Like the balsam fir tree that holds his dog tag, Roger Donlon stands tall and quiet.
Wreaths Across America had the honor of getting to know more about Roger recently and the medal he proudly wears around his neck today as a symbol of his courage and valor in service to our country during the Vietnam War.
Roger and his wife Norma were among featured guests for the opening of the 'Welcome Home' exhibit now on display at the Wreaths Across America Museum located in Columbia Falls, Maine.
"My wife Norma and I have had the privilege to participate in Wreaths Across America ceremonies in Kansas, the heart of America, and California on the West Coast, and now we've come home to Wreaths Across America," Roger stated. "For Vietnam veterans, and every veteran of every generation those words 'welcome home' are like a prayer; a prayer answered."
Colonel (Ret.) Roger Donlon U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Vietnam conflict, was also the first to tag his remembrance tree, along with Helen Johnson, in the newly created Medal of Honor Remembrance Park on the tip land. Balsam fir tips are harvested once every three years from tagged remembrance trees and are made into the sponsored veterans' remembrance wreaths placed at Arlington National Cemetery and at over 1,200 other participating locations in December.
"The dedication of the Vietnam exhibit is a special honor for Norma and me." Roger went on to explain his wife Norma is a Gold Star spouse, and she also placed a dog tag in honor of her first husband, Lt. John Irving who was killed in Vietnam in May of 1965.
Roger humbly spoke of being the first recipient from the Vietnam War to be given the medal for his actions in combat.
"Anyone who's been in combat knows the living ones are the lucky ones," Roger reminded attendees. "There are many more who are deserving of this [MOH] that God only knows. There were no witnesses to their deeds of honor on the battlefield."
In referencing the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Remembrance Tree program, Roger spoke to the value and necessity of "planting seeds of patriotism" in younger generations.
In this video, Wreaths Across America's Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson shares more from Roger's Medal of Honor citation while Roger shares his gratitude for fellow Vietnam veterans and tags one of the first trees in the newly created section of the tip land.
Thank you, Roger and Norma Donlon and all Vietnam War veterans, for your service to our nation and for representing the mission to remember, honor and teach.
The Wreaths Across America Museum is located at WAA headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine and is dedicated to the memory and sacrifices of the nation’s military. It holds hundreds of items that have been gifted to the organization over more than two decades. Admittance to the museum is always free and open to the public from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.
Each live, balsam remembrance wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and placed on the graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy.
In just a few days, Paulette and her fellow Troop Greeters will welcome veterans, Gold Star families, and other traveling dignitaries who are part of the Annual Wreath Escort to Arlington National Cemetery.
Grand Marshals – Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, Colonel Roger Donlon, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) and his wife, Norma, a Vietnam-era Gold Star wife – will lead the caravan as it travels down the East Coast stopping at schools, memorials, and other locations along the way.
Driver Pat Wortham is an independent contractor for Dart Transit and a member of the Wreaths Across America honor fleet. He also has a rich history of military service in his family.
The holidays are traditionally celebrated with music so tune into WAA Radio throughout the holidays to hear musical Season's Greetings from some of the finest musicians in America!
"I was only 21 at the time, and we didn't know what we had come upon. The conditions were horrible, and there were all those people in striped pajamas."
"This contribution, like the one we made last year, will help provide an opportunity for professional drivers to transport wreaths across the United States.
Rhonda says she's experienced the "power of the wreath" watching people react to her daughter's presentations.
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.