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September 2 is Stars & Stripes Day at Benedictine College’s Wilcox Stadium. The annual patriotic recognition of veterans and military personnel allows anyone with a military ID free access to the 1:00 p.m. football game versus Evangel University. This year, the college will institute a special award, the St. Martin of Tours Award. The award, named for St. Martin, the patron saint of soldiers, will honor military service and will be presented at halftime of the game. The inaugural honoree is a true American hero, Colonel Roger Donlon, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Donlon grew up in a family where military service was a tradition. He graduated from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was commissioned as a U.S. Army infantry lieutenant in 1959. He went on to attend airborne training, followed by the U.S. Army Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg. Eventually, he became one of America’s elite, a Special Forces officer of the Green Berets.
He served in Vietnam in the early days of the war. In 1964, an enemy force of nearly 1,000 attacked his 12-man team and the 311 South Vietnamese soldiers they had been advising. During the battle, Donlon was wounded four times, but kept moving from place to place directing the troops and bringing much-needed ammunition and encouragement. In the end, the small force held and repulsed the Viet Cong attack. Donlon’s actions in the face of overwhelming odds and severe injuries could be described as nothing short of heroic.
Donlon has spoken to Leadership classes at Benedictine for the past several years and received an honorary degree from the college in 2015. Come to the stadium to meet him in person, thank him and other service personnel, past, and present, for their sacrifice, and see him receive the St. Martin of Tours Award during halftime.
This will be the college’s 11th annual recognition of men and women in military service and the halftime show will include introductions of all the service personnel at the game. In addition to the unfurling of a huge, 60-foot American flag, the celebration will also include the Benedictine Pep Band performing the anthems of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Colonel Roger Donlon was born and raised in Saugerties, New York. His military career began with enlisted service in both the Air Force and Army. Commissioned through Officer Candidate School as an Infantry Officer in 1959, he spent the next 29 years serving in assignments based on a triad of his specialties as an Infantry, Special Forces and Foreign Area Officer.
Notable among his many assignments: aide-de-camp to the Commanding General of the Yukon Command; Team Commander, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Vietnam; Commandant, Advanced Combat Training Academy in Korea; District Senior Advisor in Vietnam; Advisor to The Royal Thai Army in Bangkok, Thailand; Battalion Commander, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Panama; Director of International Officers at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS; and Commander, United Nations Command Rear Headquarters, Tokyo, Japan.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 July 1964, Colonel Donlon became the first American soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented it on 5 December 1964 at the White House. Other awards and decorations include: The Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal w/OLC; Joint Service Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal w/2 OLC; Purple Heart; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal w/OLC; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Vietnam Campaign Ribbon w/2 stars; Vietnam National Order Fourth Class; Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/palm; Vietnam Service Ribbon; Combat Infantry Badge; Parachutist Badge; Vietnam Parachutist Badge.
Colonel Donlon’s military and civilian education include: The Special Warfare Course; Infantry Advanced Course; Command and General Staff College; Foreign Service Institute; U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance, School of International Studies; and the Army War College. Colonel Donlon received a BA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an MS in Government from Campbell University. Honorary Degrees include a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Benedictine College in Atchison, KS.
Colonel Donlon is the author of BEYOND NAM DONG, a self-published autobiography. He is also the co-author of OUTPOST OF FREEDOM, published by McGraw-Hill and condensed for publication in the October 1965 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, which featured Colonel Donlon’s picture on the cover. The Reader’s Digest Condensed Books Winter 1966 also featured Colonel Donlon’s book. He was included in the “HEROES” series; a made for television documentary on the Arts and Entertainment channel, and is also the subject of a video entitled “ONE OF THOSE GOOD MEN” produced by Bolthead Productions.
Among his numerous civic awards and honors are the National Education Association; Golden Key Award; the Freedom’s Foundation Freedom Leadership Medal; the American; Legion Distinguished Service Medal and Award for Outstanding Heroism; the Jewish War Veterans’ Americanism Award; the Mid-Hudson Valley Veteran of the Year Award. Since 1997 Colonel Donlon has sponsored an award for military excellence at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School; it is presented to the graduating cadet candidate selected as most outstanding in military aptitude. In 2011 he was presented with The Order of Saint Maurice (Primicerius) from the National Infantry Association for his significant and lasting contributions to the entire Infantry. Colonel Donlon has also been awarded the St. Philip Neri Gold Award from the National Special Forces Association (The Green Berets) for his more than 50 years of service to United States Army Special Forces. His spirit, dignity and patriotism along with his sacrifice and commitment epitomize all that St. Philip Neri stands for.
Colonel Donlon is a Life Member of The Congressional Medal of Honor Society; the Association of the United States Army; the National Special Forces Association; The Retired Officers’ Association; the American Legion; and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Since retirement from the Army in December of 1988, Colonel Donlon has been made an Honorary Member of Rotary International; served on the Board of Trustees of People-to People International; was a Scholarship Friends Executive Committee member at Saint Mary College in Leavenworth; is a founding member of the Board of Trustees for the Command and General Staff College Foundation at Fort Leavenworth. Kansas; and is a member of the Vietnam Center National Council at Texas Tech University. In May of 1995 Colonel Donlon was inducted into the Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame, the only non-General Officer to hold this distinction in the 20th century. In May of 1997 Colonel Donlon became the first recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award presented by the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He is the 1998 recipient of the Silver Veteran’s Medal presented by the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation. In February of 2000 The Washington Times Foundation presented Colonel and Mrs. Donlon with the American Century Award. Appointed in May of 2004, Colonel Donlon served as the “Honorary Colonel” of the First Special Forces Regiment for six years. The Commanders Award for public service was presented to the Donlon’s in 2013 for their 25 years of dedicated service sponsoring International Officers attending the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. He received the first St. Martin of Tours Award (the patron saint of Soldiers) presented by Benedictine College for distinguished military service in September 2017.
Colonel Donlon married Norma Shinno Irving on 9 November 1968 in Colorado Springs, CO. They have 5 children and 6 grandchildren.