Vietnamese dolls.

Max, My Doll, and Me

By Jeanne Bifulk

As second-grade Brownie Girl Scouts, we were taught to begin looking at the world around us and make it a better place, whether it involved the outdoors or a fellow human being.

Just before Christmas in 1967, the Brownie leaders handed each of us girls the name of a soldier who was serving in Vietnam. Their names had been submitted to the Rockford Register Star newspaper by various family members. We were to write to the soldier, and send along a package of Kool-Aid to help with the taste of the drinking water in Vietnam. I was given the name of Max Brown. His aunt, a Mrs. Henderson, of Rockford, Illinois, had sent his name to the newspaper.

I wrote to Max, and sent the Kool-Aid. I received a lovely thank you from him in a beautiful Christmas card. Thus began a correspondence that lasted the entire time Max was in Vietnam.

Just before Christmas in 1967, the Brownie leaders handed each of us girls the name of a soldier who was serving in Vietnam. Their names had been submitted to the Rockford Register Star newspaper by various family members.

The next Christmas I sent Max a handkerchief with his name backstitched in one corner. My oldest sister, Julie, wrote his name out in pencil, and I used a red embroidery thread over the lettering.

Before Christmas a box came from Max! Imagine my surprise when I walked home from school one afternoon and found, tied to our mailbox, a huge package with my name on it. When I opened the package there was a beautiful Vietnamese doll!

My mother thought it would be a good idea to send Max a picture of me with the doll. She took a picture of me sitting at the piano with the doll, and one of me sitting on the floor with her. To make sure I looked extra special, I wore some of my mother’s red lipstick. In return, Max sent me two pictures of himself – one in the PX, and one sitting on some steps outside of a large building.

I still have the doll. She graced my dresser for many years. She has lost her purse and the cape that was around her shoulders. She still has the beautiful face and the pink lipstick.

After Max returned to the States, he was unable to write to me anymore, for as he said in one of his last letters, he was “so busy that he hardly had time to read the newspaper.”

It would be so great to see him, and introduce him to my husband and three children. I would tell him that his letters were always encouraging and made me feel a little special. I would tell him that all three of my children served in Iraq.

Max, please know that you are lovingly remembered, and that your kindness to a young girl lives on.

 

Jeanne Bifulk and her husband, Lance, own and operate two funeral homes. Their Beloit, Wisconsin, location includes a scattering garden dedicated to veterans for the scattering of their cremated remains, and they also host a free luncheon for veterans on Veterans Day. She and Lance are members of the Badger VietNow chapter, and their three sons all served in Iraq.