that maintains the pride of bravery both of the soldiers and of Kotcher, herself. To read Donut Dolly, is to give us a better, more complete historic perspective of the most controversial war in America's history. Moreover, it's lively and sometimes charmingly romantic.

Its polished prose and honest action is rare in any kind of book, military or otherwise.

HISTORIC TREASURE   Kotcher's book, Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam is a jewel.  Kotcher was a Donut Dolly in Vietnam serving in five duty stations at the height of the War. She saw what most girls would never encounter, with courage and with bravery.  Her book is a historical treasure.  
Donut Dolly is available world wide.
(Ms Kotcher has been, but is not now, employed by the American Red Cross or any of its subsidiaries. She is an independent author, who has worked on Donut Dolly for over eight (8) years.)
National Library Association Citation
Army Historical Foundation (Nominated for "Book of the Year")
National Books Critics Circle - Book of the Month
Literary World Pick (Award)
Stars and Flags National Book Award
Stars and Flags National Writing Excellence Prize 
Cantigny 1st
Division Museum Award
Library Guide Commendation
UAW Region 1 'National Recognition of Veterans Honor'
Veterans Coalition Annual Award
United States House of Representatives Special Recognition Certificate
Royal Oak (MI) (international) Memorial Day Presentation Oration
National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Award for Women in American History
State Of Michigan Legislative Special Tribute
Patriot Award - Michigan Veteran's Foundation
Senior Men’s Club of Birmingham – Trophy Award
Rochester Hills Museum – Veterans’ Day Launch
Southeast Michigan Regional Loyalty Day (May 1 2012) Honors
Proclamation-Recognition Honor – City of Rochester Hills (MI)
Excerpted from Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam 

It was almost time for me to go home. A year of close calls had brought me to 10 days from returning to the safety of a Michigan farm.

I was taking my last helicopter trip in Viet Nam.  I was one of two Red Cross girls, an escort officer and four crew members on the chopper.  We had spent the day hopping from one Special Forces Camp to another. We were isolated deep in Viet Cong held strongholds.

Night was falling. The Viet Cong owned the night. A tropical storm was closing in. No one flew at night. No one flew through a storm. Our pilot, seeking security, spiraled down and landed at a Special Forces camp in the middle of enemy territory.  As we waited in the camp’s mess hall, we hoped the danger would pass. But the weather reports said it was surrounding us. There was little chance that the storm would miss the camp.

We had a choice, stay on the ground overnight, and be attacked by the VC. Or, fly out and be torn apart by the storm. A third option was just as bad, be struck by lightning and crash and burn in the jungle.

Somehow, I was the one to make the decision. Sure, I had the simulated rank of “Captain.”  But neither the military nor the Red Cross meant that I had training to make command decisions.  The rank was a matter of convenience.  It gave us the right to privacy in living quarters and the option to eat with the officers.

Nonetheless, I was in command to give a life-or-death order to men twice my size armed with M60 machine guns. I had no time to think about my plight. Six pairs of eyes were watching. The people attached to them were waiting for my decision, urged by the fast-approaching weather. I decided to take my chances with God and fly out.

I said, “Let’s go.” The co-pilot, crew chief, and gunner stood up. Our escort officer frowned.

We all climbed into the helicopter and fumbled for seat belts. “Lighten the aircraft,” someone said. Everybody passed boxes out. The pilots strapped in.

A blinding flash of lightning exploded in the sky. The world had caught fire. The co-pilot looked at the pilot and said, “Oooh!” He hesitated. The pilot didn’t falter. “Don’t sweat it.” He checked his instruments.

The rotor groaned into action; the gunner and crew chief climbed in behind their machine guns, and readied their weapons. The ship shuddered and lifted off the ground.

The pilot didn’t turn on the landing lights. The ship’s tail lifted. We began to rise and spiral into the air. Gravity pulled at us. Rain exploded on the windshield. Inside the ship everything was dark except for the green glow of the instrument lights. Lightning danced around us. The windshield wipers began to lose their struggle to keep up with the rain.

Without warning, a devilish flash of lightning, streaked across the sky. Fiery forks reached for us. Dozens of fingers clutched all around us. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t touch us.  The helicopter jolted to the right and everything went black.

I braced for free fall.

Instead, the ship righted itself and kept flying. The windshield wipers dutifully slapped back and forth with confidence. We and the ship were still in one piece. I sat there for a moment in disbelief.

The gunner on my side of the helicopter, beside his M60 machine gun, slept through everything.   Was he fearless or tired?  I guessed that he had been on so many dangerous missions, one as dangerous as this was like all the others.  He had little to say about what was happening, and his body answered with a nap.

I never knew why we survived that thunder storm, until 35 years later, when I was writing the book, Donut Dolly.  The lightning had struck the helicopter. But, against impossible odds, it struck in a way that surrounded us by a Faraday Cage, a freak of nature.
In less than a half an hour, we landed at Bien Hoa, our home base.  My stomach found its assigned place in my body.  Color that had been absent returned to my face.

Oddly, I didn’t feel any success in making the right decision.  I was elated feeling the wet dirt through my shoe leather.

Most people would expect that I had learned some sort of lesson from approaching death so closely.  But all I had was my judgment based on little information.  I felt that some higher power shuffled the deck, drew a card, and put its money on it.
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