received the following email:
brother, Pat Fenderson, served In
Vietnam from February to December
1971, with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry,
101st Airborne Division, stationed in I Corps. He has written 37
short stories about his experiences, titled
Country: The Soldier's Story
of my favorites is "Donut Dollies", and I thought you
might want to post it on your website.
Pat's story about a
day when the Donut Dollies visited his firebase touched my heart and I am
happy to share it here.
of Pat Fendersonís wonderful short stories are available free at http://pfend66.googlepages.com/incountry
Together, the 37
form a chronology of his time there, from a
jolting reality on arrival to his return home, on his 20th birthday
Chapter 9 DONUT
Firebase Kathryn, April 1971
The soldier was
sitting on the bunker roof, the machine gun disassembled and laid out on his
towel in front of him. Even though he hadn't fired it in weeks, he cleaned
it every day. He enjoyed doing it. It gave him something to do, something he
thought was useful. Besides, it was part of the job.
He was facing east
off the firebase and could see across the ridges to the flat lands and the
South China Sea beyond. It was a sunny day, and a light breeze kept him
cool. They had been on the firebase a couple of days, getting a much-needed
rest. It was nice to just sit and soak up the sun.
There was a noise
at the edge of his hearing, and the soldier looked up. It was straight out
in front of him, and he searched the air below him until he saw the source.
A Huey, coming in fast and low. It was just a black dot against the green
and brown of the flatlands.
He watched it come
in, slowly rising to cross the mountain ridge, and continuing to climb,
pointing its blunt snout right at him. When it got to within a few hundred
yards it began to slow, and it passed directly over him at walking speed,
and landed on the LZ 40 yards away, kicking up a light cloud of dust.
The soldier folded
the towel to cover the exposed parts of the machine gun, and turned to see
who got on or off the helicopter.
To his utter
amazement, three young women in blue uniforms got off, carrying small
satchels, and ducking their heads until they were away from the helicopter
blades. One of the firebase officers was there to greet them, and they
walked over to the command bunker as the helicopter lifted off and headed
back to the base camp.
A rifleman from the
second squad came over to him.
"Hey! Let's go
check out these Donut Dollies, man!"
"Is that what
they are?" said the soldier. "Can we talk to them?"
bet!" said the rifleman. "That's what they're here for. Come
"Let me put
this gun back together. I'll be up in a minute."
He found them
sitting on the roof of one of the artillery bunkers, a long low pile of
sandbags with a stairway entrance at one end. There were a dozen infantrymen
around them, and one of the women was laughing.
The soldier had
never heard anything so beautiful.
He walked up to the
bunker and sat down, watching the nearest woman only a few feet away. She
was talking to the radioman from the first squad, and they were laughing
together. She suddenly turned to the soldier.
said. "You're late."
blushed. "I ... I was ... cleaning my machine gun," he stammered.
she said. "I hear that all the time." She laughed again, and the
soldier laughed too, in spite of himself.
name?" she asked him. He told her. She asked the usual questions, where
was he from, how long he had been in country, what he missed most from home.
He memorized her
face as he answered. Short blond hair, blue eyes, nice lips, some acne scars
on her cheeks, a tiny scar on her chin.
She smelled great.
She smelled wonderful. Her perfume overwhelmed him. He wanted to reach out
and touch her hair, to put his face in it and take a deep breath.
The soldier fell in
love with her even more when she pulled a one-pound bag of M&M's out of
her satchel and said it was the prize for the winner of the quiz game they
were going to play. She read questions from a stack of cards and the half
dozen soldiers playing answered as best they could. The soldier, the best
read of the group, got every question he was asked right.
she said at the end of the game, handing him the bag of M&M's.
"You're pretty smart. What are you doing in the infantry?"
volunteered," he said, putting the bag in his pants pocket.
She looked at him
closely. "Did you really?" she asked.
She was silent for
she finally asked.
like a good idea at the time."
than you. What are you doing out here?"
like a good idea at the time."
They both laughed.
He walked with the
women to their helicopter. He didn't know what to say anymore.
At the edge of the
LZ she turned to him. "So long, soldier. I'll see you another time. Be
And she touched him
on the arm, then turned to the helicopter. As it lifted off she waved, and
he waved back.
lasted a week, and he thought of her every time he ate one.
Pat now lives in north central
Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him:
Pat's sister: Mary Ann (Fenderson)