Whitman native Maj. Michael J. Donahue’s dedication to community and country were again honored Sunday, June 26 — this time by dedication of the home team baseball and softball field dugouts at the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, from which he graduated in 1990.
“It’s unbelievable what the VFW has done for our community,” said Athletic Director Bob Rodgers. “As they come back to our community, they continue to serve us and teach our young people what it means to give back.”
It seemed as if Maj. Donahue wanted to take part in the ceremony, too, as a breeze lifted away the cloth covering a memorial plaque that was to be unveiled during the ceremony in front of the baseball dugout. One will also be placed at the softball field.
“The wind didn’t want me to wait any longer — it wanted the people to see it,” said outgoing VFW Men’s Auxiliary President Donnie Westhaver who hosted the event.
The dugouts were built with funds raised by the Whitman VFW Auxiliary along with the W-H baseball and softball teams. Army Maj. Donahue, who was assigned to the Headquarters Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., was killed in action by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept. 16, 2014. He had also worked as an assistant professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., before being deployed.
Whitman had held a memorial vigil in his memory on Oct. 19, 2014 at Whitman Park. On this Sunday, his sister Joanne Nickerson and her children, veterans, some W-H student athletes, Whitman and Hanson town and school district officials dedicated the dugouts in the hope that generations of young people will think of him when they play there.
“It means a lot to our family, just to keep his memory and honor alive,” Nickerson said after the ceremony. “The towns of Whitman and Hanson have been amazing for us. It is a very touching day.”
Westhaver read from a newspaper account of Maj. Donahue’s death and listed the citations he was awarded during his military career: Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the Iraq Campaign medal with one campaign star, the Korean Defense Service Medal, The Combat Action Medal and the Senior Parachute Badge.
“We’re honored and proud to dedicate two plaques to both home field dugouts,” Westhaver said. “The plaques will be presented to the schools this week and they’ll place them on both dugouts.”
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes accepted the dugout dedication on behalf of the School District saluted Maj. Donahue’s commitment to country.
“There’s always one message that I try to give to the students and that’s commitment,” Hayes said. “I ask everybody, when you drive by this field — when you look at this wonderful facility — to remember Maj. Donahue. Keep him in your thoughts because he made the ultimate sacrifice for the very freedom we stand here and enjoy today.”
School Committee member Fred Small, who worked with Westhaver to organize the event, also spoke to the gathering, thanking WHRHS Facilities Department and central office staff for the work of constructing the dugouts.
“This has a very special meaning,” he said. “I didn’t know Maj. Donahue, [but] as I’ve gotten involved with Donnie a little bit … you realize how precious our freedoms are and how many people, both in our towns and overseas, are really out there for us.”
Also attending the ceremony, but not making formal remarks were Whitman Town Administrator Frank Lynam and Hanson Selectmen Chairman James McGahan. State representatives Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, and Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, were not able to attend. Donahue’s wife and other family members were also unable to attend.
“It was very nicely presented,” Lynam said of the ceremony. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the schools to develop something they need and recognize a graduate who served his community well.”
“We should be doing more things like this for our veterans,” he said. “What an honor it is to give this kind of recognition.”