Mother Teresa of Soldiers

Margy Reed was born in Butte Montana. She was destined for an entertainment career from the time she first appeared in Vaudeville at the age of 3. While she spent her life on stage, she was also trained as a nurse’s assistant – a skill that she would put to good use.

On stage, she was gifted as a singer, dancer, and comedian. She was known as the “big mouth” as she appeared with all of the great performers at the time. But World War II changed her life and gave her a life’s calling.

Maggie, as she was known, joined the United Service Organization (USO) as an entertainer. She spent time in England and North Africa entertaining troops. When she wasn’t on stage, she worked in field hospitals administering aid to wounded soldiers. She had her own health issues from yellow fever and anemia from being in a warzone.

When her health was restored, Maggie went to the Pacific Theater to perform. She continued to perform for soldiers during the Berlin Airlift of 1948 as well as the Korean War.

What made Maggie different from other performers was that she went to the front lines to entertain and boost morale. Once in Vietnam, the field doctor heard a women’s voice as she struggled to treat the wounded. It was Maggie’s. She was cleaning wounds and even donated blood. For seven years Maggie spent an average of four months per year in Vietnam. She would go into the most isolated areas where combat was raging. She would entertain, lift spirits, and administer healthcare. When she returned home, she carried with her phone numbers of loved ones to call.

Maggie never sought publicity. Much of her efforts were paid for by herself. While her efforts were little known by the public, they were honored by soldiers. She was made an honorary Green Beret and given an honorary rank by the various branches of the military. She became known as the “quiet humanitarian”.

When the Vietnam War ended, a “Medals for Maggie” campaign was started to have her awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Presidents Reagan and Bush denied her request, but she did receive the honor from President Clinton after 40,000 veterans had signed the petition. She was too ill to receive the medal at a White House ceremony but was presented it by a Medal of Honor recipient, Roy Benavidez, in her home. She was called the Mother Teresa of the armed forces.

When Maggie died she became the first civilian woman to be buried in a military cemetery. She was considered to be one of their own.

Hidden heroes often have a passion for service to others. They give their time and personal resources without any desire for personal recognition. Maggie was a well-known public figure under her stage name of Martha Raye, but to soldiers, she was simply Maggie of the Boondocks.

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“Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart and success will come to you.”  – Oprah Winfrey

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