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tv   Oral Histories Red Cross Donut Dolly Camilla Meyerson  CSPAN  April 24, 2021 2:00pm-3:26pm EDT

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>> next, camilla meyerson recounts her time as a red cross doughnut dolly during the vietnam war. don't dollies were women task of bringing morale. they would help write letters home or sit next to hospital beds and comfort them. this interview is from the veterans history project. camilla: i think, it's interesting story because there will be no secrets here. i'm 72. being 72 means you get to have some perspective.
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50 years ago it was that i was in vietnam. as i speak to you today, it will be from that approach. but, in reflection of who i am and what may become to this, i think it is pretty interesting. because, i, pretty much found myself returning back to the city after my experience in vietnam as a very unique. it was sorta shocking to me. but, as time has rode along, it has become more and more clear that it was a unique experience. it shouldn't have been but it really was. i was born in charleston, south carolina. my dad was in the second world war. he was a survivor, he was, let's see, his position i'm trying to
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remember -- communications officer for the ship. he jumped overboard and was pulled from the water three different times. i always think of my data as a hero of the second world war. back to ship at port were they repaired it. with thousands were killed. interviewer: an aircraft carrier? camilla: yes. it took a lot for my dad to get in the military then. he was a lawyer, a duke graduate , a very fine lawyer. he met my mother on a blind date in new york city. she was from illinois. my dad was from spartanburg, south carolina. i mention that because west moreland and my dad were camp counselors together.
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but, i thought that was a coincidence. anyway, my mother and dad met on a blind date in new york city. they went right out there on the street, my mother was an interior designer. she had had many advantages, daddy traveled a lot, too. they were married in new york city. that must've been in about 1940. at that time, my dad, when it was announced that we were going to war, he worked very hard to get in. and he was underweight. so he had to go back to south carolina to be able to get into and serve in the navy. he was a lieutenant commander, and he went to harvard and they taught him a lot there.
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that background was there for me to her memory that he served in the second world war. he never spoke about it. i have learned, more and more since. i am more and all of what he went through. at one point in new york, they decided, we are over it with the traffic and the people and they said where do we want to go? they came here and started out. i was born, dad was in the pacific, so i had to go back to my dad's hometown of charlston at that time. i was born at the naval hospital. that is my background in that regard. i grew up with many privileges, all of the privileges one could have in this city, i got them. i look back on that and, a perfect youth in a way. i rode horses, it was deep
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woods. we grew up, my mother being an interior designer, she chose an old school house. which is still standing. some of the oldest houses. i think it had been a black school. it is going to go on the historical registry at some point. she turned it into a wonderful interior designer's home. that is where i grew up the first 11 years of my life. i can remember going admitting my friend who lives through the woods. and the two of us walking to the corner of peachtree, where there are now skyscrapers. standing and waiting for the oglethorpe bus. it would take us to downtown so we could have brunch -- have lunch at the mcnulty room. that was the youth, i went on to westminster schools for high school and got a superb education.
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one of the things, i'm always looking back, my mother was involved in everything in the city. i had three other siblings. there were four of us. literally, we were raised by a wonderful woman named annabelle. mother was very busy getting her life to the city. she did things like all of the organized garden clubs in atlanta. she was responsible for having trees put up and down peachtree. it was a little building at one point. very active in the church. i was a brownie and a girl scout, in charge of the scouting in atlanta. i was a bellringer at the church. a piano player, took piano lessons forever. the thing that has always been the strongest suit was that i was always a dancer, i dance for them was 30 years of my life.
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i was a member of the troop, my life circled around that. upon graduation, i went to school in new orleans. and i got my degree in french language and literature. i went abroad for two years and studied in france. and spoke french, fruit leap -- fluently. came back, graduated from tulane. that puts me where i am now except to give a forward thought, the idea of having been in cotillion's and debutantes, doing all of that, all of my friends in atlanta were privileged. when you live abroad for two years, you come back to this country and you begin to see things a little differently.
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i think that really had an impact on my life. i became much more interested in this country, looking at all parameters from a different angle. i was very introspective when i finished my degree. now, that sums up where i was. except, i didn't tell you my social life. there was a young man, i only bring this up because my grandchildren would hear this too. there was a young man who i adored. and adored all through high school. then, he went off and it was a distance romance. then he went to the university of georgia, he would come home, hitchhike home to atlanta. for dates on the weekend with me. we got in a very big fight. at the end of my senior year, it was the end of his freshman year.
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it was a discussion, whatever what was, instead of returning and hitchhiking back to georgia, he decided to center for the air force. he signed his name the next morning for four years in the air force. that was a surprise. so, i went on to college, i went my years abroad, we kept up pretty well. in those four years, i would be going to fraternity parties or big football games or weekends here or there. and here he was in the air force, he ended up going into weather. but he would write me, he was an extremely good writer, and he would say things like my best friend has just been called on the draft, he's going to vietnam and he has two kids. but there was a drumbeat going on. that is where america was at this time. there was, everything is perfect here, nothing going on and then
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there were those caught up by the draft that were going to a whole other world. it was hard to merge the two. i think that is where we are now. i think we are there again. merging the two. there is a small percentage who are going and doing the fighting for all of us. i don't know how the people are reacting who are sitting back here. they are probably going through what i did. i began thinking of those two angles. when i finish college, i had to come back and start working. the first job i chose was to be an interior designer for macy's. -- that is when it was downtown, did all the rooms. decorated each room. after about six months there, i was working with a group of people, they were not really friendly. it was difficult. and i thought i can't see my career being this. a good friend of mine who i got to high school with said i am
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getting married and moving to north carolina, why don't you move my job. her job was to assist five brokers, i interviewed for and i was hired. i was assisting the five brokers. at this point, i found myself more educated than they were. they would walk out at 2:00 to go play golf and leave you with all of their problems. they made an announcement after i was there a couple of months and said we think it would be a good idea if you took shorthand. and i thought shorthand, ha? i remember walking up and down, right there in the center of downtown atlanta. i was dressed in my heels and everything was perfect. but, there was not one woman who could be a broker. there was a woman who worked with me who ran the office, she ran everything in the market. the guys would go to her and ask questions.
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yet, merrill lynch would never have a woman is a broker. so i'm looking at that as a career and saying, here i am, my degree in france, two degrees, and a degree in french language and literature. graduate work. anyway, i said i don't know how this is going. it was that day when they asked me to do shorthand. actually, i take that back, i think i went to a couple of classes and i have never dropped or fail the class of my life but i kept getting more and more furious. the guys would walk off, i was there doing these two bid formal letters. so i said i don't think so. and, i was reading the paper one evening. and i saw an amazing article to have been written about diane love, who had been a friend of mine at westminster in high school. she was a year ahead of me. it said diane love is a recreational overseas program or
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for the red cross. she is in vietnam. they talked about what she was doing, and i thought, this is what i want to do. and, so, i went downstairs and i were telling my dad, i think this is what i want to do. this is the first thing i have heard that plays upon my skills. who knows, i could use my french. i thought this is it. i have always been outgoing. sort of vivacious, i'm a performer on stage. i have no problem with that from ballet. all of that creative stuff i do, i think i could do this. so, surprisingly i brought my parents up a little bit because my dad was one who was always an adventure. in college she was a great saxophonist. he had a band from duke and was selected in that band to go on the canard line back and forth to europe. they had free passage back and
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forth. but, they had like two months in between. they would go all over europe. my dad always spoke of these adventures and i thought he is not going to be opposed to this idea. and you know what, he wasn't. of course, my mother was a little bit more concerned. so, i thought they are encouraging me. they don't think it is too crazy. i actually picked up the phone and made the phone call to the american red cross here on munro drive. and, they invited me to come in and i had a series of interviews. you had to be selected. and i was chosen. i thought that was an honor. it was volunteer but you would get paid a stipend of some sort. i look back now the numbers i was paid and it was like nothing now. but, then it was probably one of the first paying jobs and you had free benefits. in a free uniform. and, you have travel you could do later with the money you would save. so i said this is it. and they accepted me.
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so i think it was probably in january i went for the training in d.c.. which lasted about two or three weeks. if you'll remember, i brought up this boyfriend because it almost was like i needed to do this. this was what our generation was doing. and i knew i was leaving behind a life but i had lived away from home for two years already, away in college. every time i would return to the city, i realized it was slightly provincial. it was more and more provincial. all the guys i had known growing up were still out there drinking and partying and going to football games and i was way beyond that. and, this one guy was the one who kept bringing reality. i have never told him but he must know that that was one of the reasons. there he was, he dropped out, i
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knew he was going to end up being a great lawyer. his grandmother had -- grandfather had started the american bar association. so it was in his jeans. it was pretty clear that he was going to be a lawyer. he would've had to finish college when he got out of the air force and then go on to law school. i said i have a year or so. so i'm going to do this. that is why i ended up saying i'm going. now, what would be a question you all would want to know from what is going on. you know i have now landed, i found myself in d.c.. required all of the shops that the men got. they made you sick. half the time we were there, none of us were feeling very good because we were so overwhelmed with the shots. same in the military to take. we were going abroad for one year, just like the men. their tour was one year. we are going to be facing the
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heat and the dirt and grime. we would be out there in the forward areas like the guys. so, -- interviewer: you knew at that time that you were going? camilla: i was selected, yes. my class was like 12 girls. there were a total of 627 girls who were doughnuts dollies during the entire vietnam war. when i went, the program had started. if i could say this correctly, i would. the military requested of congress, that the red cross provide for the military, this group there would go out into the forward areas, the combat areas. and be a morale booster to support the troops.
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i can list off all of the things we did, it was a request to congress. that is what started this particular program in vietnam. in fact, some of the girls i was with when i first landed had been in korea and come over to vietnam. so, it was a program for being the representative of the american woman. we were to be the image of the big sister. and, we were. we had to have a college degree and they had other criteria. there had to be some sense that we could handle a leadership role, be creative, work with the guys. but, i was, by that time 23. and, the guys who were serving in the draft were 18. so, i was a big sister. there was that sense.
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we were not too old that we didn't relate to them. so, when i got there, to be selected in this program was a real honor. we trained -- the 12 girls, we trained. one thing i always run her, this much till dashed -- this must tell a lot about who i am. out of 12 girls, they were watching, they wanted to see how we got along with each other. we were being taught quickly to know rank. nobody had come from a military, we were oblivious to all of that but we had to be able to know the basics. we were considered officers in rank. but, there was the stroke, i always remember she was from memphis i think. her name was camilla. i never had met anyone else who had my name. here i was, there was another camilla in my group. i always run her thinking that
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is really strange, i don't like this. [laughter] they would say camilla, we would both answer. [laughter] anyway, the training was adequate. had to wear a uniform, they were powder blue uniforms. i could not wear that today for you all because i am not the same size. but, we had a dress uniform, we were the heels, we had a hat. and gloves. but, when you get in country and the temperature is a hundred and five and the temperature is unbearable and you are in and out of jeeps, you are with the troops who have been out all night long, it's pretty much surprising, we did our best to look our best. interviewer: what was the timeframe when you went over there? camilla: i went over in january of 1967, when i went to d.c., i'm not sure of the day i landed
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in vietnam. i stayed through september of 1967. that experience of going over on the plane was extraordinary. it's a long trip, i remember that. we landed in saigon. i was looking over some notes. letters i had written. describing this experience to my parents in the letter. and, i can tell you i'm still reading those letters. they are fascinating to me. what strikes me is this amazing glow i get to the whole event and everything that was happening. and, i am reading this letter that i wrote to my parents. just the other day i read this. i'm looking at that 50 years later.
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and it is remarkable to me that i made such an effort, it must have been my naïveté or just this point in life where you take the very best and you put in the context of the life that you have. and, you react to it. in a way that is very optimistic , positive. i went that way. the letter i wrote indicates this happen, that happened. those were true, they were events. but, the shock of it all was much deeper. if there was anything i could offer today about this experience from 50 years hence, our job was to boost the morale and to provide a different reality than with the guys were experiencing. so, basically, i trained to be a polite southern girl, that is what you would be anyway.
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but, to face and see what things were, the strain and difficulties of the job, it would be very selfish to have gone over as a doughnuts dolly and experience things and react to them as the guys did under the circumstances. our job was to not react. and, to rise above it and to be casting a moment of happiness for the guys, no matter what the circumstance. i think my letters were doing the same thing. so, i remember some of the highlights of the first time there. we were at dinner one night, west moreland, all of his staff are dinner. our member walks in the zoo, meeting an artist on the ground. he did a wonderful rendition of my name, and a fabulous scroll. i thought that is great, i rolled it up and kept it.
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i still have it on my wall. i remember the smells, the crowds, incredible. saigon was packed, everybody was on a bicycle, i think they rode a motorcycle too. i found it exotic. i had never been to asia. although, having lived abroad, i was able to use my french. the vietnamese people have been ruled by the french before. many people still spoke french. so, i could get around a little bit that way, using my french. we were not there for very long. there were allows noises -- there were loud noises, danger. try to pick up what is going on. there was quite a thrill of all of that. and, i remember having the meetings. everything was strange, but exciting. i was assigned to benewah. i arrived in benewah to find out
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i was on the army side, there was the air force side and the army side. a huge air base there. there were 70,000 men and four doughnut dollies. there were some nurses, i want to be clear, the nurses who served in vietnam, the women who served vietnam as nurses, had a totally different perception and life than i did. because, the nurses were not traveling. they were in the hospitals. there was a hospital there at benewah. they were able to do something. their lives were situated there, it wasn't like they had free time to get out and see the sights or do things. the doughnut dollies were not supposed to do that. we were supposed to be out with the troops, making moments good for them.
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so, when i would go into a hospital, i was always just aghast at the things we saw. the horrors of the conditions from awful things that had gone on in the war. but, that was not my job. in fact, at times like that i realize we were really needed. because the nurses did not have a minute to stop and talk and be with the troops. when we went in, we would write letters for them to home, we would talk to them, if they were sick, kool-aid, whatever, we were there. we would go in and have games. it was needed. i think they were appreciated for that, we were. i always felt so guilty, like i wish i could help. i wish i had skills the nurses have. so, there was never any competition or any sensitive
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thing. our duties were so different. so, we started out, there i was in benewah. i had, let's say, i'm not good figures but let's say the building was 20 feet by 60 feet. that's pretty small. it had screen all around it, and we were right along the road. two guards by the roadside, every night they would come in and stay all night. we never really solve them. you had to walk half an acre to get to the outhouse in the back. outdoor plumbing, of course. but, the worst was the showers. because we never had hot water for the whole year you were there. this is really something, there was water in a big tank above you. you have to think, do you want to be the first one over the
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last want to shower? our member showering with cold water. speaking of that, that always was a big issue. we would go out, there were no facilities for women. you had to clear the decks, the man had to go, put up curtains, anything. that became an issue. we were not in a place making way for women. we were entering their world. they took great care of us. the men treated us royally. there i am in benewah, that was my reaction to the cabin, as it was. it had a living room, there was a tv set. so, if you can imagine, there were some days i could remember the whole living room being filled with all of these guys and they wanted to see a football game. that was possible. that is rather remarkable. on the flipside, i think it was remarkable that at 1.i remember
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the airbase have been hit. and, my parents were clearly aware that had happened, the airbase, it was attacked. i got a phone call, i didn't think much of it. i remember this story, my dad at 2:00 in the morning, the phone rings, it has gone through all of these channels. and it's like, are you are right, is everything ok, we want to know. i say yeah were fine, it's ok, it was over there. it was maybe a half a mile away. for me, that was distant. but, my dad was saying did you have a phone. i said are you kidding, what did you do with that.
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he said what? you didn't go in a bunker? i said you have to crawl into a bunker in the dark. and go down into a hole. i said there were going to be spiders in there, no way i was going to go in there. when i said spiders, i reiterated this at another point. that was funny. i said that we could see things overhead. there is a naivete there. but there were spiders. the other horror that comes to mind is we each had our own bed. it required mosquito netting. when you woke up in the morning the first thing you did sides make your bed was covered your
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bed so you would not get in the bed with the mosquitoes. but no one reminded me or even mentioned, escada -- except in the bible, about plagues. but the locusts came through. the sizes like that. the big locusts were in the cabin. you would wake up in the morning and they were all over. the humidity was dreadful. it rained a lot. it was dirty and dusty. the countryside, when i flew all over the place, you saw beautiful jungles and rice beds and it was a beautiful country. but whenever the military went, they did not bother to save trees are clear things. it was just dirt, dirt, dirt. my impressions when i was there. i adored the girls i worked
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with, but i have thought about this, and even read something recently in preparing for this. and it is quite true. you are quite alone in vietnam. you are at every moment obligated to be that upbeat more row person at any event, whether -- upbeat more row person --morale person. we would go out on a mission to go different places. it meant we were serving the special forces teams all over the country. they were in groups of 10 or 12 men. we were assisting them in trying to teach them how to work in isolated areas.
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we would go out in helicopters to land at their surprised in all of these way out places and serve them kool-aid and play again. -- a game. the idea of being available all of the time even in the evening, you had no time off. even though you were with another doughnut dolly on trips out, you might go to six or seven places in a day and meet 20 people here, 50 people here, whatever. but because you needed to spread yourself thin, when you came back, you are immediately scooped up the moment you walked in. you always meeting new people. people ask me if i remember so-and-so. going out in the morning at dawn and going on a px run, we would
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get on a helicopter with the px and it would be delivering mail or whatever two different special forces teams. the names drivel on. i cannot remember exactly where i was. we did go to the three core area in the delta from benewah. there were many times that you did not have time to contemplate. it was very exhausting. nothing compared to what the guys were doing, but the interaction with the men always give you energy. they were wonderful. they were wonderful. they were the best of america. i say that even now. we lost our wonderful, wonderful young men in such vast quantities. these were the guys who had smiles on their faces.
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this is 1967. they were there to serve. this was the one 73rd airborne brigade, the special forces teams serving the people. they were out there isolated. they were taking care of people. they were teaching them new skills or new farm things. they were being effective. it was like the peace corps in a lie. that was their mission. at the same time, they were training people to defend themselves. they were isolated, those 10 men, alone, having to fight when they were attacked. it is not like they have a strong force to help them. it was them and the people they were training who would have to defend themselves. they were very brave. they were the best. i went to places that were amazing even to this day. i would to a place that -- up on a high mountain. these people were like in the stone age still, wearing loan
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cost -- knowing klos --loin cloths. the women were bare breasted. they were astonished to see us, american women in blue dresses. that was amazing. seeing how these men lived and their spirits and how they were so thrilled we had come to see them. we spent maybe an hour or two eating lunch with them and then go onto the next place, and the next place. i saw countryside that most people who served did not see because i saw so much. i was everywhere. i have also as a contrast with being with them all day and then getting back in the general -- and the general wanting to have at the doughnut dolly's over for general and talking to the general about interesting things that i could not talk to the guys about.
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the doughnut dollies had to work up our own programs. like monopoly or silly things. or you had to guess what this line came from and it would be an ad like, wonder where the yellow went? and you are supposed to say colgate. there was a cultural gap i had because i had lived in france for two years. i had studied abroad. i was deep in french history, especially the french revolution. i read great scholarly works on sartre and camus. i missed the normal culture. here i am among young guys aged 18 and i'm supposed to be answering about these programs. they would ask me where i was from and i would say georgia.
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they would say "say five." i would say "fahv." they would just go off. they love that. one of the programs was, guess what it is then -- in a ladies pocketbook. they love that. it was an icebreaker. it gave them timeout. i know they appreciated it and they told us. in all my years there, i never once had an episode with anyone except one staff sergeant major who refused to cooperate with me for one program i wanted to do. other than that, every guy i met was absolutely wonderful and treated us royally.
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from the morning you woke up and went to the latrine you had jeeps full of men going down the street all whistling and yelling. if you had your hair in a towel it was like i knew what to -- it was to be a movie star. 17,000 men and four women is a lot to take in. it affected me. i thought, i do not ever need to be a movie star, i know what it is like. , if i went over believing that i can make a difference in the world, i think that mellows. thinking maybe you make your biggest impact in your own small circle. that is where the real impact comes. but slashing it out among thousands, in reflection, that
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had been the reaction i kept coming back to. after i return to this country. but over 50 years, the people i have met you have spoken to me and said, yes, it matters. that gives you the sense that even though you spread it so send -- send unit -- so send -- so thin you did have an impact. add opportunities in the evening to be with the general. -- i had opportunities in the evening to be with general dean, a wonderful general. i got a nice certificate of appreciation. i was an honorary 173rd airborne when i left. we enjoyed talking because there was another perspective and i could talk. an evening, -- one evening, we had dinner and he showed me
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wonderful vietnamese artifacts he had gotten and artwork he had gotten in thailand. i would -- was fascinated learning about that. he said tomorrow i have to go and observe. we are doing an operation to rehearse, rehearsal operation of the entire 173rd brigade. he said, how would you like to go with me? i look back and say how many people can say they spent an entire day with the general observing the entire operation. i could do that and be in a hospital writing a letter for a guy. i remember a special forces doctor taking me audits were -- on eight war dos on a four -- on a tour.
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i will never forget that. the horrors are unbelievable. war is hell. it is not like i was oblivious. you had to work very hard to forge ahead in spite of having reactions. that is what the troops wanted you to be. you would go and sit with them and the next morning they were leaving at 4:00 in the morning to fly over hanoi. you did not know if they would come back the next day. they were never going to talk about what they were thinking. they wanted not to talk about the pressure they were under. they wanted to talk to us as if it was a normal night and they were going to work in the morning. one of the after affects of this whole thing is i never have carried around pictures of my children or grandchildren in my wallet.
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because i had so many times, so many is not even practical to say. all men said "do you want to see my children." i would say, oh yes. the other thing is when you are in a situation. later on i moved onto another unit in than ryan which was air force and totally different than what i experienced the first six months. we had this great center. we would have stage plays and snake shows and saxophone competitions and bridge tournaments. every day somebody would say, play bridge. i would say, i don't know how to play bridge. i knew if i said i knew how to play bridge i would be stuck in a corner forever. i was reading my notes.
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some of the programs were things like judo classes or yoga classes or art sessions or whatever. it was anything you could come up with to entertain troops up north because they had the more boring jobs, every day doing this -- the same thing. back in benewah, i told you about what experience there. i do have some pictures i have not shown you. one time, there were always these experiences, but the men ever wanted you to know if you are in any danger. they said the viet cong only come out at night and you are safe. their goal was always to make us feel safe. i was reading this book that has come out called "dona dolly --
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dona dolly" -- doughnut dolly". the tribute is great because she took copious notes and was accurate in what you did. she served first in korea and then came to vietnam and was in benewah. it is 50 years after the fact and i am amazed at what she remembers and how she remembered it. it is her interpretation of what went on. i had a different sense but forgot so many things. one thing that really interested me was that she spoke of the day that james garner came and we got to spend the whole day with james garner. there is a picture of me standing with james garner. i found him to be the most outstanding man. he had served in korea and had a purple heart.
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he understood and spent the entire day wanting to go in be with troops. they thought the world of him. henry fonda came. he was drunk the whole time. i found him miserable. we all know about jane fonda. that was where that was. i thought it was remarkable to spend a day with jane and henry fonda. that is in this book. there is this other thing she writes about because she had experiences, many dangerous. i was due in country when she was about to leave. she writes this whole story about going on the px run, getting permission to do that which meant we would go out in a helicopter very early in the morning and go to six places maybe, mostly in special forces camps.
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we would serve kool-aid. they would not know we were coming and they would be very surprised and we would deliver their mail. it had been a great day. we were at this one spot. when we landed we were on the top of this mountain. there was only room on the top of the mountain for the helicopter. when you looked down on the clips on -- the cliffs on either side the troops were right at the tips of the mountain. we spent time there then left and went to another unit and another group. we began to notice weather was turning really badly. so, it was getting to a certain point where we were at this place. the pilot says "i don't inc. we can leave. the weather looks -- i don't think we can leave, the weather looks bad. ". it became a difficult decisions because the pilots realized how bad the weather with going to be. the thunderstorms were turning black.
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they had two doughnut dollies away from benewah in a special forces camp where they could not be protected. they helicopter was quite evidently there as something the vc would really want to follow. i was there with joann. i thought, it is ok we can stay here. and joann is rolling her eyes. she is realizing that she has to make the decision. the civilian has to make the decision. it would have jeopardized the lives of the pilots and crew who were there protecting us. she had to make the decision. she said, ok, we are going to go. even though the pilot that he did not think so. she said, we cannot be endangering the lives of these guys by drawing fire here. our presence would have make it
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-- made it difficult for them. and yet, we were putting the pilot's lives in jeopardy to -- too knowing this was dangerous weather. i married a captain with the 173rd airborne who i had met in vietnam when i returned to atlanta. flying with him years afterwards, i can tell you that the conditions we were flying in, he would have ever taken me up in those conditions. but these two guys were wonderful and agreed. they set out and lightning actually struck our helicopter. i remember that. it was really scary. it was like an hour and a half flight to get back. in the book she describes that it is had hit the blade we would have been out, but because we were surrounded by metal but the
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entire ship in the sky went dark and then blinked back on and then we continued and made it in the pitch black dark. we flew with no lights on because you did not want to be noticed flying at night. doughnut dollies were supposed to get back before dark. i'm looking back and to me it was an exciting day. but for horror -- but for her, she was coming to the end of her tour. she was from minnesota and a farm girl. she did a great job in all she did. but she was tired. she saw this and realized what a dangerous situation we were in. i commend those pilots for getting us back. i am sure they probably would rather have not. they would have rather stayed to be safe. but that was another adventure. so let's see.
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host: the title of the book is doughnut dolly. you have all accepted that designation. where did that come from? >> in the second world war. the american red cross sold doughnuts to the troops. they were not supposed to sell. there was a backlash in the states that they even sold them. we were taught in d.c. when we were in training that that is not exactly what happened. there may have been some charged but they were not supposed to have been. it was free doughnuts from the red cross. the troops met the dollies all throughout europe. i met a number of women who served as doughnut dollies in world war ii. they lived in harrowing conditions and were right on the
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front. i am not sure but i do believe son of -- some of the nurses and doughnut dollies became pows at sam -- sometimes. but that was the origin of the term. we never served doughnuts. we would do kool-aid. we had the opportunity, at one time, to go to the rubber plantation with the 173rd airborne brigade. we arrived. don was breaking. the troops were literally out in the rubber plantation getting up, shaving. they had literally been in battle. when the commander said, we want to bring out the doughnut dollies for morale. we serve them practice -- breakfast in the morning. there are pictures of us at the rubber plantation.
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that was a real morale booster for all of us. for us to be allowed to come into the combat zone. as i said, my father had been a camp counselor with general west moreland. general west moreland sought for the doughnut dollies to be able to come in to combat areas. reading that tie in in a perspective of 50 years later i am glad to see that we showed we were capable of being there and how much we were needed for nearly -- merely raising the spirits of the truth. and was as valuable -- raising the spirits of the troops. and it was valuable doing that. that has taken an interesting
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thought. when you got back to the states, and for 28 years before the first group of doughnut dollies ever came back together again for a reunion, i think we came back and sort of with third and -- floated around in our own world believing that what we had done was so insignificant. i think it is really nice to look back and see that it was appreciated and had some need. i remember early on, when i came back to atlanta, there was a group, china beach was a movie being made about doughnut dollies. it was quite silly. it was not at all what we were going through. there was this group of ladies that had come together and were going to do an off-broadway play
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about doughnut dollies. they wanted me to give advice and talk about it. it was somewhere in decatur. they invited me to come and give input. i watched it and thought, this is not at all what we did in vietnam. i was very shocked. it was romance here and romance there. i thought, i do not want to be a part of anything that is represented that way. i am not sure that most doughnut dollies felt the same way. it had nothing to do with the real experience. but speaking of that, none of the newspaper reports coming back from vietnam had much to do with the experiences i saw. that has been a very difficult thing for me on my life sense. i remember going into saigon for a weekend off. lucky me, my family had friends
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who actually were in the businesses of appliances for vietnam and lived in saigon. i would stay with them. that was amazing to be able to stay within american family in saigon. i remember going to the famous rex hotel where people would spend the night and get r&r. that was the hotel. going up to the top floor and see all these reporters at this long, long table. they are passing pictures around. you do a story about that picture. you do a story about that picture. they were making up stories. i remember that vividly. i will always remember that. there was so much storytelling about that war. it grated on you more and more when you came back. to seize a take being done on the war. -- to see the take being done on
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the war. in been walleye can remember sitting in the living room with hello -- in benewah i remember sitting at helicopter pilots -- sitting with helicopter pilots. they would say we were shot at and were not allowed to back. -- not allowed to shoot back. all of this was covered up and not really pushed in the storyline. i will never understand what their goal was. but they have been so persistent and so loud that they were able to take over the story. i am concerned about how our ken burns new documentary coming out
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will describe this event. i do not know if i am alone in saying that, but there are maybe people like me who say, i do not want to go through this again and have it told incorrectly. i hope to god that it is accurate. host: let me ask you a question. i'm trying to understand. you indicated you went on px runs and troops would no -- would not know you are on the way in. i think you said you asked permission to go on certain runs. how did that work? camilla: a gentleman i ended up marrying for 27 years was the one who would be arranging and making sure security was good as to who and when and what means we could use. but the military, from that
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agreement with congress, was to be providing transportation for the doughnut dollies to be able to go in to more combat forward mission areas. we had all of the permission. you have doughnut deli to checking all around. -- you would have doughnut dollies hitch hiking all around. four girls and 70,000 men/they knew where you were at all times. it was like being a movie star. i remember getting on runs in helicopters where we would pick up lobster in one place and take it to a big important party on the other and they would switch it for beer on the other. are we -- or we would have a pow in the helicopter with us.
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we would have people who were orphans. all kinds of things went on in the helicopters and we were , just watching it. if it was a px run it would be all preplanned and worked out with assurances that we would be safe. it was wonderful when that came together and we were allowed to get in there. host: so did you know where you were going? camilla: when we would go to the air force side we would be there in the hangers in the hot heat serving kool-aid two guys working straight eight hours, 10 hours. it was hot as could be and we were trying to serve kool-aid and do a game. they like having a break, but those runs, if you could say you were going over to the air force
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side and you were assigned two days a week to do that. looking back on some of these stories i am realizing there was really no time off. it could be six days and a day off but if you did have a day off, you are alone. the other dollies were being used. it was not like you could actually go do something. in benewah, we did go to town every once in a while for lunch. i remember all of the geckos on the wall and eating vietnamese food. i remember going to a fabulous banquet put on by the vietnamese. i sat next to some very high vietnamese military. the general on one side. it was a most incredible banquet dinner of high style. there were no other vietnamese women. none of the men brought their wives. it was not customary. i was trying to remember, trying to figure out and asking, so you're married? you have children?
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but the wife was never to be in public. and here i was. when i went on r&r to bangkok, which was wonderful, again, the american woman is so outgoing and so full of themselves and we are so truly different than the asian woman who, in their quiet way, i always remembered, in the hotel, the woman who came who want to do clean your shoes, was the most polite, pleasant, sinus, smiling, lovely lady. i thought, how admirable the quiet softness. there is a contrast in cultures that is extraordinary in that regard. host: can you explain the club mobile? camilla: the club mobile was
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part of the red cross formal name of this program. in benewah, i think i have shown you the picture of the small hooch. it could not have been much bigger than this broom we are sitting in. -- this room we are setting in. no air-conditioning. maybe a fan and a desk. then, when i was transferred, six months later, to the air force, we had yard of the month. we had a huge center. there was a stage. we had wonderful programs. it was like i was really running an event center. a real event center. we would have cooking classes. it was like anything you could think of. all of the talents in the world. singing contests. we had a monkey. we had parent.
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we had snake -- we had a parent --parrot. we had snake shows. there could not have been a more interesting job on earth. i went to see ruins in vietnam, temples. i had a little time to do that. i'm trying to think what i have not discussed. the year went by fast. i went on r&r. i went with a wonderful guy. he decided this was it. so i gave up all of my thoughts of my past in atlanta and everything and said, ok this is it. so i wrote this letter to my parents. i had written before that i thought i had really met this wonderful doctor who was a special forces doctor. he was an emory graduate. he was a neurosurgeon.
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i thought he was top-of-the-line. he had to get transferred to go to another place. so i did not see him for a while . i kept thinking we will communicate. as that was going on, when i wrote my parents, i had mentioned him. so, when i wrote my parents about six weeks later, i said mom, i have decided to get married. i am going to marry this list whiny and. -- this list whiny and -- lithuanian. he is a captain. i remember getting this letter back. i was an independent girl, but this letter i got back was written in red. i remember my mother said, and your dad wants to know, what is a lithuanian doing in the
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american army and what size shoe does he wear? my dad was quite a good litigator. i can imagine him. at the dinner table growing up you always had to defend your opinion and give details. i will -- i am a general person and it would drive him crazy. i would talk and not get to the point. his response of what size shoe does he wear was his comment. i do look back and think, how did i make that decision? but i gave up a lot in doing so. i wonder how well i knew him. you do know get to -- you do get to know people in a totally different way in a conflict like that. i realize also that when i got back i realized he was so -- i did not realize he was so serious as a pilot.
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i went to meet his family before i came home to my own family when i was returning from vietnam. his mother spoke five languages. they had fled lithuania. they had been in a cap -- camp for six years in germany. his father taught language to american troops. his father was responsible for getting thousands of people out of list whiny a when the fronts check -- out of lithuania when the fronts changed after the world war. he had even been a rebel during the russian revolution. they had mutinied the ship. he went to paris and finished school in paris. i was really amazed at this guy. he was a wonderful captain.
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he was a wonderful leader. the troops loved him. i said, this is the guy. he handles crisis well. it was a real surprise. when i came home, i explained it. they said, you will have to wait a few months before you get married. i said, that is reasonable. we were married at the end of december. it was a huge wedding in atlanta. 950 people. the event took place. and i had married a list whiny a -- list whiny a --lithuanian captain. we had a crazy marriage after. he had two tours in merit -- vietnam. he was an entrepreneur. for many years we did real estate and then i taught french at private schools in atlanta.
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we had two sons. they have grown up to be very successful men. one is a preacher in jupiter, florida. the other is in medical sales in dallas, texas. i have five grandchildren. all is going well. one of the things i have maybe not discussed about benewah. coming back, to the states after that event, flying home, with the troops, in my uniform, getting out of the plane, get off the plane just like the guys, change and put on civilian close. wow.
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i go to the front of the line like i always did. i was always first in line. you never rip -- waited. you are the movie star. i walked straight to the front of the line and everybody in the line looks at me like, who in the world is that? it was like 5:00 in the morning. i was in san francisco. at the travis airport. that was the first shock. you are no one. -- you were no one. for the years following, coming back in two atlanta we spent one year in fort knox. i probably convinced him that maybe three tours in vietnam was too much. we were offered a position to go back to be assistant to the colonel in bangkok for a year.
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i thought, i'm not sure. we spent a year in fort knox. one of the things i most clearly remembered was mlk was assassinated. we were told that no man or woman should go off of fort knox based in military uniform and be seen outside of the base. that hit me so hard. i thought, we still have been dying over there in vietnam for this country and the military is not allowed to be seen on the streets of america in their uniform. there are some deep feelings here. they do not go away easily. i think america really did not do service to the veteran. i came back here and looked
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forward as a donut dollywood and forged ahead. the reality was not the reality. the reality you needed to perform was like a southern lady, continue on. i taught at galloway for a year. galloway was a very avant-garde school, following the summerhill approach. commander galloway was a wonderful leader. i was very eager to go there. but it was a school that had only three rules. but one was you cannot smoke in the classrooms. you had to wear shoes. and there was one more. but i can't member what was. we talked with the idea that you experience learning. it was a new way of thinking. but, the kids all had long hair and ripped jeans. they were wearing viet cong
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flags and paraphernalia. that was really really hard to accept that. the graduation that your taught galloway was inducted -- conducted. we passed brett around and saying -- bread around and saying -- saying --sang love songs. coretta scott king led the ceremony because her sons were there. i thought this was like lala land. i think the reaction will be forever to how we treated our returning troops. i tried to carry on. atlanta society, as i mentioned, people would come up, you were in vietnam?
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and then the questions really. among the men who served, there was always in cocktail talk the idea that i understood and there was no one else. i talked to many people who said they would never speak about their time in vietnam. they just wanted you hush-hush. they did not want it known. but to me, they would come up and have deep conversations. one of the coolest things that happened, i was dating this guy after i was divorced to had a good friend and he knew them well. i had gone on a date with him at one point. he owned a restaurant. we were sitting there. it was veterans day. he said, i want you to come to this. so, i walked over there. i was there at this bar. it turns out, there was a
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recipient of the medal of arner -- honor who was there. word came that i had walked in. the word came into the bar. it was like, she was a donut dolly. i will never forget this. this whole group of people circled around and said, you are actually a donut dolly? -- you were actually a donut dolly? there is still among the men this idea that the doughnut dollies served us well. i have had a lot of wonderful experiences that way too. i am always pleased. i am always amazed that doubleday and brian tate, that following week, got in touch with me and said you should
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become a member of the atlanta vietnam veterans business association. i am proud of the service and the military men i knew in vietnam where the most outstanding men. that is a take i took away. in 1957, other doughnut dollies might have experienced different things. i know drugs became prevalent. i know there were morale issues. to serve with those pilots, they were the greatest. so, i was very hazy. it took over two years for me to agree to join the av vba. i served on the board proudly for four years.
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every year we put on military flyovers the second we need them to flyover. bagpipes. beautiful marine bands. fabulous locations. probably 30 locations around the city of atlanta. now, a foundation for scholarship money. it is a thriving organization. the power it wields now. these are my brothers and will always be my brothers. if there is anything i can say that i regret most about leaving the city, it is to not be here with the group of men who have served so well and done such good work. host: that pretty much fills our time. i want to thank you for coming here and telling your story. it is a great story. i also want to thank you for your service. camilla: thank you. host: you probably have some
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appreciation but probably not quite enough of what the doughnut dollies were. camilla: the perception 50 years hence is that i perhaps were very naive. -- was very naive. the letters i wrote home indicate i was always putting the very best to blow upon it. now, we have to accept the fact that we lost so many thousands of lives. there was not a clear purpose. i think our politicians lettuces -- lead us astray in many ways. but you cannot quite just accept listening to those who never served to make proclamations about what really happened. that is a tough thing. that is tough. here we are again. 15 years in afghanistan and iraq. why are we going?
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what is the purpose? it is hard to accept that. that is the reality. thank you all for giving me the opportunity. >> if you like american history tv, keep up on facebook, twitter, and youtube. learn about what happened this day in history and say -- see preview clips of upcoming programs. follow us at c-span history. >> the debate over the wilderness act was a relatively peaceful prelude to a new era of environmental activism, transformation, and protest. >> people became more outspoken and wanted to get more involved, unwilling to trust the government. >> the plan is to spray tree spouts with chemicals. >> are western campgrounds have
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been taken over by what may best be described as colonies of people, hippie types. >> it is a time of crisis, i guess you might say. a time of uncertainty, anyway. >> we now turn to a subject which, next to our desire for peace, may well become the major concern of the american people. in the decade of the 70's people -- of the 70's. it is of particular concern to young americans, because they, more than we, will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs needed now to prevent disaster later. clean air, clean water, open spaces. these should once again be the birthright of every american. >> the love affair started
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ending in the 60's. but the divorce did not occur until the 70's. with the monongahela and bitterroot. >> the monongahela and bitterroot focused national attention on the forest service. on the bitterroot, force managers were clear cutting and terracing to hillside. >> they said, let's tear us those lands like rice spreading fields -- rice paddy fields in china. >> they were tearing down the mountains to get trees to grow. >> in the early 1970's gifford bryce pinchot in the bitterroot valley stood within a clear-cut
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and denounced the forest service in his father's name. >> he went to the bitterroot and they took him to the oh my god clear-cut. when you come around the corner, you go, oh my god. the road comes right into the middle of it and it is high on a hill and it is awful. >> i had been back to those terrorist landscapes. the fact is, they work. -- those terroristt --t erraced landscapes. the fact is, they worked. but they look terrible. >> people in some of these very critical communities could see these clear cuts out of the kitchen window. >> culturally and made a lot of sense. it was like poking the public in the eye. >> local hunting groups were
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really angry at an extensive set of clearcutting that the forest service was doing. these were turkey hunters. >> they would go out to their favorite hunting spot and find it had been completely clear-cut and the administrators of monongahela said, don't worry, we know what is best. just let us do it. in five years, we will show you an improved forest. that did not sell. ♪
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>> weeknights we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span3. monday, an evening of african-american history. cleveland sellers talks about his work in the 1960's as a national leader with the student nonviolent coordinating committee and recalls when south carolina state troopers fired on students protesting segregation. three students were killed and mr. sellars was among the more than 30 wounded. watch monday beginning at eight a clock p.m. eastern. watch american tea -- american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> directed by african american filmmaker william greaves and narrated by actor ricardo montalban, "where dreams come true" is a 1979 nasa film
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encouraging more people of color to consider a career at the agency. the documentary includes interviews with kathryn sullivan, frederick gregory, and ruben ramos. the fledgling shuttle program was two years away from its first mission. >> when you are a little girl and want to be an astronaut when you grow up, it is like wanting to be a policeman or in some cases a doctor. you are told that is not an appropriate goal. why don't you want to be something else? you nurse, don't be a doctor. -- be a nurse, don't be a doctor. what you might hear from a counselor at school is that what you are trying to


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