Medal of Honor
Roger Donlon grew up in Saugerties, New York, the eighth of Paul and Marion Donlon's ten children. In his family he learned the important values of honesty, integrity, hard work, and personal commitment. As a young Boy Scout he learned patriotism and leadership. As a growing young man he tried to guide his life by the principles of the Ten Commandments and the Scout Oath.
Military service was almost a tradition in the Donlon family, where the patriarch was a World War I veteran. Rogers brothers all served, one of them wounded in action. In this atmosphere young Roger developed inner character and leadership qualities that would guide him during a military career of his own, and sustain him and his soldiers on one horrible night in Vietnam.
President of his high school junior class and a stand-out athlete, Roger joined the Air Force in 1953, then attended the US Military Academy at West Point for nearly two years. In 1959 he was commissioned as a US Army infantry lieutenant after graduating from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. From there he attended airborne training, followed by the US Army Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg. After rugged training the young officer became one of America's elite, a Special Forces officer of the Green Berets.
By 1964 Roger Donlon, now a Special Forces Captain responsible for a twelve man A-Team, was stationed in Vietnam. At the small Camp Nam Dong, deep in the dark jungles, his team served as advisors to 311 South Vietnamese soldiers. In the darkness of the early morning hours of July 6, more than 900 Viet Cong soldiers attacked Nam Dong with mortars, grenades, rifles and other small arms. Two members of Team A-726 died. Captain Donlon himself was wounded four times.
Less than six months after the attack, still recovering from his wounds, Roger Donlon was invited to the White House. Sitting on the front row was his mother, his sisters, and his four brothers who had each likewise served their Nation in uniform. As they watched the scene unfold, President Lyndon Johnson said:
"No one who has seen military service will fail to appreciate and understand the magnitude of Captain Donlon's heroic performance under enemy fire in the darkness."
Then the President of the United States leaned forward to fasten the blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor around Roger Donlon's neck, making him the FIRST Green Beret in history, and the first American soldier of the Vietnam War, to receive his Nation's highest honor.
"You have every right to be proud of your boy," the President later remarked to Mrs. Donlon.
The lady who had seen her husband and all five sons serve in uniform smiled and said, "I am proud. And his father would be proud too, if he were here today." Roger Donlon's father had died seventeen years earlier. The only paper that bore the signature of the young hero's father Roger's Boy Scout Tenderfoot test record certificate....signed shortly before Paul Donlon's death.
Roger Hugh Charles Donlon is the kind of American who would have been a role-model and hero, even without the events one horrible night in Vietnam that brought him his Nation's highest honor. To reporters calling the family home after the announcement of his award his mother often replied, "Roger has always worn my Medal of Honor.
Colonel Donlon's story is not only one of courage on the fields of battle, but one of dedication and a life-time of service. It is the story of a man who gave 32 years of his life to serve his Nation in uniform. It is a touching love story of the young hero who fell in love with the Vietnam widow, married her, and with her raised a wonderful family. It is the story of a remarkable man who refuses to forget the men who served with him that night and, particularly reminds others of the sacrifices of the two who died. It is also the story of healing and reconciliation...a return to Vietnam to meet former adversaries and restore what war had taken away. And it is the story of a man who today, spends much of his time traveling our Nation to speak to youth, inspire veterans, and encourage others.
We welcome Colonel Donlon to the Home Of Heroes, and we welcome you to his personal web site.
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