Friday, April 13, 2012

Donald Woodward McNamara - in tribute

At last the photo of Donald Woodward McNamara has been posted on the Virtual Wall (see above) and also on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Fund (VVMF) website.

There's no need to revisit all the stories posted previously, though you can view the group by clicking on the menu label "Project McNamara" on the right.  Let it just be said that numerous people have been involved in bringing this young man home, elevating the local awareness of a quality person who gave his life in war.

We've discovered his cousin Marv Everhart served to accompany the body home, at the request of Donald's mother, and is pictured here with the flag-draped coffin.

Marv, who was serving at the time in the Army in Viet Nam, was there for the funeral and the burial, and had a joyful first meeting with Donald's son Shane just last month.  He was the one who in 1967 presented Donald's mother with the Purple Heart Medal, the dogtags, and the flag draping the coffin.

The story of Donald Woodward McNamara has taken so many surprising twists since it first came to light on March 13, and has brought together an unlikely, disparate group of people looking for the next bit of news on a daily basis.  The remaining family of Donald have, in some respects, found a new life.  Then Lance Corporal Ray Calhoun entered the story.  A fellow Marine who served with Donald, he elevated the story even further by confirming the personal quality of the young Marine, and sent out an "all call" to the Marines who had served with him.

Shortly, an email came from another Marine who served with Donald, recalling him as a friend, a good man and a great, intuitive leader, at the youthful age of 20:  I am Joe Cordileone. Don was my squad leader for a time. We went on R&R together. Don was a hardcore Marine's Marine, but he was also very compassionate. He had a young man in his squad, a draftee (very rare in the corps), who just wasn't really suited for combat in the jungle. It was obvious to everyone and it wasn't his fault. Don took care of him. He wouldn't let him get in a situation where he would be in over his head. Don led by example. I am proud to count him among my friends.

Here is Donald in uniform, a man proud to wear it, and ready to serve his country, as documented by the remembrance of a fellow soldier Lyle Frazer who was there at the end:

Remember, Blue and Red? First Marines, Third Marines?  Life WAS simple!  Blue and Red!

You had such "inner peace"! Was there something you wanted to tell us besides "GAWD"?

More than once the "fellas" who served with you TRIED, really TRIED to recover the ground they were PUSHED back from. Ground that YOU held. Overrun, pushed back! Overrun pushed back! Overrun - pull the pin!

In the end, you destroyed the M-60. "One last grenade"! You hugged the "60" until the end!

No doubt he was a "Marine's Marine."  

At the first "reunion" of Project McNamara held last month, his son Shane posed with the Purple Heart awarded posthumously.  Along with a coffin flag and other medals previously in the safekeeping of his cousin Amber, Shane accepted it with grace and awe, pride, and respect.

Whatever this NKHS62 blog has contributed over the past two years is just meaningless in comparison to the impact of this story and the role we've been able to play.  From time to time I question whether the stories and the blog itself make any difference or have any value.  

Now it makes no difference.  

I've never been involved in anything as personally satisfying as this in my life - posting the photos of the hometown hero we didn't know, and being a part of helping a young man to discover who he is.  This story has made the blog worthwhile, and nothing else matters.  Today marks one month since this story was brought to life, even though it has been nearly 45 years in the making, and it's a good time to draw it to a close.

Donald was a hero who gave his all, so we salute him, as well as Marv and all his fellow Viet Nam Vets.  Even if belated, we thank you.

On behalf of all who have been involved in Project McNamara let me say we are grateful to his service and proud to have re-established him in our community.  For however short a period of time, he was one of us.

Lee Leidal

1 comment:

  1. I am sitting at my computer with tears running down my cheeks - both happy and sad tears as this project comes to a close. It had such a wonderful ending.


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