Susan Bradshaw McLean, by George F. Slook, Pleiku and An Khe. 1969-1970.
American Red Cross banner, 1970.

Donut Dollie Diary photo, Susan Bradshaw McLean. Red Cross Recreation Aide in Vietnam, 1970-1971.Fast Friends
Donut Dollie Diary:
& Susan Bradshaw McLean

The Long and Painful Road
to Healing

by: George F. Slook
© 1999

Susan Bradshaw McLean
(Red Cross Recreation Aide in Vietnam 1970-71)

Donut Dollie Diary: Susan Bradshaw McLean - 1990

Each spring for the past seven years, Susan has made the three-hour trip from Tampa to Melbourne for the annual Florida vets reunion. She thinks of this event as the high point of her year. It is the only time that she feels truly understood. She always goes to the Moving Wall exhibit to pay her respects. She anxiously scans the names on Panel 8 West, searching for the name that is not there. She can't help but think back to so long ago and her good friend Ginny.

In the summer of 1970, Susan
(photo right) reported for training at the headquarters of the American Red Cross in Washington, DC. Her training class was composed of 26 women, all freshly minted college graduates who shared a hope for a greater America. Much as recruits in basic training form strong and lasting bonds in the face of imminent danger, these women quickly formed friendships around their newfound mission. It was there that Susan met Ginny Kirsch. They were a natural pair. Perhaps it was the fact that both were high school cheerleaders, with friendly personalities. Ginny was from Brookfield, Ohio. She was part of a large family, two brothers and four sisters. She was 21 years old, a recent graduate of Miami of Ohio University. She had real-world experience as a student teacher at a local high school. She was strikingly attractive, with radiant hair and sparkling eyes. When she entered a room, you knew it! Little did Susan know at the time that Ginny's friendship was to be the joy and the heartache of her Red Cross career. 

The graduation class departed from Travis Air Force Base in California, making stops in Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines en route to South Vietnam. At their stop in Hawaii, Ginny spotted a mother with a baby and asked if she could hold the child for a last time before going overseas. Susan remembers Ginny as such a special person. She had an extraordinary sense of family, having come from a large one. Susan can still remember the utter joy Ginny found in such a simple task. 

They arrived at the airport outside of Saigon on August 2. Upon arrival, Ginny was quoted as saying I felt I could do something for the men over here and for my country. Susan and Ginny spent the next several days getting the lay of the land, awaiting duty assignments. Movies, Clubs, Temple hopping. After seven days in Saigon, they got their orders. Susan was to go to An Khe in the Central Highlands. Ginny was ordered to Cu Chi, 20 miles northwest of Saigon. They promised to write or call each other and hoped to be reunited at the same duty station one day.

Susan was busy with the day-to-day routine. Up early - chopper out - recreation programs - make friends - chopper back - visit hospital - write loved ones - late to bed. It seemed like things were going to work out okay. And then Susan heard the dreadful news that would change her life.

Donut Dollie: Ginny Kirsch, murdered by a soldier.
(Ginny Kirsch, photo left) 
'Ginny is dead. She was murdered last night by a soldier at Cu Chi.' Susan couldn't hear anything after that. She thought 'Oh my God no! It can't be true.' But it was true! Ginny was stabbed to death by a GI in her billet at the headquarters of the 25th Infantry. She had been there only one week. The Red Cross billet was less that 200 yards from division headquarters and only 100 yards from the Officer's Club. The billets were under military police guard at night. Ginny was the first Red Cross worker to have been murdered in the 17-year history of overseas service.

Back at The Wall now, Susan once again feels the pain and anger of Ginny's loss. She is outraged at the tragic irony of Ginny being murdered by someone she came to serve. She laments the great injustice of her killer being honorably discharged and residing comfortably in the air-conditioned confines of a psychiatric ward. And Susan is disappointed that the only recognition of Ginny's sacrifice is her name on a rock in the Red Cross headquarters' garden. 

Ginny is a patriot who gave her life for her country. She has earned a place on The Wall. But her name is not there! And her presence is sorely missed.

From: "Susan McLean"
To: Don Poss
Subject: Memorial Service at The Wall

Hi Don,
I'm Susan, the Donut Dollie in the stories you have in the Classic section. Just wanted to tell you that as a DIRECT result of the story about Ginny's murder in Nam, the 25th Inf. Wolfhounds are sponsoring her in the memorial service at the WALL on April 16th at 10 am. I can't tell you how much this means to me. I have waited 31 years to have her recognized for her sacrifice. George Slook wrote the story and you gave us a place to put it out to the vets. Thank you so very much. This is a dream come true. Is there any way for you to let your readers know about the service in case they can come to it? I'm amazed at the number of total strangers who have found me because of your site and expressed an interest in Ginny. Think someone should do a follow-up story as they all want to know more of the details of the trial, psych ward, honorable discharge, etc. Know they would like to know about the ceremony.

Thanks again for helping me realize a dream.

Susan McLean

Subject: Thanks forDonut Dollie 11

Thanks for the story on Ginny and Susan. Long time longer story. (Red Cross Girls) We were both from Ohio. Ginny Kirsch Brookfield me St. Clairsville Ohio. I first met her in the Red Cross hut going through boxes of junk from the states. She and a couple others. I was after some stuff for the guys on my ward as I was now stationed at the 12 Evac. Hospital, after a tour with Recon Red One had gone home.

It was a shock when I heard that she was murdered just hundreds of feet from where we had all had dinner just the night before. The Army put their famous lid of silence on the story and it is only now through therapy and medications that I can begin to recall the dreams I have been plagued with for years. Especially the Recon days and of course, poor Ginny.

PS I think their was some kind of cover up but then I'm a nutty medic ... Right.

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