2015 in Review

by Allen Dale Olson

Some 70 people crowded into the little theater in Albuquerque’s Explora Children’s Museum last November to watch a documentary film about the “Donut Dollies” and interact with a couple of actual “Dollies.” Several hundred other visitors walked around and crawled into a Bernalillo Sheriff’s Department Huey for a first-hand look at one of the helicopters made famous in the Vietnam War and which carried the “Dollies” from one combat zone to another. They also admired a Young Marines Color Guard and enjoyed seeing a few young women re-enacting the pinup girls of the 1960s..

The Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF) had partnered with the American Red Cross, the Heels to Combat Boots, and the Explora Museum to honor Veterans Day with a special look back at some remarkable young women through the film A Touch of Home – the Vietnam War’s Red Cross Girls. In the audience were pilots who had flown the Hueys, Vietnam Veterans, and two surviving “Dollies,” one who had served in Korea, the other in Vietnam. Mary Cohoe, from Gallup, NM, delighted the film audience with her comments about her service and about being the only Navajo “Dolly.”

IMG_5239The day-long Explora program was only one of many for MAMF last year. There was a February day in the State Capitol where the Legislature, in a rare act of bipartisanship, passed a Resolution recognizing MAMF and the work it does. MAMF volunteers interacted with hundreds of politicians, legislators, Veterans, and civic leaders that day hosting a booth in the Round House for Veterans Day at the State House. In July they worked another booth during Military Appreciation Day at the State Fair, and in May marched (and rode) in the Memorial Day parade in Bernalillo.

But the biggest achievement of all may very well have been the move into the second floor of the Bataan Military Academy in Albuquerque and establishing a home and a place to show artifacts and host visitors, although on a limited basis. A permanent home was on the agenda throughout the year, and MAMF has become an active participant with the New Mexico National Guard’s quest to expand its museum in Santa Fe and Guard plans to include a MAMF in its expansion. While that step is still a long way off, the opportunity provides incentive to continue the effort.

An exhibit highlight was “Schooling with Uncle Sam,” set up in the Albuquerque Special Collections Library through July and August and which now hangs in the Bataan location. A bit of the original “Sacrifice & Service” exhibit stood in the historic Wheels Museum in the old Rail Yards during early summer, and Operation Footlocker continued to win friends in the Metro Washington, D.C. USO area and in Branson at a reunion of former London Central High School students.

There were radio and newspaper interviews, discussions with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, with the Cabinet Secretary for Veterans Affairs, and with representatives of a number of Veteran and Veteran-related organizations.

We have nearly two dozen grant inquiries and applications pending, and there is every reason to believe that 2016 will be a busy and productive one for MAMF.

 

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