WISCONSIN RAPIDS - On a stage in front of a crowd on Wednesday morning, Diane Shufelt seemed a little uncomfortable.
"No, I can't sing or dance," Shufelt said, laughing.
Unlike her time in the service decades ago, Shufelt wasn't standing up to perform for the crowd in Wisconsin Rapids. Instead, she was there to be honored for her service.
"I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I would never want my daughter to do what I did," Shufelt said. "Never, never, never."
In 1967 and 1968, Shufelt was shipped off to Vietnam with the American Red Cross Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas program. The women went by the name "Donut Dollies," performing game shows, serving food and drinks, and giving soldiers a taste of home. But they also faced the realities of combat almost every day.
"I think we were in the bunker, probably, a good part of the time," Shufelt said. "It was incoming often."
"Later, when you look back on it and think, 'Holy cripes--what was I thinking?' Then, maybe you start to process some of that stuff."
Shufelt put in a year on bases and landing zones in Vietnam, then returned home without fanfare or much recognition. That changed Wednesday.
"She's just a dynamite lady," said Vietnam veteran Bill Haack.
Haack met Shufelt, who now lives in Stevens Point, through his American Heroes Cafe Central Wisconsin in Wisconsin Rapids. He knew it was time to do something to recognize what Donut Dollies did for their country.
"If anybody does [deserve recognition], these girls do. Except for shooting the gun, they did the same thing we did over there," Haack said. "They were in combat, they were exposed to Agent Orange, four of them paid the ultimate sacrifice. They deserve to be part of our organization."
Haack arranged for Shufelt to receive a Quilt of Valor, which are usually given to soldiers who are nominated by friends or family. The Cafe has given out 66 quilts over the last two years. Shufelt's was the 67th.
"Anybody that has served in any capacity during wartime, you know, they're very special people," Material Girls quilter Mary Yehle said.
But Shufelt's special recognition may not stop here. Haack is circulating a petition to get the Vietnam Veterans of America to recognize Donut Dollies as full members of the group.
"I'm not going to say force the issue; we're just trying to let them know that those of us who are in the VVA, that run the VVA, feel these ladies should be a part of it," Haack said.
Getting the VVA to recognize Shufelt could be a challenge. Haack says the VVA requires 97.5 percent of its members to be military veterans.
But even if Shufelt doesn't end up a VVA member, she'll always be welcome in this group that knows she performed just as admirably as any other veteran.
"We need more of it," Shufelt said. "We need more of this type of recognition for everybody."
Shufelt says some soldiers didn't appreciate Donut Dollies being in Vietnam, but most did. If you'd like to sign Haack's petition, you can reach him through the American Heroes Cafe Facebook page, which is linked below.
Story By: Lane Kimble