“If you met Donnie once, you wanted to see him again. If you didn’t know Donnie but heard about him, you wanted to meet him. If he was your friend or family, you were priority in his book. He was the most selfless person I have ever met. He would undoubtedly go out of his way if he knew it was helping somebody out. Anybody that has ever served with him will be the first to tell you, it was always a little better, a little funnier, and a lot safer with him around.” These words were spoken at Don’s funeral by Master Sergeant Josh Mannel, his closest friend of over 20 years. Time and time again that day, we heard the words “selfless,” “generous,” “trustworthy,” “doting father.” We also heard words such as “prankster, shenanigans, funny, dare-devil, ever-present smirk.” Don left a legacy through his daughter, his actions on and off the “battlefield”, friendships, his generosity, his skill in wood working, and, yes, his shenanigans.
On January 21st, 2016 the world lost a son, dad, husband, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, brother-in-arms… a hero. Donald Ryan Marine was born June 20, 1982 in Marshfield, WI to Mark Marine and Linda Brey. He was a 2001 graduate of Neillsville High School, Neillsville, Wisconsin. He earned an Electrical Power Distribution degree from Chippewa Valley Technical College. In 2003, he entered the 307th Engineer battalion of the 82nd Airborne. Don served five tours in Afghanistan and Iraq before he was honorably discharged in 2008. The tour Don enjoyed the most was in Afghanistan building schools for the Afghan people. He experienced great joy in interacting with the locals in both countries. He playfully took a brief ride on a donkey carrying the voting ballets from the remote Afghanistan villages during the country’s first independent election. He loved handing toys out to the children of Iraq and would sit down and listen to the life stories from the village residents and his interpreters. An Iraqi family he stayed with while on assignment was told by the mother that she would be his mother and his own mother should not worry because he was in good hands. During his years of service he was awarded multiple medals including two Army Commendation Medals.
After the Army, Don started a construction business, building and remodeling houses. His daughter, Adelyn was born to Don and Katie McKevitt on January 3, 2009. They later divorced. In 2015, he married Michelle Nelson. He found peace fishing and spending time with Michelle at their cabin in the serene northern woods of Wisconsin.
He continued to help anyone he could with random acts of kindness. One prime example was when he “provided Christmas” for a local struggling veteran who had been battling complications from breast cancer. He organized a collection of gift cards, food, and gifts from his friends and family; he added a personal touch by fulfilling her Christmas wish to have a birdhouse by building a personalized designed birdhouse for this military comrade whom he had never known.
His immense love for his daughter was most apparent when he was in his wood shop creating treasures with and for her. Adelyn fondly remembers her dad getting down on all fours to give her horsey back rides while filling the house with laughter. She also loved the many fairy houses they customized and built together, including a slide for the elusive fairies.
The war does not and cannot return the same person. Sleep did not come easy for him. As a civilian, Don’s PTSD continued to plague him. Flashbacks and nightmares haunted him. Loud sounds easily startled him. He had to be awakened by touching just his toes to avoid any sudden reactions of an attack. A ticking clock in a garage gave him acute alarm of a bomb. In spite of alcohol treatment and a long list of medications, his post traumatic stress continued for years. Don’s sister, Kari, recalls a breakdown when all she could do to console him was hug him tightly while he wept and shook uncontrollably. His moral war injuries were insufferable.
All who knew and loved Don have lost a “one of a kind,” and are better people for having had Don in their life. Don’s best friend concluded his tribute to his brother-in-arms by stating, “The courage he showed everyday will always make him a hero in my book. . Rest in peace brother. Airborne, All the way!”
Resting place: Memorial Bench at the Highground Veteran Memorial Park in Neillsville, WI
#22toomany #OurHeroes are #NeverForgotten