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.
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.
Yes! There's still time to sponsor a veterans' remembrance wreath in time for National Wreaths Across America Day.
"We were replacements," explained Charles. "My best friend Luke Moore and I went over together. He was a First scout, and I was a Second scout. We were taking a town when we were shot at by a sniper..."
Wreaths Across America is forever grateful for the thousands of volunteers who place veterans' remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our fallen as they say their names aloud every December. Remember, we are guests on the hallowed grounds of participating cemeteries and we ask that you honor their rules and regulations. If you're volunteering at Arlington this year, here's what you need to know.
Wreaths Across America announces open loads available as the Honor Fleet expands to transport America's Respect.
"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."
"One thing I will never forget is getting into Arlington and it was a cold, rainy day with freezing rain, and I remember looking around at all the empty headstones thinking to myself oh my God how are we going to do this."
"As part of our Wreaths Across America project, we work with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Explorers, Young Marines, and sometimes 4H members," Mike explains. "We try to engage our groups the way that I think the founder of Wreaths Across America intended."
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets meant the world to Rick. For three years he accompanied cadets to Arlington National Cemetery and assisted with laying wreaths at the cemetery. This trip changed the lives of many cadets.
"It was so moving coming down I95 because people were waving flags, honking their horns, giving us thumbs up, and saluting us."
"We have a dedicated group of compassionate people who come together to help military veterans," Rebecca explains. "If someone reaches out to us and says 'hey we need help getting a veteran's roof shingled' then we try to get it done."
“Every year we have so many professional drivers, bikers, police officers and other first responders, ask us how they can get involved, even if they can’t transport wreaths,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America.
"There are a lot of similarities between the military and the trucking industry," Rob explains. "I think that's why you see a lot of veterans successful as truck drivers."
Johnny Vet: Freedom Isn’t Free is a dynamic and inspirational musical journey of the men and women who have fought the nation’s wars and how those same men and women, as veterans, have helped to shape the nation and its destiny.
"History can be studied in many ways, and it's important to do so for a contextual understanding of the journey taken by an individual, organization, or nation."
"It's heart-wrenching to see that and participate in that, Rick shares. "To see all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles waiting there to have a wreath to place on their family member's headstone, there are just no words for it, none."
"We're just Moms who serve through the organization to make sure that our children's names and lives are not forgotten."
From our standpoint, it's a relatively small thing to do, and we're proud to be a part of the mission."
"With NFI managing the logistics, the sky is the limit. They will help make the entire operation more efficient,” said Debbie Sparks, Director Corporate Development and Community Relations, Wreaths Across America.
Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn.
"I always choose our drivers who are military veterans for these loads and they are proud and honored to have the opportunity to recognize our fallen heroes and their families."
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.
Monica explains Maverick has a tremendous amount of pride hauling America's respect and not only do they assign the wreath loads to their drivers who are veterans but those drivers are some of the industry's best.