Vietnam Red Cross volunteer memorialized at a ceremony in Brookf - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Vietnam Red Cross volunteer memorialized at a ceremony in Brookfield.

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During the Vietnam War, a young college graduate lost her life working for the American Red Cross. 

On Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm at the Brookfield Village Square, Virginia E. "Ginny" Kirsch, who was unrecognized locally or statewide for 47 years, will be remembered in a big way. 

Her family has invited friends who grew up with her, worked with her, veterans, and people in the community to a special event.

During the Vietnam conflict, which resulted in the deaths of more than 58,000 U.S. military members, the Department of Defense asked the American Red Cross to operate Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas programs. 

The agency recruited college graduates to serve a year. GIs called the volunteers Donut Dollies. They played music at rec halls, visited the injured, burned, or men with amputations at hospitals. They traveled by helicopter to front line landing zones and base camps, to bring smiles to soldiers, and reminders of home the men had left behind.

In July 1970, two months after the Kent State shooting, Virginia Kirsch a teacher, known to family as Ginny signed on.  

Brookfield Trustee Dion Magestro said, "Virginia was a teacher. She basically put her career on hold to help our American troops, to make their lives easier. My sister and Ginny were friends. People here who knew Virginia remember when they lost their dear friend like it was yesterday." 

Ginny was one of 627 college graduates to make the 27,000 mile trek. Her mission to boost sagging morale of troops 15 years into a 19 year conflict. It was a war that would end with more than 153,000 servicemen injured in action.

But after just a few weeks in Vietnam, August 16, 1970, the outgoing friendly 21-year-old was murdered on base by a U.S. soldier Ginny had never met. 

Her killer was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Ginny's mom asked to have her daughter's name engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, but Ginny had not been in the military so that was not allowed.

In 2016 in Warren at a bridge dedication to women who have served our country, Ginny's story was told to state lawmaker Sean O'Brien. Senator O'Brien said, "Looking at her sacrifice, we knew that something had to be done for her. It is a tragedy that Ginny went to help soldiers and then was killed by one of our troops. When someone makes the ultimate sacrifice and is selfless working to make lives better for our troops, we need to memorialize their actions and remember their sacrifice." 

O'Brien had his veteran's liaison, Bob Marino, Sr., track down Virginia's family members. Marino said, Talking to people who knew Ginny, she was a cheerleader, friendly, and outgoing. Her family was surprised when I called them. I talked with one of her sisters, who cried when I told her how we wanted to honor Ginny."

Senator Sean O'Brien sought a resolution to have a section of highway in Brookfield named the Virginia "Ginny" E. Kirsch, Memorial Highway. The resolution was signed into law by Ohio Governor John Kasich this year. 

The 47 year wait bringing tears to the eyes of a tough veteran who helped track Ginny's relatives down. Marino said, "It's about time. I feel like all veterans can appreciate what she was doing to help."

On July 30th, Ginny's remaining two brothers, four sisters, relatives, representatives from the International Red Cross, her alma mater Miami University, and Donut Dollies from across the country will travel to Brookfield to honor Ginny Kirsch whose life ended too soon. 

Brookfield High school is sending a representative and a local representative of the American Red Cross will also speak at the event. 

Friends who knew Ginny from high school are expected to attend along with state and local lawmakers.

Senator Sean O'Brien emphasized, "It is a small gesture for the ultimate sacrifice that Ginny paid for our country." Bob Marino said, "It is the first time, nationally, that a road has been named after a Red Cross Volunteer, in this case a Donut Dolly Ginny Kirsch."

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