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.
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
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.