During the banquet… former USASOC CG, LTG (ret) Ken Tovo’s keynote picked up from Gold Star widow Norma Donlon’s speech earlier.
“As most of you know, a career as a Green Beret is a lifestyle, not a job. It asks as much sacrifice of the family as it does for the Soldier. Each Green Beret’s service is marked by holidays missed and an absence from key life milestones with their families. While all Green Berets and their families give up so much, this sacrifice is manifested most clearly in those who have borne unspeakable loss,” LTG Tovo said.
“We honor your incredible sacrifice. Your loved one’s sacrifice and your loss is also an integral part of the 70-year legacy of the SF Regiment,” Tovo added.
After the banquet… I asked Gold Star Father and longtime friend Jeff Falkel about the SF community and his son Chris.
“It is a family — it has remained a place for hugs. It always does my heart good for people to remember Chris and what he did. Why he received the Silver Star. Sixteen little kids have a Dad because of what Chris did — and eight kids wouldn’t have been born,” he told me.
In return, I shared with him something Gold Star speaker Norma Donlon’s MOH husband COL Roger Donlon explained to me years ago, about this SF community — “The loss of a warrior teammate is felt for a lifetime. The feelings of loss, pain, grief and yes… even guilt are real! One must find a way to deal with all these emotions,” he’d said.
Mr. Falkel deals with some of his emotions over the loss of his son, by making bullet pens out of 7.62 shell casings to honor Chris and his story — which this reporter’s shared across America.
Then, he printed out the official photo of the Bald Eagle Magissuwa, with Gold Star speaker Norma Donlon’s MOH husband, Roger. Magissuwa, an Indigenous Peoples’ name, means “bright spirit.”
Two days after Ms. Norma and COL Roger Donlon returned home from SFACON 2022, they dealt with the funeral visitation, and burial mass. Then, laid their proud Army Soldier son Justin Luis Donlon to rest. This Special Forces family’s “bright spirit” was 47 years old.